The Château

The owners

Tim and Margreeth Hello and welcome to the Chateau des Lys, we’re Tim & Margreeth Alexander an Anglo-Dutch couple until recently based in Zeeland in the Netherlands. We have been married for 20 years (and counting) and have two children aged 24 & 10.

Margreeth has been an English teacher, a remedial teacher & a translator and Tim has been the organising third of the highly successful band Fragment ( www.fragmentlive.com ) for more years than he cares to remember. As a musician he has also been involved in numerous side projects including music for a couple of Dutch films, a theatrical cooking show and a recent collaboration with the late Dutch writer WJ Maryson.

We were both happy with the lives we were leading when we stumbled upon the Château in the autumn of 2012 whilst holidaying with friends in Picardy. We fell in love and decided to buy it, it seemed such an ideal way to combine our loves for cooking, entertaining, antiques and the Somme valley plus the place’s proximity to both Zeeland and the UK meant easily staying in touch with our friends and family, the most important things in our lives.

Following a fraught five months of organising the transaction we took over the Château in March 2013. It’s all very much a work in progress, such an enormous house & estate could hardly be otherwise, but we want to maintain the charm & high standards we’ve inherited from the previous owners and improve upon them. We should probably add that we’ve never done anything like this before but we hope that experience gained from our previous backgrounds means that we can continue the success of the place- we’d love to hear any ideas and suggestions and anything you need or want, please feel free to ask. We look forward to seeing you here and hope you enjoy the place and the area as much as we do. À bientôt Tim & Margreeth Le Chateau des lys

A small potted history

We’re discovering more about the history of the Château and the surrounding area every day. The Somme valley area has of course been the setting for many important events since prehistoric times. Julius Caesar launched his English invasion here. The shipwrecked Harold Godwinson of Wessex was imprisoned in St. Valery before being released by William the Conqueror who later assembled his own invasion fleet in the bay when Harold reneged on his promise to make William king of England.

The tower where Harold was imprisoned still exists. Other Anglo French differences were settled at Crecy and Azincourt, anglicised to “Agincourt” to add insult to injury, both sites are close by and well worth visiting. Joan of Arc was also imprisoned in St. Valery- the gate she passed through on the way to execution and much of the mediaeval town is still largely intact and absolutely lovely. One could carry on forever- try here for starters visit-somme.com Sailly le sec was once a separate village and became conjoined to neighbouring Flibeaucourt in 1908.

The etymology is probably Roman, salix meaning Willow & salicelum- the place of the willows, the Latin implying it was named when Julius Caesar conquered Gaul. Not much remains of the mediaeval village as it was razed by the Spanish in 1823 and now the oldest part is the other Chateau housing the Mairie. The first phase of our Château des Lys began in 1850. A Parisian railway magnate called Sangnier built the front house as a holiday retreat.

He also built three buildings, probably for quartering his servants and these have now become Gîtes, originally the estate was much larger. It remained with the Sangnier family until the last heir died, we think during WW1 whereupon his pious father, the last of the line then gifted the building to the Church who used it as a strict catholic boy’s school, renowned for discipline and high achievement. Around this time two wings were built to connect the main house to the Studio Gîte and the Rural Gîte, the left or roadside wing containing the Chapel. Vestiges of its ecclesiastical past can be found in the stained glass and various furnishings throughout the building and the chapel itself has been converted to accommodation.

There’s also an enchanting Maria icon in the garden and a Cross in the grounds. We think the pond (etang) is natural. After the school closed the neighbouring farmer then took possession of the Château before portioning the land off into its present configuration and selling it to the previous owners, the Lutz family, in 2005 and they converted it to what it is now. We believe that we’re only the fifth owners. Incidentally the building’s Oxblood and white colour scheme is typically Picard.

The strip of woodland forming part of the Château des Lys estate was once part of an old forest, Le Bois de Cantatre which extended as far as Abbeville. The larger remnant now lies in front of the Mairie a few fields away and is popular with walkers. Bronze Age burials have been found there along with traces of Gallic villages and unsurprisingly there are local legends of druidic activity, but that may just be the guests. Occasionally wild boar & deer still visit the grounds as do squirrels and at time of writing, lots of moles. It remains a quiet and cut off corner of the world and we hope to keep it that way, restoring as much of it to its original glory as we can.