Before it was restored, the manor of shipowner Jehan Ango had many ups and downs… This is the hinterland of Dieppe, in the centre of Varengeville-sur-Mer. The home’s character is certainly worth the stop.
As you enter the drive, you start to feel the magic of the place. It’s as if the Italian Renaissance had settled into the Norman countryside. Both architectures blend together harmoniously to illustrate a unique history, that of Jehan Ango.
Around 1530, Jehan Ango, the famous shipowner from Dieppe, decided to build a manor in the region’s hinterland, on his land in Varengeville. The end result was a harmonious combination of local materials: pink Varengeville brick, flint and sandstone collected at the base of the nearby cliffs, while the decorations around the openings were sculpted in stone from the banks of the Seine.
This is a fantastic example of Renaissance architecture crossed with the Norman style: the brick and flint are worked in multicoloured patterns, and the main building and outbuildings are grouped around the courtyard, once surrounded by moats. The whole is not unlike the configuration of a clos-masure, a typical farm style in the Pays de Caux.
A luxurious residence
For hosting royal guests
Between land and sea, the architectural complex sits facing the ocean. In fact, it is said that the shipowner would watch for his vessels to arrive off the coast of Dieppe from the top of one of its towers. The entire construction gives off a sense of harmony, but what is most striking is the imposing beauty of the dovecote: its onion-domed roof is a nod to Jehan Ango’s interest in Ottoman civilizations.
Located in the south wing, the loggia follows Italian Renaissance conventions. The large open balcony overlooking the courtyard was used for ceremonial purposes and to host guests, like when King François I visited the Manor. The other areas – kitchens, living areas and steam room, not to mention the decorative garden – all give us an idea of the tastes of Jehan Ango and his entourage in this luxurious residence.
A refuge for surrealists
After the shipowner’s death, his heirs would occupy the Manor until the French Revolution, when it was torched, sold off as national property and became a farm. The stones would be re-used to build some of the houses in the village. At that point, many of the decorative elements were pulled off.
In 1862, the Manor was chosen by Prosper Mérimée as one of the first French heritage buildings to become a listed Historic Monument, and a number of families would live there in turn. In the early 20th century, it attracted artists gravitating around the surrealist sphere: André Breton and Louis Aragon wrote books there, and Jacques Prévert, Robert Desnos and Yves Tanguy would meet up with them there. A little later on, Georges Braque’s Bentley could also be seen parked outside the Manor.
In 1928, it became the property of Mr. and Mrs. Hugot-Gratry. It is now owned by their descendants who undertook some major restoration work, ongoing since 2007.