The Château de Balleroy was built between 1626 and 1636 by François Mansart for Jean de Choisy, Chancellor to Gaston d’Orléans. De Choisy’s descendants, under the title of Marquis de Balleroy, owned the château for three centuries. It is now owned by the family of Malcolm Forbes, the American publisher and aeronaut who bought it in 1970.
The plain but majestic brick and stone building provides the focal point for the village’s main street, rue du Sapin. Entering the forecourt through the main gate, one crosses a garden with boxwood parterres (ornamental flower gardens with beds and paths arranged to form a pattern) executed in 1894 by Henri Duchêne after designs by André Le Nôtre. A similar, but much larger garden originally planted to the rear of the château was replaced by an English-style park landscape in the mid-nineteenth century.
At either corner of the main entry to the estate are two large round towers with conical roofs. The first tower has two floors and served as a guardhouse. The other served as a dovecote.
What once served as two horse stables, the mirrored outbuildings now provide visitors with a gift shop, tea room and the world’s first museum dedicated to ballooning. In Malcolm Forbes lifetime, he collected paintings, miniatures, artifacts and documents related to the history of ballooning from the time of the Montgolfiers to the present.
The construction materials for the main house are limestone from Caen and local area schist. The main building is topped with a bell turret and flanked on either side by two decorative pavilions that, from a distance, gives the illusion that the château is much larger than it really is.
Photographs inside the château are forbidden since it is still used as a private residence for the Forbes family. One very special feature of the interior is the open staircase in the central pavilion made entirely of limestone and no mortar. The steps do not wind around a central column, but press against the outer walls. It is the oldest cantilever staircase in France.
L'église paroissiale stands at the entrance to the château. It is attributed to Mansart and was built of local brown schist in 1651. The church can be pinpointed from afar by its octagonal belfry over the transept crossing. Inside, above the altar, is an Annunciation from the 18th century Italian School. Sadly, my photographs of the parish church are not very good. Scaffolding surrounded much of the church since roofing tiles are currently being replaced.