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Roullet-Saint-Estèphe’s 4,000 or so residents – named the Roullet-Stéphanoises – occupy a fairly newly merged community between Angoulême and Châteauneuf-sur-Charente.
The town is made up of two towns, Roullet on the N 10 and Saint-Estèphe a mile west. The two areas were merged in 1972.
The churches of Saint-Cybard de Roullet (recently restored) and Saint-Estienne de Saint-Estèphe are treasures of Romanesque art from the 11th and 12th centuries.
The church of Roullet is one of the finest examples of Romanesque art in Angoumois. Built in the 12th century, its bell tower was renovated in the second half of the 19th century.
The church boasts several Gothic elements, a superb arch and a beautiful baptismal font embedded in the wall.
Scattered through the town are several laundries and old bread ovens visible in the streets.
There is history on nearly every corner here. Built in the Neolithic period, the dolmen Boucharderie been designated as an historic monument, and the House of the Forest, built in the 19th century, has a garden registered as historical monument. However this is on private property.
There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the sunshine and explore the fauna and local flora here.
Roullet-Saint-Estèphe is a booming rural town, thanks to its rapidly growing population.
Town planning here is more dynamic and accepting than in many places, and in part due to the growing population there is a lively economy and many sports and leisure clubs, despite the rural surroundings.
The remarkable site of Chaumes du Vignac and Meulières de Claix, which is managed by the Regional Conservatory of Natural Areas (CREN) attracts many visitors with its unique geology, flora and fauna.
The town has an active Facebook page which will give you an idea of what it might be like to live here.
The town’s market has recently been reinstated after several years and runs every Friday and Sunday from 7am to 1pm.
The markets feature fruit and vegetables from local producers, a fishmonger and a soup maker, a rotisserie, butcher / delicatessen, and take-away meals. There is also honey and walnuts, a grocery store, a pasta, bread and biscuits vendor who uses flours milled at a historic water mill and of course – a cheesemaker.
Many other traders flock to the relaunched market.
The town also has many hamlets, including the Châteliers, Fustifort, the Barbots, the Croix de Beaumont, the Raberie, the Aubreaux and the Goujarde. South of Roullet are Vignac, La Grange and Les Rochereaux – a place steeped in history. Finally, in the town of Saint-Estèphe there is Chardin, Chez Thibaud, Pondeville and Chez Magniez and Chez Paillou.
The town is on an agricultural plain between the Charente valley to the north and the plateau to the south-east, separated by a cuesta with rocky outcrops.
Old quarries are on this plateau, including The Chaumes de Vignac, a limestone plateau from which millstones were extracted for the mills. This is now a protected natural area.
Above ground, vineyards dot the area, producing cognac to be enjoyed around the world.
The GR 4 hiking trail from Royan to Grasse crosses the town and passes to Saint-Estèphe.
The Château de Rocheraud was one of the four Rocks of Angoumois, along with La Rochefoucauld, La Rochebeaucourt and La Rochandry. The original castle was built in the 9th century. It must have played an important role during the Hundred Years War. In the 16th century, it belonged to the family of Corlieu. Sadly, all the remains of the castle have completely disappeared due to farming of the land, however the name the Rochereaux is still used for the area..
Under the Ancien Régime, Roullet was a seigneury which belonged to the Langallerie family. You can still see the remains of the square tower of the castle, dating from the 12th century, in a hotel courtyard here.
In the 19th century, the stream fed small mills, used in the paper industry and for a small felt factory. The quarries of Vignac were used to cut grain millstones, due to the limestone being good quality and strong.
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The town offers a lovely peaceful and rural environment while at the same time providing a good base for businesses and a plentiful supply of activities to keep you amused. The community here is fairly tight knit and very welcoming – you should feel at home in no time.
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The town is also crossed by the D 22, route de Châteauneuf to Villebois-Lavalette, which passes to the south-west of the town and intersects the N 10 by an interchange.
The D 7, road from Blanzac to Sireuil and Hiersac, also crosses the town from south to north, also crosses the N 10 via an interchange, and passes between the two towns. The D 699, road from Angoulême to Châteauneuf and Jonzac, passes at the northern limit of the town, as does the line from Angoulême to Saintes and Royan 3.
Roullet-Saint-Estèphe has three public schools – a nursery, and two elementaries.
Mosnac is two miles northeast of Châteauneuf-sur-Charente and eight miles west of Angoulême, on the left bank of the Charente.
It is four miles from Hiersac, Nersac and Roullet and eight miles from Jarnac.
