I have talked about guilty pleasures and the importance of escaping once in a while and the TV series that’s combines both of these is Escape to The Chateau. For DIY fans, budding interior designers and Francophiles it makes for perfect viewing. The ever-practical Dick Strawbridge, with the best moustache on TV and fabulously creative Angel Strawbridge are a wonderful team. This capable couple swapped their two-bed home in East London after searching for the chateau for four years and then spent a further five years turning Chateau de la Motte Husson into a family home. It was also to become a business, when Channel 4 commissioned a TV series. The programme became surprisingly popular and the husband-and-wife duo recently explained why they wanted to get involved with the series, they said We saw it as an adventure. TV presenter Dick and author Angel now employ a PR to market their thriving business empire which includes not just weddings, functions and housing B&B guests in their lovely home, but several books, homeware, gifts, soft furnishings, calendars, diaries and cards. The pair have also been seen on spin-off DIY series which shows them helping others to share the dream of restoring an old castle or house in France, to run as a business.
They have had quite a journey and we have been able to share this with them, they almost feel like old friends! They found the Chateau in 2014 and the purchase was completed 2015. Priced at £350,000, Chateau de la Motte Husson was an incredible bargain and their dream home except for the fact it had no sewerage, no electricity and no heating. Bringing a forty- five room, five storey house and its gardens, back to life after years of neglect takes hard work and dedication. Dick and Angel have proven to have these in abundance and the final result is well-worth their efforts. The couple have no plans to sell the chateau but could make a profit of around £1.5 million if they put it on the market. Dick has estimated that they have spent around £280,000 renovating the chateau. Their skills in re-making and re-designing must have saved them a small fortune, as well as showing us all how to give a new life to old furniture, attic and second-hand finds, which is so important for us all to start doing again.
I’ve dreamt for years about living a simple life with good food and wine, fresh air and two-hour lunches every day. So, when my partner Angela and I decided to start our French adventure, I could almost smell the roses
The History of the Chateau de la Motte Husson is a long and interesting one, so I’ll give you, a short version: It all dates back to English kings having possessions on the European mainland, as far back as 1066. When William the Conqueror, then Duke of Normandy, became the King of England. From the 12th to the 14th centuries the site of the chateau was in the parish of La Motte and was a fortified stronghold. It was not until 1406 that the Husson family, the Seigneurs of Montgiroux, named the castle Chateau de la Motte Husson, which remains its name today. In 1600, the estate was acquired by the de Baglion family. The castle was rebuilt in the enclosure of the old square moat during the period of 1868-1874. This was the time of great wealth in the aristocracy. The Countess Dorothée told her husband that she wanted a grand chateau on the site of the fort. Her main residence was near Nantes and the family decided to spend winters in the milder climate and summers in the country at Chateau de la Motte Husson. They were privileged, didn’t work and were occupied with living life to the full, staying in their grand houses and in those of their friends. It was important at the time to receive visitors in grandeur and to display their great wealth. Passed down through the generations of the de Baglion family. The last member of the family was Guy de Baglion de la Dufferie who owned the chateau until his death in 1999, when it passed to his wife and children. The château had remained unoccupied for nearly 40 years when it was put up for sale in 2015. By which time it had fallen into a very poor state of repair.
Dick was born in Burma, but raised and educated in Northern Ireland. He attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and in 1979 was commissioned into the Royal Corps of Signals. After serving in Germany, England, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Northern Ireland, he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2001. Then having a successful career as a Programme Manager for a large multinational company, before becoming a full-time television presenter and author. Dick is a man of many interests and talents. And first hit our television screens with Scrapheap Challenge.
Angela- known as Angel, is the founder of The Vintage Patisserie, a glamorous hospitality company and the author of the best-selling Vintage Tea Party books. Humble beginnings and hard work have secured Angel coverage in nearly every glossy and national newspaper. In 2011 she opened her first Vintage Patisserie in Hackney, East London. With eleven staff and ten events a week, business blossomed. A book deal followed and Angel’s books have sold copies all over the world.
This year as been a very different one for everyone and whilst Chateau de la Motte Husson was closed to guests, a new series called Make-do and Mend was filmed during lockdown. The 7th series of Escape to The Chateau is currently been filmed and is to be aired at the end of this year. I would love to restore an old property, a chateau is possibly to ambitious for me, but like Dick and Angel you can always have the dream, and you never know it might happen one day, like a true-life fairy-tale come true!
If you want more details, there is a website and a Facebook group which also shows the progress of the other Chateau owners. You can catch up on the TV series with Channel 4 or Netflix.