This charming postcard of a Pays d’Auge manor gateway took us to the hamlet of Sainte-Foy-de-Montgommery, a hidden Château and introduced us to possibly the loveliest Pommeau in the world.
Here is our first postcard match.
Set back discretely from the road, framed by the gateway, Manoir de l’Aumondiere retains her mystery.
We have no idea why the photographer chose this particular view among the many decorative choices in the Pays d’Auge, they must have been an admirer of neatly roofed gateways.
A little research did reveal what may have bought the photographer to the village.
Sainte-Foy-de-Montgommery is sitting on some remarkable history.
Many marvellous Montgommerys
It probably started with a Viking called Gomeric, sometime in the 9th century. Gomeric had ventured (or marauded, history is unclear) south to Calvados. Liking what he saw, Gomeric set up home on a hilltop; the ‘mount’ of Gomeric.
Within a few generations and a bit of cider the fortified hill gave this family it’s now historic name Montgommery.
There are rumours that the family can be traced back even further to a Roman commander called Gomericus, but while their origins may be uncertain, the success of this family is not. The Montgommery family have changed history.
1066 and all that
William the Conqueror rewarded Roger de Montgomerie’s enthusiastic support with large parts of England. The Conqueror’s trusted advisor, he was soon made 1st Earl of Shrewsbury. According to the Doomsday book by 1086 Roger’s exceptional ambition had bought him 150 castles and lordships in ten English counties and the income from his estates amounted to 3% of the nations GDP. He built Arundel Castle and married the bountiful Mabel, who gave him ten children.
After Mabel’s head was detached by an aggrieved relation, Roger recovered manfully in the arms of Adelaide de Le Puiset and another son was born. Roger died in 1094 but not one to be forgotten his smug ghost regularly glides through the magnificent keep at Arundel.
Tartan, D-Day and enough of the Montgommerys
Records are a little hazy but provide some evidence that it was Roger’s grandson Robert Montgommery, who for services to a King, was given vast lands in Renfrewshire, Scotland. Here the world-famous Clan Montgomery was born. They have a lovely purple tartan.
If you are a Montgomery fan, or family, there are a couple of links at the bottom of this post that may be of interest. For the rest of us it is enough to say that the Montgomerys continued to scheme and snaffle castles for many years.
Gomeric would have been particularly proud of a relation visiting Normandy in 1944, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.
Le Vieux Château de Montgommery
The original Mount is now just a pile of stones outside the village. Thanks to a favourite postcard we knew an ancient Montgommery family home could still exist, but the picture revealed a structure in perilous condition.
Next to the church in Sainte-Foy-de-Montgommery, just off the D179, is a lane called Le Manoir.
Could ‘Ste Foy de Montgommery – vieux Château’ still be standing? It would just take a hot day and a spark for a heartbreaking inferno to destroy centuries of history. With trepidation we walked down the lane.
A warm welcome
We quickly reached a well cared for set of Normandy farm buildings that did not match our card and we prepared for the worst. Then, completely obscured by willow trees, through grey Norman drizzle we spotted some familiar rooftops. Le Vieux Château survives!
An elegant Norman countrywoman welcomed us and we enquired after the Pommeau advertised on the gate.
Hélène de Lesdain graciously invited us into a large beamed room in the heart of the Château. An apple log fire scented the room, it’s flames glittering on the many cups and awards on display.
Hélène’s Pommeau is outstanding. On a damp Normandy day it warmed our very souls. Simply the best Pommeau we have ever tasted in our lives and probably ever will.
We loaded the car with award winning bottles, thanked Hélène and thanked our postcards for leading us to such a treasure.
- There is a Montgomery clan Web sites here.
- Discover 16th century battler Gabriel Montgomery in our post ‘The heroic end of Gabriel, comte de Montgomery, in Domfront’