This postcard was not an easy match. Simply described as ‘manoir en Normandie’ no other image of it could be found. Was that a church tower or a pigeon house one side? The unusual bell roof should be an identifiable feature. Perhaps it had all burnt down?
A reference to the Deauville train station on a similar postcard revealed the truth. This is part of Le Val Gallerand. A completely made up Normandy farm created in the 1930’s by Henri Thommeret, entrepreneur and dreamer.
Henri created his vision from salvage yards. As old Normandy buildings crumbled or were replaced he bought up and relocated entire buildings and pieces he thought had architectural interest.
When the Deauville train station was demolished in 1930 and replaced by a trendy neo-Norman style chalet, Henri had quite a lot of the old building taken by horse and buggy to his land near Grosley-sur-Risle in the Eure.
History plus imagination = Val Gallerand!
This piecemeal collection of heritage was either rebuilt or re-purposed to become something new. Following his own vision, Henri was inspired by history rather than a slave to it. Large barns are not known to have dormer windows, grain stores do not generally have ornate bell roofs. At Le Val Gallerand they do.
By the time either age or finances ran out for Henri he had constructed a manor house, bakery, pigsty, imaginative barn banqueting hall, tower (apparently a grain silo), pigeon loft, warehouse and a few odd little buildings that had taken his fancy.
Unlike a traditional Norman farm the buildings are not grouped around a central yard, but it is clear from our photos they have all had practical use and Le Val Gallerand is remembered as a working farm.
By the second world war there is no mention of Henri and the farm has been rented to tenants.
The tragedy of 10 June 1944
Saturday 10 June 1944 in Normandy was an unusually horrible day during a terrible time. In Oradour-sur-Glane 642 men women and children were murdered by a vengeful enemy. Fighting across Normandy is bloody as Allied troops face a determined enemy. From 6 June to the evening of 10 June it is estimated the Allies had lost 15,000 men, killed, wounded, missing or made captive.
In the scale of war a small event, but for those involved a catastrophe, also took place on 10 June in this secluded river valley not far from Rouen.
An Allied bomber flew overhead. Hearing either its engine or explosions, three generations of the Collemare family rush for the stone safety of their cider store, la cave; elder Madam Collamare, her teenage daughter, son, two daughter’s-in-law and three grandchildren. M. Collemare and another son are far out in the fields.
There are suggestions the bombs were aimed at local bridges. Rumours also say intelligence reports of collaborators living in Le Val Gallerand farm had not been updated. They had moved out in 1942 and new farm tenants installed.
The bomb was a direct hit on their hiding place.
A local community page reveals seven of the family Collemare died on the farm that day. A memorial page for civilian victims of the war gives a little more detail.
- Marie Aline Collemare age 43, born 18 September 1900
- Yvette Denise Collemare age 13, born 25 May 1931
- Albert Lucien Collemare age 6, born 21 September 1937
- Simone Juliette Leroy née Collemare age 28, born 23 April 1916
- Josette Aline Leroy age 7, born 22 March 1937
- Paule Anne Leroy age 4, born 8 May 1940
- Yvonne Mariette Paris, née Collemare age 23, born 19 July 1923
Father and son rushed back to their home to find a horror we cannot imagine. Under the carnage they found a little girl age three still alive, protected by her mother’s body.
The damaged buildings were repaired and Le Val Gallarand was farmed for many more years.
Decline, and fall?
In recent times the site has been promoted as a heritage tourist destination and a venue for events. Now there are no signs of use or plans to protect this unusual Normandy treasure. A modern home very close by acts as guardian.
From a distance the Le Val Gallerand looks impressive, an unexpected spectacle in this quiet valley. Closer, the buildings look sadly neglected. Roofs are beginning to disintegrate, doors and windows left open to the elements, sag.
We hope a visionary with deep pockets and an appreciation for Henri Thommeret’s dream arrives in time to save it.