The History Section
La Section d'l'Histouaithe
Report on Field Meeting in Brittany
20th -23rd September 2001
Eighteen members of the Section travelled to Saint Malo on Thursday, the 20th September 2001, where they were met by Professor Gwyn Meirion-Jones, Leader of the Expedition, Professor Michael Jones and Madame Catherine Laurent, President of the Société d'Histoire et d'Archéologie de Bretagne.
After lunching en route, the party booked into the Hotel de la Porte Saint-Malo in Dinan, their residence for the next three nights.
Activities began immediately upon arrival with an extensive and very informative tour of Dinan, conducted by Monsieur L-R. Vilbert, Municipal Librarian, and authority on the history of the city. The tour culminated in a municipal reception where, over champagne and canapés, the Mayor of Dinan cordially welcomed the group.
Friday the 21st, the first full day of the trip, saw the party assembled at 8.30 a.m. to embark in our coach. A commentary on the journey was provided by the two professors, who explained that each would talk, at the sites visited, on his own speciality; Gwyn Meirion-Jones on the buildings and Michael Jones on the great families of the Duchy who had built them.
The first stop was at the Abbaye de Beauport, near Paimpol. Now largely a picturesque ruin, the abbey was a large and flourishing community of Premonstratensian canons from the 13th to the 17th centuries. We were surprised to hear that it had been a major staging post on the route to Compostella, as many pilgrims travelled by sea and the abbey had its own harbour to receive them.
Each day luncheon was taken as a group and this time it was at a charming restaurant on the quay at Paimpol.
The afternoon visit was to the Manoir de Lezhildry in Plouguiel, where we were welcomed by the proprietors, Monsieur et Madame M. T. O'Laughlin, who had skilfully restored a large part of the house, particularly a renaissance wing of upper and lower galleries, and furnished it with great taste. One wing remaining in a dilapidated condition afforded an excellent comparison with their newer work.
We then visited the Château de Coadélan in Prat, a moated manor house developed over the mediaeval and renaissance periods, with an enormous menhir, marking the site of two springs which feed the ponds and moat.
Saturday saw us aboard our coach again at 8.30 a.m., bound for the Château de la Hunaudaye, a Château-Fort of the mediaeval period, curiously situated in a valley. Those who braved the dewy grass to walk around the castle saw almost complete curtain walls connecting great round towers, and surrounding a ruined interior.
By mid -morning we were at the Château de Bienassis, being received by the chatelaine, Madame de Kerjégou, who welcomed us into her home, which had developed from a 14 th century hall-house, through renaissance extensions and 19th century restoration, into a large and comfortable home. Her drawing-room contained her own personal collection of grande-époque armchairs (punning on the name of the Château), and the whole house was furnished with pieces ranging from
early dower-chests to cabinets containing exquisite Sèvres porcelain and fine silver. After touring the exterior and hearing of the tragic shooting of eleven patriots on the premises during the German occupation, we were offered a vin d'honneur by Madame Kerjégou in her private sitting-room.
Luncheon was enjoyed at the Ferme-auberge de la Ville Andon, in Plélo, and the afternoon brought us to the Château de Hac, dating largely from the 15th century and offering, in addition to three superimposed halls with great chambers and an oratory, herb and rose gardens.
Returning to Dinan, we were given a grand reception at the new hotel Jerzual, on the port, by the Société d'Histoire et d'Archéologie de Bretagne and other affiliated organisations, at which gifts were exchanged.
The final day began with a visit to the Manoir de la Grand'Cour at Taden, an enigmatic large gatehouse dating from the 15 th century, without interior buildings in the courtyard. The restoration work recently carried out showed some inappropriate features, and irrelevant art exhibitions filled the interior.
We then visited the Maison de l'Artiste de la Grande Vigne, on the quayside in Dinan, where the work of Yvonne Jean-Haffen and of Mathurin Méhaut is displayed, and a guided tour was conducted by Emeritus Professor Denise Delouche of the University of Rennes, who also joined us for lunch at the restaurant Le Recif, in Saint Malo.
The members of the group are very grateful to Professor Gwyn Meirion-Jones and Professor Michael Jones for their friendly and highly efficient conduct of the field meeting, and regretted sincerely the absence of Miss Mary Billot, who had been responsible for the Jersey end of all the arrangements and who was unable to participate owing to ill-health.
Our memories of the expedition were pleasantly revived by the visit of Professor Meirion-Jones to deliver the Joan Stevens Memorial Lecture on the 222d January 2002.