Fr : +33 678 740687
Nl : +31 653 771441

Fr : +33 678 740687 Nl : +31 653 771441

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The Château

Biography

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. Tim is originally  from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex and Margreeth was born in Zeeland. We have been married for 25 years (and counting) and have two children Donna 25 & Joe 11.

You can follow our trials and tribulations in Channel 4’s popular Escape to the Chateau DIY series 1 & 2, the spin off series from the highly successful Escape to the Chateau featuring Dick and Angel Strawbridge.  They started their French adventure around the same time as we did and by peculiar coincidence were living in Southend-on-Sea (next to Leigh) before relocating to France.

Before moving to France Margreeth was an English teacher, remedial teacher & translator and Tim was the organising third of the highly successful band Fragment, for more years than he cares to remember. These days he still performs when time allows (sometimes for the guests) but mainly studies piano.

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 Holland and the UK meant easily staying in touch with our friends and family, the most important things in our lives.

Le Chateau des lysFollowing 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’re getting there slowly and are proud of what we’ve achieved so far and people’s reactions when they stay. When  we arrived  we had never done anything like this before and it remains a life of surprises. This is our home and we hope you’ll feel at home too- 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

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 providing the excuse William needed to land at Hastings

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 medieval 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 our 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.

During WW2 the Chateau was used as HQ for the Germans. We recently discovered that during their occupation a fallen English airman was hidden in what is now our bedroom, it’s a fascinating story of courage and the resistance and we’re currently trying to piece it together properly and track him down.

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 red 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.

Escape to the Chateau DIY

For those who haven’t seen this it’s a UK based series following the lives and tribulations English owners who have bought Chateaus in France. the DIY series is a spin-off from the highly successful Escape to the Chateau featuring Dick & Angel Strawbridge

 

In 2017 we were staying with friends in the UK. By coincidence Episode 1 of Escape to the Chateau was being repeated on More Dave 203 or something and they insisted we watch it. We’d never heard of the show but it was amazing to see Dick & Angel Strawbridge living in Southend, Tim’s old stomping ground, prior to their acquisition of Chateau La Motte Husson and then grappling with it’s restoration. We’d done almost exactly the same thing at almost exactly the same time. The journey back to France that day was filled with comparisons questions and discussions. When first we bought our Chateau it had been suggested to us that we do something similar in Holland but we were wary of throwing our lives open to such scrutiny- TV isn’t always benign.

 

The very next day back at the Chateau Margreeth was opening Emails and there it was. The ETTC production company were looking for people to participate in a similar series. Serendipity dooh dah day.  We thought about it and decided to say yes. We’re not superstitious people in any way but the coincidence was bizarre and they seemed nice enough. There were discussions and Skype meetings etc, and filming began in March 2017.  We had no idea of what would happen but the camera team (who had shot the first Dick and Angel series) would pretty much let us choose our own subjects, as long as they didn’t get too injured in the process. It sort of made itself up as it went along. The first series came out on Channel 4 in April 2018 and has proved to be one of the biggest shows on Channel 4 it has been nominated for a broadcast award. The second series will start on 18 Feb 2019 at 5pm UK time and, as with the first series, we have absolutely no idea how they will tell the stories they filmed or which stories they will follow.  It’s a lovely thing to be a part of. We got to meet a few of the other owners, all amazing people including the Strawbridges who one cannot help but admire, and to whom we are remotely grateful, they really started something. The show has been sold to 18 different territories all over the world and seems to be going from strength to strength. We get a lot of guests who seem genuinely fascinated by the whole thing and feel very connected to the people on the show. It’s great to be a part of something like that.