Visit to Le Bois des Moutiers & La Maison des Communes

Saturday 27 April 2002

It had been decided to travel to Varengeville via the most direct route which was from Newhaven to Dieppe using the Superseacat service. However Friday, 26 April dawned cloaked with towering clouds, driving rain, and gale force winds which meant that the Superseacat was rendered useless, but so too were the ferries.

We all met on the quay at Newhaven and after discussion a spirit of ‘we are not going to be beaten’ prevailed, and having agreed who would travel with whom to reduce the number of cars, we set off at 3.30 pm on the two-hour drive to Folkestone to board the Shuttle for France. This was eventually achieved and during a meeting on the train, it was decided that we would break our journey through France to dine in the old town of Boulogne. After an enjoyable meal we walked back through the narrow cobblestone streets to our cars parked outside the high town walls, to drive in convoy through the clear moonlit French countryside to the charming village of Varengeville, where we arrived at 2 am.

Saturday, 27 April dawned bright and fine but windy. The ‘convoy travellers’ met the other Trust members who had already made their way to Varengeville: one from as far away as Australia. The first visit was to La Maison des Communes (Lutyens, 1909 for Guillaume Mallet). The present owner, Mr. J. P. Lepelley very kindly guided us from the comfortable Hotel de la Terrasse, gave us a very warm welcome and a personally guided tour of his home and garden. We all fell in love with La Maison des Communes; its excellent design, scale, use of materials, and its garden and beautiful location meant that Mr. Lepelley had generated twenty-four would-be buyers for his lovely home!

After lunch at the hotel, we met Mme. Claire Bouchayer and her sister Mme. Constance Kargere at Le Bois des Moutiers. Following a warm welcome and an excellent introduction, the party split into two groups for the tour of the house and the garden. Our guides could not have been more kind and helpful making the visit most interesting and memorable. Le Bois des Moutiers and its
wonderful 30 acres of grounds constitute a unique study of Lutyens’s work. The house has a number of Lutyens features which make it so special. It is a large and imposing building but with a warm and gentle atmosphere no doubt generated by the Mallet family. Indeed it was with great reluctance that the party left, and after a visit to the local church returned to the hotel for a happy
and enjoyable dinner.

The windy weather returned on Sunday and as the convoy of cars set off for the long drive to Calais, we all left savouring the memories of two very interesting houses and the charm and distinction of their owners. The visit notes were reproduced by kind permission of Mr. Emmanuel Ducamp from the recent publication Lutyens Abroad.

Barry Sillince