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The dream, and nightmare, of La ferme du Val Gallerand

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?

Le Val Gallerand, match!
Le Val Gallerand, match!

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.

Le Val Gallerand, the grain store
Le Val Gallerand, the grain store

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.

Le Val Gallerand, little out building
Le Val Gallerand, little out building

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.

Le Val Gallerand, pigeonnier
Le Val Gallerand, pigeonnier

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.

Le Val Gallerand, entrance to L'étable
Le Val Gallerand, entrance to L’étable

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.

Le Val Gallerand, the big barn L'étable close up
Le Val Gallerand, the big barn L’étable close up

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.

Le Val Gallerand, pigsty
Le Val Gallerand, pigsty

We hope a visionary with deep pockets and an appreciation for Henri Thommeret’s dream arrives in time to save it.

 

Le Val Gallerand, pigsty entrance
Le Val Gallerand, pigsty entrance

 

Le Val Gallerand, inside the pigsty
Le Val Gallerand, inside the pigsty

 

Le Val Gallerand, farm machinery
Le Val Gallerand, farm machinery. This could be for removing the outer husk of seeds like Spelt and Einkorn, and sometimes oats, which need to be removed by abrasion rather than the gentler action of a winnower or thresher.

 

Le Val Gallerand, farm machinery
Le Val Gallerand, the oat crusher. You crush oats before feeding them to horses and cattle as porridge. They store for ages uncrushed but go off after crushing, but they also go straight through horses and cattle as a whole grain. Thanks to Jeremy Bolas for explaining both pieces of machinery for us.

 

Le Val Gallerand, the manor
Le Val Gallerand, the manor

 

Le Val Gallerand, the manor
Le Val Gallerand, the manor

 

Le Val Gallerand, stables
Le Val Gallerand, stables

 

Le Val Gallerand, stables
Le Val Gallerand, stables

 

Le Val Gallerand, stables
Le Val Gallerand, stables

 

Le Val Gallerand, long row of small cages
Le Val Gallerand, long row of small cages

urbex

Le Val Gallerand, odd thing
Le Val Gallerand, odd thing

 

Le Val Gallerand, spring view
Le Val Gallerand, spring view

7 thoughts on “The dream, and nightmare, of La ferme du Val Gallerand

    1. I visited here last summer and managed to by pass a camera on the front gate, one building has been restored and it looks like the rest is not far off. Who ever has it is doing a good job. this i would presume by now is inaccessible. I took a lot of pictures and am happy to share

      1. Bonjour,
        Je suis architecte et j’ai pour mission de sauver et restaurer le site du Val Gallerand. N’hésitez pas à me contacter, surtout si vous êtes de passage dans la région. Nous pourrions vous offrir un verre pour échanger sur le devenir du Val Gallerand. Nous cherchons à faire un comité de soutien de différentes personnes de la société civile qui pourraient à la fois profiter du lieu de temps en temps et être ambassadeur pour la résurgence de ce site.
        Bienvenue,
        Patrick Hurpin,
        architecte DESA
        06 88 14 98 67
        Valdepom@free.fr

    2. Bonjour Natalya,
      Je suis architecte et j’ai pour mission de sauver et restaurer le site du Val Gallerand. N’hésitez pas à me contacter, surtout si vous êtes de passage dans la région. Nous pourrions vous offrir un verre pour échanger sur le devenir du Val Gallerand. Nous cherchons à faire un comité de soutien de différentes personnes de la société civile qui pourraient à la fois profiter du lieu de temps en temps et être ambassadeur pour la résurgence de ce site.
      Bienvenue,
      Patrick Hurpin,
      architecte DESA
      06 88 14 98 67
      Valdepom@free.fr

  1. Wow … That is truly amazing!!
    I love the stables ,what a fantastic farm!!
    These beautiful gems all over France need to be protected for our future generations.

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