The commune of Bourg-Charente has a particularly rich history. One of the first traces of the presence of man goes back to the Neolithic period with a monoxyle dugout found at the bottom of the Charente. This first witness of human presence was found at the Gué de Beaulieu under 4.50 m of depth. It dates from 3500 to 3000 years BC, which corresponds to the Final Neolithic.
It was once the oldest in Europe. It is currently in the museum in Cognac.
A very famous historian, José Gomez de Soto, believes that this canoe was sunk voluntarily in obedience to some kind of ritual. This hypothesis is based on the fact that at the time of the discovery a large stone was found placed over a hole in the hull; it was put there to weigh down and sink the boat.
Current excavations in the west of the commune, carried out as part of the construction of a fish farm, confirm this ancient presence, dating it to the Mesolithic. Finally, there are numerous caves in the Dérivant area in a cliff in the immediate area near the river Charente. They were occupied in the Neolithic period, some traces of this period were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century.
By way of the Gallo-Roman period
The presence of the Gallo-Roman period is established in several places in the commune and some of the names of the sectors bear witness to this: Les mas to the north, Le mas des rouches to the south-east, …. The presence of the Gallo-Roman road of Chemin Boisne in the south of the commune with a well and a Roman bridge also illustrates this presence. Recent discoveries during the archaeological excavations of the future site of the fish farm have shown a Gallo-Roman site of the utmost importance.
From the Middle Ages to the present day
The commune had a dense history as it was a rather affluent manor. The presence of the vineyards for the production of Cognac and the Charente river with its river shipping have always attracted the inhabitants and generated revenues. As early as the Middle Ages, Sieur Ollivier de Bourg-Charente was an important man in the area. The chatellenie passed from hand to hand until the tax collector of François I, Artus Gouffier. The Hundred Years’ War left its mark with a long English occupation. The castle was a state prison during the Revolution (see below).
Peasant life in Bourg-Charente was more pleasant than in some other areas and the parish (which at the time covered part of Gensac and Chassors) was very dynamic.
Man and the river
As its name indicates, our commune has always had special links with the river. From the beginning of the earth to the present day, the two stories follow each other with an astonishing complicity. From the towpath to the barges, but also the construction of the bridge at the end of the 19th century have marked the course of history. As the commune is present on both banks, many stories remain about the people on the “other side of the water”, in particular all of their difficulties with the ferry crossing that had to be paid for to go to the church, the cemetery or the school.
COGNAC, PINEAU AND GRAND MARNIER
The commune of Bourg-Charente has the particular characteristic of having three crus present on its territory. The southern half from the river is in Grande Champagne, the northern half in Petite Champagne and a parcel, today not cultivated, in Fins Bois.
This viticulture has a great influence on the heritage with the presence of typical wine producers’ farms with courtyards enclosed by high walls and a porch. There are also wine storehouses on the banks of the Charente, where barrels were once transported by barge.
It should be noted that the Marnier Lapostolle company, which produces Grand Marnier, is located in the commune at the Château de Bourg-Charente. This company is in full expansion and has built a new distillery for the production of bitter orange liqueur, an ingredient of its famous liqueur.
There is also the existence of a pineau producer: the Pautier company
The commune manages its green spaces in a varied manner. The roadside mowing is carried out in such a way as to preserve the wildlife and vegetation.
HERITAGE AND TOWN PLANNING
The commune embarked on the development of a Local Urban Plan in 2008 in order to control its development. The main lines of action chosen are
– preserving the rural character
– to allow harmonious development
– limit the areas that can be built on and confine them to the existing villages
– to enhance and protect the landscape and architectural heritage
– the development plans for the new districts were drawn up by the CAUE and validated by the ABF
Finally, the village council is committed to respecting the landscape and architectural charter of the Pays Ouest Charente-Pays du Cognac, and in particular
– to respect the boundaries of the wine-growing areas.
– identify and protect the heritage linked to the wine industry
– identify and protect the wine storehouses located away from the built-up areas, which could be reused in the future
– ensure the integration of new agricultural and viticultural buildings:
– preserve the boundaries of the built-up areas, the transitional spaces between urbanised areas and agricultural or natural areas: the surrounding green areas, the orchards at the edge of the village.
– stop linear urbanisation along roads and in valleys,
– respect the morphology of villages and hamlets
– respect the layout of existing built-up areas: the layout of built-up areas is consistent with the geographical site. Extensions must not be in contradiction with these layouts.
– reinvest in the villages and hamlets
– recognise memorial sites and cultural characteristics.
In 2008, the commune began a multi-year programme of embellishment and enhancement of the landscaped heritage. After a study carried out by a landscape architect, the council embarked on a programme to “reclaim the landscape”.
Thus, the town hall garden has been completely refurbished. Landscaped squares have been created and private initiatives encouraged, such as that of the inhabitants of the village of Margonnet. The commune participates every year in the flowering competition and regularly wins awards.
On the opposite bank, the parish church stands in the middle of the village. Located at the crossroads of the roads leading to Tilloux, Veillard, Moulineuf, etc., it is reinforced in its role as a link between God and man. After belonging to the diocese of Saintes, this modest village church was given to the abbey of Savigny at the end of the 11th century. The abbey established a Benedictine priory here, of which a few adjoining buildings still remain, called “the Priory”. Rebuilt in the third quarter of the 12th century, it suffered very little during the wars of the Middle Ages. It has never been altered since its construction, except for its characterless and badly rebuilt bell tower in the 17th century.
