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A wedding haven - Château de Pouyade

A wedding haven - Château de Pouyade

The magnificent Château de Pouyade at Saint-Yrieix, near Angoulême in the Charente, makes a superb location for the wedding or family party of your dreams...

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At an exhibition held at the mairie in Saint-Yrieux-sur-Charente, David Laurent and Asmaa Boutarboush found photographs that looked very familiar to them. "It’s funny to see how the wedding photographs at the castle were taken in the same places at the beginning of the 20th century as they are now," Asmaa says. "It’s just the hair and the clothes that have changed."

Now, as then, the Château de la Pouyade provides a stunning backdrop. During celebrations, photographs are taken in the park full of tall cedars in front of its grand stone facade, by the wisteria and the grape bunches carved into the bottom of the turret, in its loft space leading onto a fortress-like terrace and in its quaint neo-medieval chapel with colourful stained glass windows. "When we have a big group of family and friends here for a wedding or another big celebration, we want them to make it their own, so they take the keys to the castle, and just see their family and friends the whole time. It makes them feel chez eux," Asmaa says. "We’re there without being there." The Château rents its 12 bedrooms and loft space by the week or weekend.

Film Set

When not hosting weddings, the Château de la Pouyade has been the setting for the Père et Mère series on TF1 and for short films, as well as an artists’ residence and a place for authors to stay during the Festival de Bandes Dessinées in Angoulême. Its three adjoining salons, with round feminine lines and chandeliers, make a perfect spot for cocktail evenings. "There was a great atmosphere at the salsa festival last year," Asmaa says. "Everyone was dancing 24/7!"

The Château de la Pouyade has belonged to the Laurent family, originally from the Charente, for the past 15 years. "It was love at first sight. My parents were canoeing one weekend, saw the castle and fell in love with it," David says. ""They enquired and it turned out that the place had been abandoned and was for sale."

The Laurents’ idea was always to rent out the castle, but at one time the castle had been a family home. "We did wonder about using it as a family home, but my brother and I like the lifestyle in Bordeaux, where we live. My sister is in Paris. We all travel a lot and we wouldn’t make the most of it. It is a very joyous place as it normally has people in it all the time," David says.

Variety

Today, David’s partner Asmaa looks after everything from events to bookings to making sure everything runs smoothly for the guests. The castle is open all year round and Asmaa stays in an apartment in the castle during the busy seasons. "I get to meet different people every day, which I really like. During weddings, it’s always funny to see how the mother-in-law takes charge of the wedding as though it was her getting married. We have a lot of Parisians originating from the Charente who come back to get married here, and many Belgians. One couple got married here and came back ten years later with family and friends to celebrate it again!"

When able to take time out from his work as an architect in Bordeaux, David helps at La Pouyade. Decisions are taken as a family, but it’s Asmaa and David who spend the most time at the castle. "We make decisions as a family – it’s sometimes tricky! Luckily, our parents trust us and go with our ideas," David says.

wedding car

When they took it over, everything had to be redone. "It wasn’t in a bad state, but it definitely wasn’t liveable in. We wanted to keep the soul of the castle," David says. As the château was completely empty when they got it, the family also had to think about how best to decorate it. They found many items dating back to the 1930s and 40s in brocantes; some pieces of furniture were family heirlooms and others were bought on holidays at the Île de Ré. The two replica terracotta soldiers standing proudly in the entrance were brought back from China.

"We wanted to distance ourselves from the 'esprit de château', the medieval and austere look, by adding contemporary touches which still worked well with the castle," Asmaa says. "It’s difficult to copy something without it looking kitsch. We wanted to create a modern atmosphere by adding a touch of warming colours."

The Orangerie

Six years ago, the family decided to create an events space near the castle, and David designed a 300-square-metre contemporary building, called the Orangerie, made of wood and steel. "All of the owners added something from their period and we’ve done the same," David says. The room looks out onto a wooden terrace and the River Charente below. Surrounded by glass on three sides, the little lights on the ceiling look as though they continue into the forest. Inside, the room is decorated simply with orange and lemon trees. The top of the Orangerie is a vegetal roof – it grows naturally and replants itself – helping to heat the building. "And it makes it prettier to look down at from the castle," David adds.

The Orangerie

The current castle was built in 1845, but there was a smaller castle on the premises – where the Orangerie is now –from the 17th century. The Houlier de la Pouyade, an old Charentaise family, decided to demolish the first one to build a bigger family home in a 19th century style. The neo-medieval chapel on the right was added later, in 1874. It then had several different owners before being requisitioned by the German army.

The nearby nunnery is a reminder of the castle’s recent past. After the Second World War, the castle was sold to the Soeurs du Bon Pasteur, a congregation whose aim was to help children and young women in difficulty. During the war, the buildings of the Soeurs du Bon Pasteur on rue de Paris were destroyed when Angoulême station was bombed. They were forced to leave the area and seek refuge with the young people in their care in Rochebeaucourt, in the Dordogne. After the war, they came back in search of new premises and rang the prefecture in Angoulême. Work was done on the castle and in 1953, 102 children and young women arrived there. It later became a hostel for teenage girls, before the congregation ended its work some years later. The chapel was used by the nuns and remained consecrated up until the time the Laurents bought it. And the nuns are always eager to find out what is happening at the castle. "They do always seem to be very happy when they hear about weddings happening here," says Asmaa.

Originally published in Living Poitou-Charentes magazine

WORDS: Rebecca Lawn PHOTOS: Courtesy of the Château de Pouyade


David Laurent & Asmaa Boutarboush, Château de la Pouyade, 36 rue de l'ancienne mairie, 16710 Saint Yrieix-sur-Charente. +33 (0)5 45 95 06 82