Restoration of Château de Purnon – ‘Château Reawakening’ by Tim Holding
Dear readers, for those who has followed my blog for quite some time, you might remember that I have previously written about a blog about a great French château restoration story and a book before; today, I am glad to share another real-life French château restoration story, which it begins from my discovery of the recently published book titled ‘Château Reawakening’, published by Hardie Grant Books, and written by Mr. Tim Holding.
It was one of the evening when I stumbled across a youtube video about the restoration of Château de Purnon by its current owners – Mr. Tim Holding, a former Australian politician, and his fiancée, Ms. Felicity Selkirk, an entrepreneur who is passionate about French culture and history. In that episode, they were installing a heating system into this historic French castle which they purchased since 2020; looking at what challenges they went through, and witnessing the progress step by step fascinates me so much, and then, knowing their new book ‘Château reawakening’ has just recently been released makes me even happier as I realized that I can have a physical copy of their chateau-restoration journey at my hands!
A bit of a history about Château de Purnon, it located in the commune of Verrue, in the department of Vienne, south of the Loire Valley. The current château was construction in the early 18th century, and the former château on this land was owned by the lord of Purnon, Claude Bonneau, who passed away in 1720, and in 1771, the lands were purchased by Antoine-Charles Achard, Marquis de la Haye, who constructed the current château during the reign of Louis XVI, and completed the construction the year before the outbreak of the French Revolution. Fast forward after the property’s survival through the French Revolution, it was then purchased by Daniel Jérôme Robineau de Rochequairie, Marquis de Rochequairie in 1893, and passed down through his decedents before the being purchased by the Australian couple in 2020. (if you are interested in discovering the history in detail, I would highly recommend you to read the history section Tim has written in the book ‘Château Reawakening’, trust me, it’s far more intriguing to read!)
To both Felicity and Tim, restoring this historic rare gem is not an easy task! Leaving their family, friends and careers behind in Melbourne, Australia and relocating France to write a new chapter of their lives, starting in Paris and then discovering their passion for the preservation of French heritage; to me, it is something adventurous, courageous and fearless for a foreigner to do. After visiting more than a dozen châteaux in France, something magical happened when their real estate agent showed them a picture of Château de Purnon, the property captured the hearts of both Felicity and Tim despite its grave condition, and just like that, it altered the destiny of both the château and the couple.
This new book “Château Reawakening’ portrays the real-life restoration work performed by both Felicity and Tim, in a very personal journal about how they embark this incredible journey. With the assistance of the French government and other grants plus rolling up their sleeves to do some of the work themselves, they tackle the incredible challenges that they need to overcome in order to achieve their dream – to save this former French noble residence from ruin. The photography in the book captures the ruined condition of the château, plus the most challenging (and costly) processes of restoring the immense roof; Tim also shares some of their interesting discoveries of historical objects found at the château.
I think this book is another great book that I came across this year, it is a story about an honest and courageous dreamer that makes their own dream into reality, whilst not afraid to show the challenges that they have to face along the way, little by little, step by step, to achieve the bigger goal of writing their life story with glorious French history, art and style in it. Especially with our generation now that most around us are opting for ‘fast success’ and ‘instant gratification’, choosing this path to live a more fulfilling life requires one to really dedicate themselves fully, giving all they have, and making a tremendous effort not just with their bare hands in daily basis, consistently and with perseverance, but also it requires their genuine appreciation, embracing the beauty and significance of history and art, the vanished know-how, and the culture that is opposite to their own root.
Before wrapping this up, you can also be part of the preservation project for Château de Purnon, feel free to check out their official website or follow their journey on Instagram and YouTube to find out more!
Enjoy your read.
Image courtesy of Château de Purnon, ‘Château Reawakening’ by Tim Holding / Hardie Grant Books.