(canton of Lillebonne, Seine-Maritime)
and seigneurial grounds, 11th-12thc,
Situated at the entry of a small valley on the northern edge of the town, the site has been subjected to extensive archaeological excavations between 1979 and 1987. Lower level findings show traces of a domanial establishment dating from the second half of the 10th century. Consisting of several wooden constructions and a chapel built on the ruins of an ancient structure. The whole was located within a trapezium shaped enclosure. The main building, 27 metres long and 6 metres wide had been reconstructed at least once. This domanial court may have been the principal residence of Turstin – known as Le Riche, a member of the entourage of Duke Richard 1(† 996), who owned vast properties in the Seine Valley. He was also known for his role in the restoration of Saint-Wandrille abbey in 960.
Before the end of the 10th century, the estate was handed down to Robert, the son of Richard 1, the Count of Evreux and Archbishop of Rouen (989-1037). He started constructing a vast wooden residential complex, the most important one known of this epoch today. Set out like a real palace: a count’s lodge, an imposing dwelling 15 metres by 6 metres which was at right angles to a large hall 35 metres long and with a vast u-shaped domestic area around a quadrangular courtyard. Alongside there were several annex buildings – a tower-shaped construction for the latrines, two small central buildings (undoubtedly the officers’ quarters), and a wing for the stables. Two suspended galleries connected the large hall, the count’s private quarters and the latrines. The ensemble was protected by an earth bastion; this enceinte was coupled with a large u-shaped bailey.
In 1037, the castle was handed down to one of Count Robert’s sons, Raoul de Gacé, military commander-in-chief of William the Bastard after 1050. Placed under the authority of the Duke in 1060 and recovered by the Count of Evreux after the death of William the Conqueror, it was destroyed by fire soon after. The Counts of Evreux then seemed to have abandoned Gravenchon castle for that of Maulévrier, near Caudebec-en-Caux.
Registered in the I’Inventaire supplémentaire des Monuments Historiques (Supplementary Inventory of the Historical Monuments) and restored between 1996 and 2001, the site is now open to the public. The plan of two wooden constructions from the 10th and 11th century has been reproduced in situ by an alignment of posts. The visit can be rounded off at the Bois-du-Parc where one can see a small annex fortification, some traces of ditches of the seigneurial grounds and an ovular enclosure of about 160 acres containing pasture, rabbit warrens and a fish-pool.
Jacques Le Maho
- J. Le Maho, « L’apparition des seigneuries châtelaines dans le Grand-Caux à l’époque ducale », Archéologie Médiévale, t. VI, 1976, p. 27-31, 94-6 et 108 ; Id., « Parcs et courtils – Observations sur l’environnement des châteaux de terre et de bois en pays de Caux aux XIe et XIIe siècles », actes du 105e Congrès national des Sociétés savantes, Caen, 1980, Archéologie, p. 172-173 ; Id., L’enceinte fortifiée de Notre-Dame-de-Gravenchon (Seine-Maritime), XIe-XIIIe siècle, Notre-Dame-de-Gravenchon, 2001.