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The Corne d’Or 1748 – Arras

History of the house

A refined, 18th century aristocratic mansion, survivor of the 1914-1918 bombardments in the heart of Arras

It is not the façade of this mysterious guest house, unpretentious despite its great age, which will intrigue you. The Corne d’Or or Golden Horn (its name derives from a medieval residence which once stood here), will only reveal its charms to those who experience its hospitality. And because we’re talking history, a stay here will be far from a disappointment as it is one of the very rare period mansions to have survived the appalling bombardments of the First World War.

A fount of secrets

The_Corne_dOr_ArrasThere are a several periods in the history of the house which still remain to be researched and the historic vestiges raise certain questions. It is known that a first house, and its nearby shop, probably half-timbered, was built on this site back in the 13th century. The archives of 1394 mention the name of its owner, Gille de Raincheval. In all likelihood he was a rich merchant (as the name of his shop suggests). The manufacture of textiles and tapestries, celebrated throughout Europe, turned Arras into a wealthy city.

Strategically situated and prosperous, the town continued to expand and acquire an attractive character thanks predominantly to the grain trade. Falling under the tutelage of the Dukes of Burgundy during the Hundred Years War, it reverted to the French crown in the 15th century before becoming one of the Habsburg possessions.

A labyrinth under the town

The_Corne_dOr_Arras_Grand_PlaceIn 1583 King Philip II of Spain decided that houses in the future should be built in stone and brick (mainly to limit fire risk). The chalk substrate, which is easy to quarry, supplied the masons with the stone required to build these constructions. This probably explains the three levels of cellars found under the Corne d’Or (as under most of the buildings in the town centre). Several underground passages were dug out between these domestic quarries, creating a bone fide underground labyrinth under the town. This discrete network served as a refuge for the population during conflicts, particularly during the Great War.

The_Corne_dOr_Arras_cave

The King’s advisor

The_Corne_dOr_Arras_salonThe Corne d’Or was rebuilt in 1748 in the Grand Siècle style. It is known that a few decades later the house was the home of the marechal (?) de Hauteclocque, lawyer and regional advisor to King Louis XVI. This prestigious official of aristocratic lineage had a château in the Artois region, which was his main residence. His house in Arras was merely where he transacted legal affairs when in town. Humble though it is, this occasional accommodation has been furnished with great refinement. As can be seen from several stylish fireplaces, carved wainscoting, parquet floors and an attractive panelled salon, adorned with delightful painted canvases. These paintings, recently discovered under a layer of soot that had rendered them invisible throughout the 20th century, are a free interpretation of the four seasons. Two of them, by a more masterful hand, seem to be inspired by the celebrated paintings of François Boucher.

The_Corne_dOr_Arras_facadeIn fact, the building comprises two houses, separated by an inner courtyard garden. The front building is the reception area for guests and the building at the rear is the owners’ residence. As regards its proprietors, current research has not yet ascertained with precision the succession of owners who have lived here. No one seems to know for example to what the letter “R”, which adorns the chest of the lion which has pride of place on the house staircase, refers to…
Most of the aristocracy of Arras were led to the scaffold during the Revolution (Arras is the birthplace of Maximilien de Robespierre), a fate that no doubt also befell the owners of the Corne d’Or …

intoHistory TipMoreover, one wonders how the fleur de lys, which adorns the main entrance (with the other one on the rear facade) of the house, managed to escape the vindictive chisel of the revolutionaries …

The sombre war years

Arras_bombardments_1914-1918It is nothing short of miraculous to be able to stroll round Arras today and gaze upon its finely carved facades,when one remembers what a field of ruins this city had become by the end of the World War I. Located right on the front line between the Franco-British and German lines, it was subjected to so numerous bombardments that most of the city was utterly destroyed. How did the Corne d’Or survive these nightmarish years? Only one single bomb fell on its roof (traces of it are still visible in the framework). Although the city was evacuated, the owner and housekeeper stayed in the house throughout the conflict.

Requisitioned at the end of World War II by the occupying troops, the Corne d’Or housed a squad of German soldiers, who fortunately treated the place with respect.

It has been listed as Historical Monument (panelled “Salon of the Four Seasons”), facades and roof) by the French Minister for Cultural Affairs André Malraux during the 1960s.

A welcome for the guests

The_Corne_dOr_Arras_courSince 2004, the Corne d’Or has welcomed visitors lured by the thousand and one cultural treasures that this venerable Northern town has to offer. The house has been very stylishly restored. After Franck and Isabelle, it is now the turn of Rodney and Philippe to run this place and they extend every courtesy to their guests. It is worth noting that Rodney oriented various visitors and Australian veterans to the World War 1 memorial sites for many years. Philippe, on the other hand, is a real Head Chef – wait until you taste his cakes, tarts, jams and gourmet breakfasts…

The_Corne_dOr_Arras_dining_roomYou will really like the beds (the mattresses are top class), the bathrooms and age-old furniture, not to mention the wooden boards, floors and tomette tiling, curtains and lighting fixtures. A few contemporary features add to the decor. Two bedrooms are particularly evocative: the Baroque Room and the Angel Room. Do book these if you can.

