enesfr

History

History of Domain Belric

Prehistory

Human presence in the region has existed since the Neolithic era, some 4 to 5000 years before ago. Evidence of this has been found on the nearby banks of Lake Raho, including tools, pottery, polished axes and grindstones.

Antiquity

In Roman times, Belric had the advantage of being located near the Via Domitia (The first Roman road built in Gaul) and rich areas of water. This attracted a large amount of human activity to the area.

A castle, a place of defense and prevention against attacks was built here in Montescot. The name of this town evokes its function: Mont-Escot, a mount where one listens and watches for potential enemies.

At the location of the Mas in the tenth century there was a village with a church: Saint Vincent, which was destroyed and whose beautiful gate was reassembled and is still visible in the church of Saint Felix Laroque des Alberes.

The area with the Catalan name “Avalri” from the tenth century it was the property of the lord of Avalri.

The Middle Ages

The Templars built the plain, which channeled and managed water creating Agouille of March: the swamp becomes a rich meadow.

The area belongs to the diocese of Elne.

The Modern Era

The domain was bought by a Mr. Parazols in 1870, (from Narbonne)  including 129 173ha of vines. He demolished several small huts to build the current buildings and two other buildings were destroyed by fire.

He began by building a wine cellar at the entrance of the building (where wine making was first practiced at the property) and a buidling opposite to weigh grape loads.

It is said that the mason who made the site was Saturnin Margail, a craftsman of exceptional dexterity, so much so, his workers would sometimes stopped to watch him work (this testimony was given by his great-granddaughter of President Terrus museum Elne).

The wing that now houses the apartments used to be workers’ dwellings: housing 9 families and any other laborers offering their brawn.

In 1893 the other wing was built and the central tower. The ground floor has become the current reception. The ground floor housed the stables with room for 22 horses to work the fields. On the upper floor was a silk worm farm: in 1892 a decree of the Government granted subsidies to farmers who would boost the breeding of silkworms. This era marked the landscape: there are still old mulberry trees in rows along the roads and paths. A large fireplace upstairs allowed them to keep a good temperature for the development of the cocoons.

In 1930 a great fire destroyed the wing. The roof and floor were burnt to nothing and were rebuilt. The wood was replaced by iron, locally mined near Mount Canigou, an iron of exceptional quality as evidenced by the numerous local steeples made from wrought iron that never rust. The roof and ceilings voutains supported by pillars of iron were particularly elegant and made with metal frames by students of Gustave Eiffel.

Since 1912 the estate belonged to the family Jonquère d’Oriola, which included Pierre Jonquère d’Oriola, a  very famous Olympic gold medalist horseman. Christophe Jonquère d’Oriola died without children and his nephews were managing the Domaine. It was finally sold in two lots: one in 2000 and another the present Belric in 2002.

The Conversion

When Ghislaine and Benoît Lefévère bought the present Belric it had been uninhabited for many years and the buildings were in poor condition. But for them it was the beginning of a wonderful adventure. Both fell in love with the old buildings and as Benoît had extensive experience in the renovation of old houses, they decided to renovate this jewel of Catalan architecture.

earlydomaine

First investigations and structural work

After three years of reflection, studying and observation (and living on site)  the large-scale works were undertaken: rehabilitation of the entire interior, floors, stairs, walls, roof, gutters. The Catalan Caïrou brickwork surrounding the doors and window was eroded in places and needed  replacement, which was done with old caïroux using the same dough, the same grain and even cooking temperature. Finding the method to color the original stone was a trickier process. After many failed attempts, the following was learned: 1. Masons of the time were working with local materials, so using river sand from the sand pit near Brouilla was important. 2. The coating was made from lime, cement was not yet widespread. 3.They did not use pigment as their only concern was to build walls that reflect the color produced naturally

Benoît then began to work in this context, and the results (using lime, sand Brouilla) were a success. When he approached the stable wing, (now the current reception room) he noticed that the coating was whiter and harder: hydraulic lime with the same sand was the solution.

scafolddomaine

Benoît forged the ‘St. Andrew’s cross “on the front of each wing which are connected together by iron rods passing through from side to side, now embedded in slabs.

The roof was insulated, which forced him to raise the it, which led to the creation of an additional row of Genoa. The old gutters, dilapidated were all replaced by copper gutters.

After the big fire of 1930, they abandoned the breeding of the silkworms and the place was tuned into a barn, to store hay. They made a large door to bring the bails in, the doorstep being made of concrete. This didn’t fit well with the design of the new building. Ghislaine and Benoît looked for stone that would more closely match the windows in the wing. They went to Avignon and found what they were looking for. They bought 2 600kg pieces which made the doorstep, and three 80kg for supports. All of the stone was cut very precisely (to the nearest mm!)on site and placed using JCB’s and metal tubes – it was as if they were building the pyramids!

Interior

window2

The two staircases serving the apartments were in very poor condition and required a lot of work. They were both demolished, and a single staircase constructed on the north side. The stairs were constructed with beautiful hand made banisters, that added authenticity to the character of the building.

The traditional Caïrou window sills were all broken. To give more elegance to the conversion, Benoît knew that he should replace them with stone sills. After a thorough search, Ghislaine and Benoît found (in Catalonia, near Lleida) a perfectly suited stone Gélive, which is easy to work with and has a warm color, suited well with the old plaster walls.

Sherpherd at DOmaine Belric

Gardens

The outdoor space was initially quite wild and unkempt. A Shepherd was using the land to graze his flock of sheep, but after a few years of cohabitation, the Shepherd retired, and the transformation of the space from rural farm house to vacation, marriage and events venue, began.

The mountain side garden was designed by a landscape gardener friend, who respected the existing Catalan architecture. It contains a beautiful Olive tree, herbs and a relaxing Lerida stone fountain. This is a sunny garden and is protected from the wind.

On the opposite side of the building, terraces were built, so that guests at events could appreciate the magnificent views over the valley, Golf Montescot and just behind, the village of Corneilla del Vercol. The surrounding fences were made with the gates of feeding.

The railings were made with the gates of the horse troughs, supported by posts made from caïroux and crowned with a plaque and a stone ball of Lerida.

A monumental stone staircase centered between two large pillarswas built to lead to the lower level where a large esplanade was implanted with a border of young oaks.

photo mas et mur 149steps

The reception room

The marriage of their eldest daughter in 2010 was the occasion for Ghislaine and Benoît to realise how this magical place was conducive to entertaining (whether marriages, seminars or concerts). The old barn which had been used as a storage place was converted into what is now the Reception Hall or La Salle.

An annex was built alongside the Hall, containing toilet facilities and a space for catering. This created a charming terrace and a staircase leading down to the front of the Hall, complete with hand rails made by Benoît.