No major road passes through here – the village is served by the D 423 and D 422, which crosses the Charente and connects Mosnac to Saint-Simeux. The D 699, road from Angoulême to Châteauneuf and Jonzac, is about a mile away.
The town is crossed by the Angoulême-Saintes line which runs along the Charente and passes through the village. But the closest station is Châteauneuf, served by TER to Angoulême, Cognac, Saintes and Royan.
The most important hamlets are Liège, la Voûte, Les Sandons, les Touillets, and the town also has many farms.
Mosnac is on the edge of a limestone plateau, like many of the Charente communities.
The Vélude, a small tributary coming from Saint-Estèphe, crosses the town and the Fontaines stream, perhaps a former backwater of the river, passes between the town and the river to flow into the Vélude. Two ponds, old sand pits, also occupy the floodable part of the valley near the village.
People have lived here for centuries – two sarcophagi were found near the hamlet of Liège, one in stone and the other in a tegulae chest, with ceramic fragments.
In the Middle Ages, Mosnac was owned by lords who reported directly to the counts of Angoulême. Aymar Mosnac and Solomon Mosnac owned the area between the 12th and 14th centuries. Then through marriage this land passed to Geoffrey, lord of Vaux-Rouillac, before being shared in the 16th century between the two brothers, John and Chaplin Mosnac. One half passed by marriage to the Augeards, and the other half to Henri Pelletan, Lord of Rouffignac.
In 1633, Hippolyte de La Place, widow of Jacques Le Musnier, sieur de Lartige, who had bought the two estates in 1602, exchanged the seigneury of Mosnac for the château d’Ardenne, which belonged to the de Forgues family. The latter possessed Mosnac family until the end of the xvii th century, which then passed to the family of Sainte-Hermine, who also owned the Barrier.
The bridge crossing the Charente to join St Simeux was built in the early xx th century 12.
The wine is an important activity of Mosnac, located in Petite Champagne. Some producers sell cognac, Pineau des Charentes and vin de pays on the property.
The GR 4 hiking trail from Royan to Grasse crosses the village.
The Sireuilloises live three miles west of Châteauneuf-sur-Charente and seven miles west of Angoulême, on the right bank of the Charente.
It is a couple of miles m west of Nersac and four miles south of Hiersac.
The habitat is quite dispersed in the town, and it has many small hamlets – Groisillers, Cheville and Trotte-Panier, Bois de la Roche, les Pierrières and Chez Decoux along the D 84, la Vallade and Chez les Rois closer to the village, and finally Chez Pâtureau and the Bellevue subdivision near the bridge over the Charente.
Limestone was mined in the area and many of the old quarries along the road from Trois-Palis to Champmillon were converted into mushroom farms.
The castle of Saint-Hermine, now called the Castle and overlooking the Charente, once housed a Roman temple called Tour du Fa. This small fortress of 10 metres by eight metres was besieged in 1385 by Louis de Bourbon in the war in Guyenne against the English.
Gregory of Tours mentions an Oratorium Siroialense whose altar was consecrated by Saint Martin and where many miracles occur (including the healing of a paralysed person
The Romanesque church of the 12th century, was the seat of a priory depending on the abbey of La Couronne.
At the beginning of the 15th century, the lordship of Fa belonged to Jean de Saint-Hermine who was a powerful lord. The Saint-Hermine family was one of the oldest in Angoumois, and was divided into several branches.
Besides the remains of the tower of the Fa the castle also included a park overlooking the river.
Pierre-Émile Martin, engineer and industrialist, perfected a steel refining process which he tested in Sireuil, and the forge became a steelworks in 1860. It then included a Martin oven, a blast furnace, four puddling ovens and two hammers.
It was one of just two such foundries in Charente – the other being the Ruelle foundry. About 150 workers worked there. Metal beams were cast there, as well as gun barrels during the War of 1870.
In 1884, it closed, and a felt manufacturing plant was opened in 1894 by Mr Lehmann (Procop), a papermaker at La Couronne. The factory became a tannery in 1923. Shed manufacturing workshops were built between 1926 and 1930, as well as the refrigerated building where the skins were stored. The finishing was done on the upper floors.
In 1960, the Sireuil tanneries employed 400 to 500 people. Then the workforce was 40 people in 1977.
Activity stopped in 1981 and the water building was subsequently transformed into a micro-hydroelectric power station – the other buildings are disused.
The town’s population, of over a thousand people, is relatively young. The rate of people aged over 60 (18.4%) is lower than the national rate (21.6%) and the departmental rate (26.6%).
Sireuil has not suffered too much from the rural exodus from its industrial past. Currently the population is maintained and is rising thanks to the proximity of Angoulême.
