I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again. Geocaching is a great way to discover new places and unearth a little bit of local history. And I love history, well, some of it. International trade treaties of yore aren’t the most exciting, it has to be said, but the fascinating little facts and figures you come across in the form of old houses or tools or statues or other paraphernalia most certainly are.
A recent geocaching session took us to Malval. This is a tiny village in rural Creuse. Not much going on there, surely, you might well be thinking. Wrong. This tiny place is a hotbed of historic interest. Originally it was a crossing point on La Petite Creuse protected by large stones and known as Alpo which over the years became known as Malla Vallis after the name of a valley.
First up there’s this wonderful old cross which probably dates back to the 11th century when a priory was founded at Malval under Albert de Chambon, Lord of Malval. To be precise it was founded 13th February 1038 and dedicated to Saint Peter and later Saint Valerie.
The church was built in the twelfth century and is interesting as it doesn’t have a nave. Largely for this architecturally unique reason it was given historic monument status one hundred years ago in 1912. It has a stone coffin allegedly containing the heart of a sixteenth century scientist B de Salignacq.
There are ruins of a castle at Malval. This was built in the thirteenth century, around 1223. There’s a written record of the famous Bertrand Du Guesclin staying there in 1370. (He was the noble entrusted with the job of getting the English out of France by Henry V.) He was on his way to Limousin with “200 lances” to clear the Brits out by being not very nice to the English-friendly locals. More about that another time.
The castle had up to four storeys and two drawbridges to allow the passage of travellers in and out, and they had to pay for the privilege.
Jean de Brosse, a big guy in our part of Creuse, has connections with this castle. He was Lord of Boussac, Sainte-Sévère, Huriel, and Perugia, as well as councillor and chamberlain to Charles VII of France being made a Marshal of France in 1426. His mother was Marguerite de Malval (spelt Malvalle at the time) so the castle was in his family. Now, Jean de Brosse died in 1433 and had entrusted the care of his children to Admiral Culant. However, Marguerite wasn’t impressed about this and whisked the children into her home at Malval Castle to look after them herself. The admiral had to set siege to the castle to get the kids back in his control.
In the 19th century, the castle’s own, M. Leyraud, got a bit fed up with having to maintain the place so he sold off some of the nicer carvings and stones from it to the locals. You can see some of them today in the houses in the village with their nice carvings. After the castle fell into ruins, other people helped themselves to bits and pieces of it too. Recycling I guess.
Close to the ruins of the castle is this splendid restored water mill. The renovation took place sixty years ago and was carried out by young volunteers. Sadly it seems to be slowly falling into disrepair again.
So in a couple of hours we discovered several hundred years’ worth of history. Awesome!