Logis du Paradis, 16300 Criteuil-la-Magdeleine, France

Our History

The Beginning

Built in 1712, the Logis originally housed 500 horses of Louis XIV’s army, garrisoned there to help hold back the advancing English, in its five huge “chais” or barns, which surround the large courtyard. The whole property of 3 hectares, with its separate walled garden (now the pool garden) and “parc”, is enclosed within high stone walls.

In the 19th Century, vines were planted and the Logis became a distillery for Cognac. The “pressoir” with underground channels to the “cuves” where the wine was made, and the beautiful copper stills or “alambics” where the cognac was made, still exist. The other chais housed huge barrels. The surrounding vines, reaching up the hill towards Lignieres, used to belong to the property.

Sally and Nick Brimblecombe had been looking for somewhere to live in the Charente for a year, hopefully amongst the beautiful vines and hills of La Grande Champagne, between the rivers Charente and Ne. One day Nick received a phone call from friend and then Circuit des Remparts organiser Patrick Saffier de Bard, who said ” I’m standing in the courtyard of the place you’re going to buy! Come quickly!” We did, it took us ten minutes to fall in love with the old blackened stone (the Angels’ Share of cognac causes the blackening) and huge courtyard, with its lime trees, and we bought it and moved here in October 2005.

In the 1960’s cognac ceased to be made here, and the place fell into disrepair. In 2005 it still housed the barrels of cognac, by agreement with the vendor, but the roofs were falling in and everything was overgrown. The first winter one of the roofs collapsed onto the valuable barrels, and the owner (sadly not us!), hurriedly removed the cognac and the barrels, which left the whole Logis free to be renovated.

The renovation phase one

The renovation began in early 2006, Gerard Henry and his talented and knowledgable team from Lignieres Sonneville repaired every roof, teetering on fragile beams with great skill and agility. The old original tiles were carefully stacked, modern ones put underneath for strength, and the old ones replaced one by one. The look of the roofs now, completely original, is a testimony to their skill.

The old stone walls were repaired, by hand. One day, in a rainstorm, the inverted corner walls between two of the chais collapsed and the stones tumbled to the ground. We were aghast, but the builders smiled and said no problem, and they built the stones up again in no time!

Gradually, bit by bit, the seven buildings surrounding the courtyard were restored. The courtyard was entirely dug up to bury water and heating pipes, electricity cables, and drains with septic tank. Some friends, old car nuts like Nick, joined us. Ray Parrott and Glenn and Chris White each invested in a chai, and together we designed and restored them to make two self-catering cottages, hence Maisons Perroquet and Blanche.

The renovation phase two

The old farmhouse became the five chambres d’hôte, the big chai the party and games room, the distillery the piano bar. Fer (Sally’s son) and Rachel Austin invested in a chai full of bees, (now housed in the parc in a hive and making lovely lavender and lime honey!) and we now have the Bee House (Maison des Abeilles) with a terrace overlooking the parc as the third self catering cottage.

Nick (entrepreneur and inspiration) died in 2014, so recently Katie, (Nick’s daughter), Edgar (chef, gardener, IT specialist and bon viveur) and Freddie, 5 and Poppy, 2, have arrived to live in Nick’s old office and garage, now a comfortable and lovely home, and fill the place with youth and energy.

The current and future

Thomas, Nick’s son, brings lovely old cars and their interesting owners here to stay, with his company Classic Grand Touring, Anthony (Sally’s son) and his talented friend Pete the Meat, have taken all the photos and set up the new website, and Lucy Hammick (Sally’s daughter) organises and arranges the weddings and parties. Together with their partners and all their children, who often visit, the family brings support, encouragement, and fun to Logis du Paradis, ready to share with all our guests. Come and visit!

Before the renovation

The renovation