Rodney’s welcome, with a few words about the history of his lovely house…

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Facilities

  • 3 bedrooms (2 of which are period rooms) and 2 suites
  • TV / Wifi / CD-reader
  • Breakfast
  • Living room, dining room and inner court yard
  • Historical rooms (panelled salon, cellars) can be visited on request
  • Spoken languages: English and French
  • Public parking (fee at certain times) in front of the house or underground parking under the Grand-Place (100 m.)
  • Distance from Paris airport (Roissy-Charles de Gaulle): 160 km
  • 10 minutes away from the Arras Railway Station (trains from Paris & Roissy CDG airport by TGV, train from Lille etc.)
  • Public transportation
  • Not suitable for disabled guests
  • Families and children welcome
  • Domestic pets are not allowed
  • Non-smoking interior (listed building)

In the neighbourhood

 

Arras_Grand_PlaceThe main reason for visiting the capital of Pas-de-Calais is its cultural treasures, its main square, former Saint-Vaast abbey, belfry, cathedral, boves (underground passages), Fine Arts Museum, old districts and Vauban citadel.

And while you are there, why not visit the new museum of the Louvre in Lens?

Carriere-Wellington

Carrière Wellington – exit 10 to the front line © Clément Belleudy

Masses of visitors also come to spend several days in the region to pay their respects at the World War I memorial sites. Artois was one of the bloodiest fronts of the 1914-1918 conflict. French then British, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, South African as well as Indian and Moroccan soldiers fought the German troops here under appalling conditions. Today numerous battlefields are evoked by memorials: cemeteries, monuments, museums and reconstitutions. Particularly moving is the Carrière Wellington in Arras, a network of old mineshafts, 20 metres below ground, extended by miners and tunnellers from New Zealand to shelter the thousands of soldiers participating in the murderous spring of 1917.

To read, watch or listen to

 

Arras_Corne_dOrTo fully appreciate the period atmosphere of The Corne d’Or, do not hesitate to enhance your stay by reading a few books (nothing beats a good historical novel to bring old stones back to life). Watching a film evoking the era or listening to some period music may also be a good way to transport you back in time… A few suggestions:

Learn and understand

  • Arras, Memory Bewitched” by Jean-Pierre Duplan and Eric Lebrun
    A beautiful walk around Arras and its history, illustrated with wonderful photographs taken by its authors.A great way to prepare for your visit and discover (from the inside) the numerous sites with their evocative myths and legends…
  • Walking Arras“, by Paul Reed
    A comprehensive description of the British battle of Arras in 1917, connecting with all the battlefields, war memorials and cemeteries on the ground. This first attempt to break the Hindenburg German front line is one of the costliest assaults in human lives in European history.
  • The Underground War: Vimy Ridge to Arras“, by Nigel Cave and Philip Robinson
    Hundreds of miles of underground passages were dug under Arras during WWI, re-using ancient caves and quarries, to provide shelter to thousands of soldiers and enable them to attack enemy lines by surprise. This remarkable book explores this whole adventure, almost unknown to the public: the strategic decisions, the mining techniques, the living conditions of the troops and a myriad moving details of what life was like underground on a daily basis. Followed by a selection of relevant sites to visit around Arras.

Novels to be savoured during your visit

  • A Mass for Arras“, by Andrze Szczypiorski
    In the spring of 1458, the town of Arras was afflicted by a disastrous plague and famine. Over the course of a month, nearly a fifth of the citizens lost their lives. For reasons which remain unclear, the famous Vauderie d’Arras took place in October 1461. Jews and witches were subject to cruel persecution; there were trials for supposed heresies as well as an outbreak of looting and crime. It was three weeks before calm returned. Some time afterwards, David, the bishop of Utrecht and bastard son of Philip the Good of Burgundy, annulled all the trials for witchcraft and gave Arras his blessing. These events form the background to this tale.
  • Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution“, by Ruth Scurr
    How Robespierre, this brilliant Arras lawyer, having become the most “incorruptible of the deputies of the Convention, became in just a few years the man condemned by the people as a blood-thirsty tyrant, intimately linked with the decapitation of Louis XVI? Ruth Scurr explores in depth the career and destiny of this political man embued with ideals as well as the inspirer of the worst horrors of the Terror.
  • The Black Tower“, by Louis Bayard
    Arras can be proud of being the birthplace of a man with such an action-packed life as Eugène-François Vidocq, one exciting episode of which is recounted in this novel. Vidocq was a humble street robber, condemned to prison, from which he managed to escape on several occasions, before being taken on as an undercover policeman in Paris. Celebrated for his flair and a master of disguise, he rose quickly through the ranks to become head of the Sûreté (National Security) then an industrialist and writer. This novel , written in a fast-faced style, plunges its readers into the heart of political and social unrest at the end of the 19th century.

