Of the old La-Mothe-Saint-Héray Castle, which was destroyed in 1843, only the annexes remain today: this orangery, listed as a historic monument (Monument Historique), and this grand building flanked by towers. This drawing from 1776 allows us to suggest a restoration of the full 18th-century structure using computer-generated imagery, with the help of a more recent illustration.
At the centre, the castle was built on the remains of an artificial medieval motte surrounded by a moat. The entrance, which was made into a keep at the end of the Middle Ages and framed by two large circular towers equipped with machicolations, led to the interior courtyard. The rest of the castle, which was completely rebuilt around 1605, had the comforts and decorations of the Renaissance era. The sculptures that adorned the façades were reused in surrounding constructions. At the start of the 17th century, these painted panels decorated the castle chapel.
This substantial, L-shaped building, likely from the same period, was home to the usual features: stables, a barn, store rooms and a cellar. Armed with a square tower, circular towers with angles and with archers, it marked the border of the outer courtyard, which was also surrounded by a moat and crossed by a drawbridge.
At the back of the castle, a bascule bridge connected it to the park and the orangery. Like its two wings, this exceptionally high-status building was built between 1634 and 1640. With direct access from the castle, the large gallery on the upper floor may have been used as a reception hall. The ground floor, interspersed with immense glazed doors, provided the perfect amount of light for storing citrus fruits over winter.
In front of the beds of the orangery, the small creek, a by-channel from the Sèvre Niortaise, was set up for jaunts in small boats.
However, this arrangement, which was logical in the 17th century, was no longer fashionable in the 18th century. In 1778, the marquis who owned the castle created ambitious projects to completely reorganise the park and buildings so as to provide more stature to the area. Unfortunately, these works were never carried out.