Château d'Hardelot


Location: Hardelot, Pas de Calais departement   Map

Constructed: 12th century, major renovation 19th- 20th centuries


The Château d'Hardelot is a fortified castle located in the town of Condette in Pas-de-Calais, France. The current castle is a mansion completed in the middle of the 19th century, on foundations dating from 1222. It has the shape of a polygon with nine towers, surrounded by two wide concentric ditches and installed on a hill overlooking the marshes and the lake of mirrors. It is close to the seaside resort of Hardelot-Plage, a resort to which it gave its name.

Today, it houses the Cultural Center of the Entente Cordiale, devoted to relations between the French and the English, and hosts the Midsummer Festival every summer. It is at the center of the regional nature reserve of the Marais de Condette.


History of Château d'Hardelot

From the origins to 1900
The first castle, then called Château d'Ardrelo, was built in wood by the Counts of Boulogne in the 12th century. It was there that in 1194, Renaud de Dammartin signed the first communal charter of Boulogne.

The current castle was built by Count Philippe Hurepel de Clermont, son of King Philippe Auguste, from 1222 to 1231. Captured and retaken, this fortress saw French, English and Burgundian troops pass through its walls. In 1615, Marie de Medici had the castle besieged by Marshal d'Ancre because it was then occupied by Protestants. It is then largely destroyed and a farm takes place in the middle of the ruins. The original curtain walls still remain today.

The events of 1789 hardly affected the parish of Condette en Boulonnois. The approximately 380 inhabitants are mainly concerned about the invasion of the sands of the coast. The castle was put up for sale as national property in 1791, and it was the lord of Châteaubourg who bought it for 26,400 pounds.

In 1820, the castle was again sold with its 880 hectares of dunes and warrens which went down to the sea. A few years later, in the hope of stopping the advance of sand in the land, the first softwood plantations. In 1848, the castle was acquired by the Englishman Sir John Hare, a Bristol magistrate, who attempted to restore the medieval ruins. It was at this time that the writer Charles Dickens regularly came to Condette to, in particular, live his affair with Ellen Ternan in complete discretion.

In 1865 Captain Henry Guy bought the castle and built a neo-Tudor style mansion above the 13th century underground passages and one of the best preserved towers. His daughter Helen Guy would become a famous composer in her time under the name of "Guy d'Hardelot".


Contemporary period

In 1897, the Englishman John Robinson Whitley bought, together with several of his friends, the castle and its outbuildings (meadows, dunes, marshes, woods, copses and the Claire-Eau ponds). The castle then becomes the center of attraction of the region: golf, tennis, hunting, fishing, archery, etc. He participated in the creation of the seaside resort of Hardelot to attract wealthy socialites and aristocrats from France and England. In 1910, several hotels and restaurants were established near the castle. During the First World War, the castle was at the disposal of the British army. In 1934, Abbé Bouly, the parish priest of Condette and Hardelot, famous for being the father of dowsing, bought it. It is then occupied by a congregation of nuns.

In 1979, the castle served as a filming location for Tess, a film by Roman Polanski.

It was ceded in 1987 to the municipality of Condette, which entrusted the land to the Boulonnais Regional Natural Park. In 2001, a 50-year emphyteutic lease was signed between the General Council of Pas-de-Calais and the municipality of Condette in order to install a cultural center there. In September 2007, the General Council of Pas-de-Calais undertook a gigantic renovation project after the discovery of dry rot in the framework, woodwork and walls of the castle.

On June 13, 2009, the Cultural Center of the Entente Cordiale was born. This project is set up by the General Council of Pas-de-Calais in order to maintain, with the county of Kent in the United Kingdom, the famous “Entente cordiale”. It develops quality cultural programming around British culture, through all forms of art (music, visual arts, cinema, literature, heritage). Exhibitions are organised: Louis Blériot (2009), Napoleon à la sauce anglaise (2010), Charles Dickens (2011), Camp du Drap d'Or and Renaissance du look (2012). In 2013, the exhibition From the pen to the reel: costumer literature was presented, curated by Benoît Grécourt, general manager of the Château d'Hardelot - Cultural Center of the Entente Cordiale. Bringing together nearly fifty film costumes from French and British literature, it is the last exhibition presented in the castle, then empty of sets and collections.

Every June the Midsummer Festival is organized, an important festival of early, baroque and classical music in the context of a removable Elizabethan theater, installed for the occasion at the foot of the castle ramparts. The artistic director, Sébastien Mahieuxe, brings together internationally renowned artists. The British soprano Dame Felicity Lott is the godmother.

In 2014, the interiors of the castle were refurbished to create a permanent exhibition dedicated to the history of the castle and Franco-British relations. The interior decorations, inspired by English and French residences from the second half of the 19th century, were created by the architect specializing in historical decorations Gaël Noblanc. The furniture presented is partly made available by the Mobilier national. A collection of works of art is put together by the Château d'Hardelot and supplemented by works from the Louvre, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Saint-Omer museums. The director, Benoît Grécourt and Stephen Clarke are responsible for curating the permanent exhibition. Tudor-inspired gardens are created outside the medieval walls. They are the work of landscapers Emmanuel de Quillacq and Christophe Laborde.

On June 5, 2014, an Elizabethan theater project, designed by the firm of architect Andrew Todd, was presented to Queen Elizabeth II at the British Embassy in Paris by Dominique Dupilet, president of the department of Pas-de- Calais and Benoît Grécourt, general manager of the château. In June 2016, the new theater was inaugurated. Located in the park of the castle, it is entirely made of wood (larch, spruce, oak and bamboo) and can accommodate 352 spectators in conference mode, 388 maximum in “Elizabethan theater” mode.

The interior of the castle was used as a setting in 2016 for the film Ma Loute by Bruno Dumont.



The Mobilier national deposited 66 pieces of furniture at the Château d'Hardelot. In particular, there are a pair of planters from the collections of the Duchess of Berry, rosewood furniture from the Ministry of State under Napoleon III and Second Empire libraries from the Rotschild collections. The most important lot is a series of ten English frame chairs dating from the 18th century. To evoke the Entente Cordiale between France and Great Britain, objects related to this alliance have been set up: a marble bust of Napoleon III by Lefèvre-Deumier, a bust of Émile Loubet in Sèvres biscuit, a statuette also in Sèvres biscuit representing the allegory of Peace by Alfred Boucher.



The castle is neo-Tudor in style, incorporating a medieval tower and erected above the 13th century underground passages.