Nersac is six miles west of Angoulême, on the road to Châteauneuf (the D 699 ) and on the left bank of the Charente, downstream from Angoulême. It has about 2,500 residents and a proud industrial past.
Nersac is also crossed by the D 41, which connects it to La Couronne and to Trois-Palis by the beautiful Meure bridge over the Charente.
The Angoulême – Royan line also crosses the town, which had a station there, but which was recently closed.
Pombreton, on the D 41 halfway between Nersac and La Couronne, on the edge of the Boëme valley, is the most important hamlet. It is almost attached to the village of Nersac, as well as that of La Couronne by a succession of houses.
Other, smaller hamlets invlude the Fleuranceaux, the Meure and its bridge over the Charente, the Fontenelles, the Fuie, the Pontreau. Chez Bernier, La Garde and Île sous Garde are to the south-west of the town. Fleurac, to the northeast, not far from Saint-Michel, is known for its castle and its mill, a former paper mill.
The town is mainly on a low plateau overlooking the valley of the Charente, and cut by the valley of the Boëme.
The Charente, navigable between Angoulême and the ocean, is now used by pleasure boaters. The Mothe lock is in the town, and the old towpath temporarily used the left bank there.
Many mills were once here – and some remnants are still in evidence. One was turned into a paper mill in 1978, then taken over by the association Friends of the paper tradition and Angoumois neighbouring provinces, which restarted paper making, manufacturing handmade paper from linen and cotton using 17th century techniques. It is now a museum.
Nersac was an important place in the paper industry. The paper mill in Pont-Huillier was built in 1628 and became a paper factory in 1841. In 1890, it was bought by Deschamps, de Vœuil, and transformed into a felt factory for stationery. By 1935 the Sagebien type water wheel had been replaced by two Francis turbines.
The pulp mill on the Boëme was built around 1850, on the site of a former wheat mill It ceased its activities around 1920.
There were two other felt factories, one transformed into a carpenter’s and the other a tannery.
The Château de Fleurac, towards Saint-Michel, overlooks the Charente and is surrounded by terraces with railings and moats.
The castle Foucaudie was built in the 16th century and has two square towers, one dating from the 16th century, with watchtower, fancy holes aliasing and muskets. They surround a terrace resting on arcades and accessible by a beautiful monumental staircase. The two outer turrets, dating from the 17th century, are round and covered with pepper shakers.
Unusually, since 1952, La Foucaudie has been the town hall of Nersac, and it also includes the post office.
In the past it has been a big player in the paper industry, and this has created quite an industrial area.
It is just five miles from Angoulême and features many hamlets – Pinotière, Mas, Breuty, Cothiers, Séverins, Mougnac, Tourette (where the Angoulême racecourse is located,) Les Gallands, Courade, Colas, Grand Maine and Oisellerie.
The Abbey, the Étang des Moines, the Fayards, the Coq Gaulois, the Crusade are now city centre districts.
The town is bordered to the southwest by the Boëme valley, a tributary of the Charente to Nersac, which is very wide to the south of the town.
The north-east of the town is crossed by the Charreau, which occupies a deep valley to the east
The north-east of the town is also bordered by the Eaux-Claires, another tributary of the Charente, which borders Angoulême.
An old quarry, at the Pinotière, is now a large lake.
The village is named in 1110 in a text written in Latin, as Paludibus or ‘the marshes’.
The more recent name comes from Saint Jean de la Palu de La Couronne. It means ‘small crown’ as the original modest church was built on a crown of land in the middle of the marshes.
This first church was started in 1118 and finished in 1122 and a new church was started in 1171 – its construction lasted more than 20 years. Iit was the largest of Aquitaine, with three naves of equal length, and five sanctuaries. Its dimensions were 201 feet long, 89 wide and 50 high.
Its treasure was seized in 1183 by an English prince passing through Angoumois to celebrate Easter, Henri au Court-Mantel.
The Château de l’Oisellerie was a former falconry, stronghold of the abbots of La Couronne, located halfway between the abbey and the forest of the Fathers, which covered all the north of the town, and belonged to the abbey.
La Couronne was also an important centre for stationery. Many paper mills were installed on the rivers and when printing was invented the paper industry took off. In the 17th century, there were 30 paper making plants in the single parish of La Couronne.
But in 1653, a tax on rags and paper hit the paper mills.
In 1740, the Colas paper mill obtained the title of Royal Manufacture.
Cylinders with wooden hubs, lighter than those in cast iron and tested in 1778 in the paper mills of Essonne and Annonay, were introduced in Charente in 1806 at the Lacourade factory.
