Hauteville House, Guernsey
The house of French poet, novelist and dramatist, Victor Hugo, has recently been renovated. Hauteville House, Victor Hugo’s home in exile in Guernsey, has been the subject of an extensive renovation that serves to protect the building and its exceptional décor.
François Pinault, as patron of the renovation, had committed €3.5 million to preserve the Victor Hugo House in Guernsey, which belongs to the City of Paris. The renovation had been oversighted by Paris Musées which had committed to finance the operation with a €800,000 support.
On 7 April 2019, Hauteville House opened its doors once again to the public following twelve months of restoration work carried out to help preserve the memory of an extraordinary literary, artistic and political life.
Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris spoke of the importance of the house and its original interior:
“Victor Hugo, a freedom fighter, made Hauteville House in Guernsey into a place that reflected his own image. He created the décor with artisans from Guernsey and wrote Toilers of the Sea there, which he dedicated to the whole island. He finished Les Misérables there and hosted “dinners for poor children.” It was the site from which he launched many calls to save lives and for the independence of many peoples.
“As both a place of memory and the work of a universal genius, Hauteville House belongs to the heritage of humanity.”
Between April and September each year, the house receives more than 20,000 visitors, and is open six days out of seven for six months of the year. Each year, maintenance work has been carried out on the house exposed to the sea winds, and restoration work is regularly planned
Due to structural problems in the heart of the construction, damage had been caused to certain parts of the building, therefore, the restoration project first focused on the structural problems of the house. After these spaces were complete, focus was back on the restoration to the original state. The programme also included the modernisation of facilities for the general public to improve access and visitor experience. Special attention has been paid to providing access to persons with reduced mobility to provide access to the garden and ground floor, and safety concerns were central.
The whole house has been restored, and some highlights of the restoration include:
The Studio: All the woodwork, tapestries and felts were taken down, cleaned and restored, as was the Chinese lantern that light the room. The paintings on Chinese paper, which is used in the impost of the door, underwent restoration.
Winter Garden: Above the studio, the winter garden is practically a glasshouse, in which Victor Hugo encouraged the growth of two vines along its glazed walls. It was given a total restoration based on the two photographs of its original state.
The red room: The spectacular red drawing room seems to come straight from Victor Hugo’s great romantic tragedies. Hung with crimson damask, it boasts four luminous tapestries embroidered with jet beads. The light also strikes the white Chinese silk with coloured embroideries that lines the door and forms a lambrequin above the fireplace. The fireplace is the highlight of the drawing room, with its rather theatrical wooden pedestals on which gilded wooden “savages” hold high torchères contrived by Hugo. Crowned by a dais, the hearth is set like a jewel.
The Oak Gallery: A large room that fills the width of the façade overlooking the garden is entered from the library landing. Designed to be Victor Hugo’s apartment, it served as a bedroom and work room. Featuring panelling, ancient tapestries and leatherwork studded with copper nails, the Oak Gallery is decorated with symbolic forms that are supposed to contrast day and night, light and shadow, work and dream, life and death. However, this room, probably the most spectacular in the house, was almost never used.
The Antechamber: Situated beneath the roof, this room was Victor Hugo’s first work room, following a transformation in 1856 of some of the attic on the top floor into a personal space. Here he wrote the first part of The Legend of the Ages and Les Misérables. This symbolically important room was to receive a full renovation to return it to its original state. The map of the Channel Islands that Hugo used when drafting The Toilers of the Sea was restored but was substituted by a facsimile in the original frame.
Hauteville House is a “total work of art” through which Victor Hugo expressed all his creativity and modernity. Without leaving any empty spaces, he recomposed all its faces, repurposed ordinary objects and combined pieces of furniture and elements of decoration of very different style and materials – tapestries, wood panelling and articles made from felt and ceramic – ignoring convention and exercising the absolute freedom of his creative spirit. Now restored, it has also kept the creativity of Victor Hugo alive, years on.
In the crowded and eclectic interior of Hauteville House resides the pain-filled spirit of the exiled poet, but Victor Hugo’s home also confirms his ideals and his trust in Mankind.
To discover how you can visit this newly restored work of art, visit: https://www.visitguernsey.com/see-and-do/things-to-do/victor-hugo-house-hauteville-house
Island Scaffolding Ltd
Hauteville House restoration project: May 2018 – April 2019
Island Scaffolding Ltd are a friendly and professional scaffolding hire specialists providing a wide range of scaffolding services within the Bailiwick of Guernsey.
Since its inception in 2011, Island Scaffolding have been providing scaffolding and associated equipment, where working safely at height is required, for a number of prestigious projects, not least the restoration of Victor Hugo’s house.
Technical, and Health and Safety training of our staff is core to our business, and we engage with prestigious Health and Safety, and Design consultants, on a daily basis. Domestic, commercial, Industrial and civil works undertaken, on budget and within the time-frame agreed, we pride ourselves on a large amount of repeat custom due to our attentive cost-effective service provided.
A member of the Guernsey Building Trades Employers Association, Island Scaffolding Ltd – Fully qualified, fully insured and fully compliant. At your service.
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