Established on the water’s edge as was customary for practical reasons, the priory was of particular importance. The fact that the church was a convent for a long time explains the name “Allée des prêtres” (priests’ alley) which is still used for the alleyway leading from the church to the Charente: tradition has it that this alleyway was used by the priests to get to the castle. At the end of the last century, some paintings could be admired, including “Our Lord and the Angel Gabriel”, “Saint Peter”, “The Assumption of the Virgin” and “Saint John the Baptist”. At the same time, the stained glass windows represented the coats of arms of the lords of Bourg-Charente. Some lords of Bourg-Charente, Tilloux and Moulineuf were buried in the church. Listed as a historical monument since 1913, some have defined it as follows: “The purity, simplicity and grace of the church are admirable and many are the visitors to this pure Romanesque jewel. A small model of the church of Châtres, from which it took its style, it was built in the style inspired in the Charente Valley by the cathedral of Angoulême. Not only the elegance of the facade but also the purity of the circular apse, whose ornamentation is external and divided into six compartments by columns that rise up to the cornice with modillions, are remarkable. On the façade, the three arches of the ground floor are soberly underlined by diamond points; but on the first floor, the narrow arches are sculpted with geometric motifs directly inspired by the abstract decoration of the crosses and manuscripts of Ireland, such as the “Book of Kells” or the “Book of Durnan”, because the Irish monks illustrated, from the 7th to the 10th century, the pages of many psalters which inspired the Romanesque artists.
The church is in the shape of a Latin cross and consists of a nave with two domes, a barrel-vaulted transept, with apsidioles in the crosspieces and a dome at their intersection. These two vaults, which symbolise heaven and God, were inspired, according to historians, by the domes of Saint Sophia and the Blue Mosque in Constantinople. On the north wall of the nave, a 13th century fresco, in poor condition, representing the “Adoration of the Magi” completes a sumptuous and elegant construction. The interior of the church was restored between the 19th and 20th centuries. The Stations of the Cross were also restored during this period and are of great value and one of the most beautiful in the region.
The remains of an ancient castle in Le Dérivant and the history associated with it make Bourg-Charente a very old stronghold of particular importance in the region. It extended over the parish of Bourg-Charente and also included several villages in the parish of Gensac as well as the entire parish of Chassors. It dates back to the 10th century and it was a lord of Bourg-Charente who founded the abbey of Châtres from 975 to 1001. In the Middle Ages, it had a castle which was considered a fortress.
Bertrand de Bourg, another of its owners, donated the tithes of Villa Molis (Moulineuf) to the same abbey, by tradition. In 1262, the lord of Bourg-Charente was called Ollivier.
On 15 July 1415, Jean de Bourg, knight, lord of the said place, confessed that he ‘held from my lord the duke of Orleans, as having the lease and government of his brother, count of Angoulême, because of his castle of Merpins, the castle and fortress of the said place of Bourg, its belongings and its dependencies’. After the vissitudes of the English army and the difficult passages of French history during this period, the English occupation did not end definitively until 1445.
In 1515, the Duke of Savoy became King under the name of François I. He gave the land of Bourg to his former governor Artus Gouffier.
In 1607, the land of Bourg passed into the hands of Pons de Pons, from the illustrious Saintonge family of that name, a former page of King François I. He built a castle on the other side of the Charente and left the ruins of the feudal fortress. It was at the request of M. de Pons that King Louis XIII created the Bourg fairs in May 1620.
The castle was sold in 1711 to Messrs Rambaud and Salomon.
The Salomon family sold the castle of Bourg in 1767 to the Marquis de Girac but reserved Cressé, Moulineuf and Veillard. Messire Salomon was buried in the Bourg cemetery on 8 January 1779 at the age of 77.
The intendances having been abolished, M. de Néville came to Bourg in 1790. He emigrated and the castle and its library were seized on 14 Ventôse, Year II. The castle became a state prison and was then sold.
Several traces of these English prisoners exist in the commune, notably an inscription on a stone in Foussant.
Around 1900, Mr Alexandre Pellisson, a Cognac merchant, bought the castle and had the chimney of the Bouteville castle moved there.
The château then passed into the hands of the Marnier-Lapostolle company around 1930.
The Château de Tilloux is a modern building constructed in 1872. This building replaced an old castle, seat of a nobility whose owners, at the end of the sixteenth century, were Jean Vinsonneau, squire, lord of Lapéruse, and Jeanne Geoffrion, his wife. They had two daughters: Jacquette and Marie. The land of Tilloux included the castle and its “pré clotûres”, land, vines, a garenne and mills. It is likely that the modern building replaced the building located at the Tilloux dwelling, where there are still vaulted cellars and a very old well.
Castle of Cressé
The Château de Cressé was built by Mrs Martell at the end of the 19th century. It has an extremely elegant architecture. There used to be a castle in the same area, as evidenced by old documents.
The presence of the Charente and the river Romède in the commune has been conducive to the installation of water mills. The area known as Moulineuf takes its name from the presence of an important mill on the Charente, of which no trace remains. The river Le Romède, fed by a high quality resurgence (which today supplies drinking water to 8000 inhabitants) with a satisfactory flow, is a structuring element of the landscape and heritage of the commune. Very early on, mills were built on this watercourse. There are no less than five mills along its entire length.
The commune has many dwellings built during the prosperous years of the cognac industry. Some villages bear the name of dwellings such as “le logis de Tilloux”. There are also many farm porches with their dwellings. The presence of cognac has shaped the local architecture. There are many typical Charentais farms.
The architectural heritage
The commune of Bourg-Charente has a very rich heritage with village and private bread ovens, public wells, fountains, gateways and manor houses. Nearly 50 elements are noted for protection in the PLU.
The town hall book is on sale for 20 euros..