Maison Bellachonne is a three-storey townhouse situated in the centre of the medieval town of Bellac. It is typical of houses in the town with a beautiful central staircase made from local chestnut wood and two barns on the ground floor (where they used to keep their livestock). We have been told it was a Dental surgery in earlier times, but we know that the last French owners were the Roby family who owned the house since the 1920s – Monsieur Roby was the Notaire (solicitor) in the town, and after his death, peacefully in his office on the lst floor!, his wife lived alone in the house until the 1980s – and eventually she moved into a nursing home after their daughter Jeanne got married and became Madame Blanc. (She died 2 years ago at 93 as the Blanc family stayed with us for her funeral). The house then remained empty for around 20 years when it fell into considerable disrepair. An English couple bought it in 2003 and replaced the roof before selling it a year later to another English man who transformed it into a chambres d’hotes.
We are Eleanor and John Gash and along with daughters Rebekah and Lucie bought the Maison Bellachonne as a going concern in September 2009. We knew this was going to be a complete lifestyle change for us – as former magazine sub-editor and art editor – but when we signed the papers at the Notaires and returned to our new home full of sheep farmers (the Tech Ovin, international sheep conference was on in the town!) – we knew our lives would never be the same again! However, despite many challenges along the way, we have never looked back and continue to welcome guests from all over the world.
Most people ask us why we moved here? Well, we decided to emigrate when the recession took a grip in the UK and we both found ourselves without work. We also felt we wanted to do something different before it was too late and not have any regrets. However, with two teenage daughters it certainly wasn’t a decision taken lightly as their education and future were uppermost in our minds. But when our house sold in 3 weeks after our second visit – we thought it was now or never & with the girls’ consent, we made the move from Glasgow (where we had been living for 12 years) to Bellac – city of the lamb – in rural France!
We knew we were taking a massive risk but we’re now into our 8th year and we feel it’s continuing to pay off as we’ve integrated well into the town, the business continues to flourish with daily bookings & enquiries and there are plenty of returning guests many of whom have become friends. The girls, now 24 & 21 are fluent in French – eldest daughter recently graduated from Bordeaux University with a Degree in Oenotourisme and youngest in her 3rd year at Liverpool University.
Maison Bellachonne is an ongoing project for us as we continue to renovate and upgrade the house both for ourselves as a family home and to update facilities which will enhance the guest experience. We have already renovated our entire ground floor space to create a new Entrance Lobby and a spacious Reception Lounge for our guests – we replaced the barn doors with a window unit and added a Period stone fireplace with a log-burner. Next year – 2017 – we hope to create a studio apartment from our previous family room 4, and transform our laundry room on the ground floor to a summer kitchen handy for our adjacent courtyard garden.