Continuous papermaking machines were first introduced in Charente at the Veuze paper mill in Magnac-sur-Touvre in 1828, then gradually adopted by other paper mills.
La Couronne was the home of the Laroche-Joubert family, an important papermaker.
In the second half of the 19th century, the town of La Couronne had twelve paper mills.
Many have diversified into felt, used in stationery, such as the factories of Ravillon, Tutebœuf, Beauvais and Petit-Montbron.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Crown had eight more mills.
Mouthiers-sur-Boëme is located six miles south of Angoulême and four miles south-east of La Couronne, away from the main roads.
In 2017, the town had 2,436 inhabitants.
Like much of the region wine production plays a part in agricultural activity.
The main employer here is the Lippi La Fence group, the leader in the metal mesh manufacturing market. ISO-9001 certified, the company employs nearly 400 people at six sites in France, and works daily with suppliers from around 20 countries around the world.
The other major employers are the Régis Maurice butcher and the local home help association ADMR.
Mouthiers has a town hall, a post office, a multi-purpose hall, a multi-sport hall, a MJC, a media library and a home for the elderly.
The town has a few hamlets, some of which have developed as a result of urbanisation and the proximity of Angoulême: Le Rosier to the northeast, Grand Guillon to the north-west of the town, overlooking the Boëme valley, Gersac to the southwest, les Naulets and les Fayards to the east, Morinaud, Chez les Rois, Chez Reignier to the south, not to mention Rochandry to the west of the village at the foot of the castle. The new districts on the road to Angoulême to the north of the village are the Croix Ronde, the Agriers and the Justices.
The village of Mouthiers was built on the banks of the Boëme, which is a left bank tributary of the Charente. The lower valley is occupied by numerous peat bogs and ponds. There are a few fountains such as the Cassottes near La Forge and the Hunauds near La Roche à Calvin in the Gersac valley. To the north, the Fontaine du Roc stream is a tributary of the Charraud, which passes at the northern limit of the municipality, as well as the Font de Quatre Francs stream which forms the northeastern limit.
A sculpted frieze 3m long, from the Magdalenian period of between 18,000 to 18,500 years ago, shows very ancient human occupation. The entrance to Mouthiers, a roundabout at a place called Peuplier Major, on the road to Angoulême, has since 1999 a roundabout with a reproduction of the frieze of the Chaire-à-Calvin, made by Emmanuel Pierre, surmounted by a group of three metal horses by Michel Vallat, a monasterial artist.
The rock shelter of the Chaire-à-Calvin owes its name to Jean Calvin, who came to preach the reform from the top of a pulpit carved into the rock.
Pierre David, who discovered the frieze in 1926, described it from left to right “a headless bovid, then a gravid-bellied equine and a scene of horses mating”. It is the only work of parietal art still in place in Charente and visible to the walker.
The Abri des Rois contains objects dating from the early Aurignacian and the remains of Homo sapiens.
A fortified habitat was occupied during the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, to the northeast of the town, the Fort des Anglais which is a prehistoric entrenchment.
A first church was built in the 6th century by Saints Cosmas and Damian.
In the 12th and 13th centuries Mouthiers was on a north-south variation of the via Turonensis, route of pilgrimage to Saint Jacques de Compostela.
The fountain of Saint-Damien, near the Logis de Forge which is nowadays called the source of the Cassottes, was a place of passage for these pilgrims.
A primitive castle was built on the rock where the current castle is located, hence the name of La Roche Chandéric, now La Roche-Chandry, then La Rochandry or Rochandry, thus forming the “four Rocks of Angoumois “, with La Rochefoucauld, La Rochebeaucourt and Rocheraud.
During the Hundred Years War the castle was the object of great covetousness between the English and the French. It was taken and taken back and in 1387 by Louis de Sancerre, Marshal of France chasing the English and ordering its demolition, but the English took it back, then were driven out again in 1416 by the Lord of Barbazan, captain of Charles VII who had it demolished.
Jean de La Rochandry had it the rebuilt in the 15th century.
A paper mill was built in the 18th century in Forge where, around 1830, high-quality paper was produced, including that of certain banknotes of the Russian tsars.
The Rochandry paper mill was built in 1845. Then in 1850 the Servant banker, from Angoulême, bought the remainder of the ruins and had the current castle built – ruining himself in the process.
The parish church of Saint-Hilaire was built in the 9th century and rebuilt in the 12th century. The bell tower of the xiii th century openwork Gothic windows. This octagonal bell tower was once topped by a spire which was demolished in 1735 after being struck by lightning.