Films to be enjoyed before you set out

  • The Battle of Passchendaele“, by Paul Gross
    A love story set against the backcloth of the Great War, following in the footsteps of a Canadian soldier, wounded during the carnage at Vimy (Arras) who – once he had been treated behind the lines – went back again to the front line in Flanders. A fine homage to the tens of thousands of combatants in this zone of France where so many lost their lives.

(Period) music and sounds to be enjoyed in situ

  • The Caravan of Cairo” by André-Modeste Grétry (1783)
    A contemporary of Beaumarchais, this composer from Liège made his name in Paris. His opera-ballet The Caravan of Cairo introduces amazing orientalizing keys in the French music of the time. I prefer the instrumental to the vocal parts (the ballet to the choirs). (excerpt)
  • Concertos for Violin” by the Chevalier de Saint-Georges
    The lively, catchy airs composed by the Chevalier de Saint-George are somewhat at odds with the gravity of the political and military events unfolding at the end of the 18th century, in the same way as the paintings, sculptures and other light-hearted poetry, so much in vogue at the time. Just as the salon of the Corne d’Or with its allegorical panels of gay abandon seems to defy time itself …
  • Oh, It’s a Lovely War: Songs and Sketches from the Great War 1914-18
    These moving recordings, peppered with background crackling throughout, are historic and yet so immediate. They bring poignantly back to life all these heroes of an incomprehensible drama. These pieces of music will grab you by the guts – moments of jubilation and excitement in the heart of horror.

 

Some of the links below will enable you to consult the recommended titles directly on Amazon.com. If you decide to purchase one of these titles via this link, please note that intoHistory will receive a small commission on your transaction, which goes towards covering its running costs.

Guests comments

Évaluation selon 4 avis:

Historical authenticity
Ambiance and settings
Quality of welcome
Degree of comfort

Marie A

06-09-2015

Je suis sous le charme de cette jolie demeure dont l’ameublement et la décoration donnent un rendu absolument superbe (j’ai très envie de dire cosy !!! pour certaines pièces). Il me semble que je me mettrais à penser, à parler, à ressentir fin 18è et 19ème !!! Bravo !

Karen and David Bowden

25-03-2015

It is almost a year since we stayed at this wonderful establishment and were so well cared for by Rodney and Philippe, but our memories of the special time we spent in Arras is as fresh as when we were there! We loved the building and furnishings, and the welcome and friendship was outstanding. With the information about the town which our hosts provided, we felt like locals within a short time. We tell everyone we meet about the wonderful opportunity which awaits if they travel to Arras, and have no hesitation in recommending a stay at The Corne d'Or. We look forward to returning again in the future.

Lynda

23-09-2014

La Corne d'Or is a fabulous place to stay. A real home away from home! Rodney and Philippe are THE best hosts. Their genuine concern for each guest makes everyone feel very welcome. They have a vast knowledge of the area and can advise you on local sights as well as restaurants and shops. Their house is beautifully decorated and maintained. Beds are extremely comfortable. There is a friendly and relaxed atmosphere throughout. The location is excellent and the included breakfast, complete with home made jams, is a great way to start the day. Arras is a beautiful city, with a fascinating history, along with being a good base when exploring the World War 1 battlefields. After two visits, I am eager to return soon.

Gery de Pierpont

13-07-2014

J'ai passé à la Corne d'Or une nuit inoubliable.
D'abord parce que l'accueil de Philippe et Rodney était particulièrement chaleureux et attentionné. La maison dégage une grande paix, une vraie harmonie (en dépit des années sombres qu'elle a traversées).
La cohabitation fine entre les vestiges d'époque (je devrais dire d'époques successives), les meubles anciens et les aménagements contemporains y est très équilibrée. Partout, le regard se pose sur un relief sculpté, un parquet poli, une pierre taillée, une table en marqueterie... qui évoquent bien des moments de vie.
Nuit vraiment reconstituante sur un matelas viscoélastique (à mémoire de forme).
Petit déjeuner de roi, en compagnie de visiteurs de tous les pays. C'est vrai qu'il y en a des découvertes à faire à Arras et sa région !
Merci encore pour cette belle immersion dans le vieil Arras et son histoire.

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Historical authenticity
Ambiance and settings
Quality of welcome
Degree of comfort

18th century House B&B/Guest House 100-150€/room

Heritage and modern design

The Corne d’Or
Rodney and Philippe
Place Guy Mollet, 1
FR-62000 ARRAS
France
+33 3 21 58 85 94
Website of the House

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