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Château St-Ferriol
Late Medieval Castle in the South of France


Volunteering at the Château de St-Ferriol


Information for Volunteers at the Chāteau de St-Ferriol

Stonemason (taileur de pierre) at work on a window frame Although the château de St-Ferriol is not open to the general public, we welcome volunteers to help with gardening, woodland, restauration, archaology, historical research, and fund raising. From time to time we have litters of standard poodles to look after (not cosetted lap dogs, but large working dogs). Various types of work are undertaken at the Chāteau de St-Ferriol.

  • One strand of work centres on the restauration of the fabric of the building, using natural materials such as stone, lime, wood, iron and hemp.
  • A second strand centres on the creation of period garden, including knot gardens, kitchen gardens, herb gardens and medicinal gardens. We have a garden around the house as well as approximately 10 hectares made up of smallish parcels of land in the surrounding valleys where we are slowly colonising with planting, cultivation and management. We do not use chemicals. We are becoming self sufficient in vegetables, fruit, nuts, herbs, fodder and wood, while concentrating on the major building work required to restore the château.
  • A third stand is Les Amies du Chateau de St-Ferriol, a charitable foundation dedicated to restoring the chateau (of which volunteers become honorary members).

We are currently looking for people with experience of

  • stonemasonary
  • dry stone walling
  • working with lime
  • woodworking
  • Mechanical digger in the courtyard
  • blacksmithing
  • leaded glass making
  • heraldic and other artwork
  • historical research (Old French, Latin & Occitan)
  • excavations
  • herbalism and organic gardening
  • less specialised skills like labouring and gardening, helping out with events and taking care of animals.

Volunteers usually work five hours a day for five days a week and are well fed. The location is beautiful and we have comfortable accommodation in the village, next to the Chateau.

Volunteers have plenty of opportunities for privacy so an independent spirit is a help although in the day there is usually a lot of activity going on with work on the château. With free time people tend to enjoy walking the dogs or exploring the hills or potter with books, photography, or painting. English and French are spoken. If you have your own transport the possibilities are endless.

The château is in the village of St-Ferriol and so there are opportunities to hone one's French (or Occitan) with the locals, who are a mine of agricultural know-how.

If you would like to help, please contact us at least two weeks before you are hoping to arrive in the region. As well as ensuring that we have accommodation available, an idea of your interests, abilities and flexability helps us to ensure that you have an enjoyable stay.

You'll also find us at


Practicalities for volunteers


A gîte (a three bedroom nearby house) in St-Ferriol, is now available. Some people with their own tents prefer to camp.

Maison des Arcacias - The Volunteers' House
Maison des Arcacias - A bedroom
Maison des Arcacias - Kitchen
The Village of St-Ferriol
Relaxing after work



Volunteers with their own transport will find it much easier to get about, as public tranport in such a rural area is limited. We have bicycles available to volunteers.


We have one meal a day together and groceries are supplied for other meals. Food is generally organic. Vegitarians are welcomed, but vegans might find their diet limited at the château and, as a consequence of experience, people with eating disorders are not encouraged.


Volunteers must be prepared to have access to health care etc in case of sickness or accidents. Health insurance or an E111 (British form) or equivalent are ideal


For legal reasons, volunteers must be at least 18 years old, but their is no upper limit.


In general the climate is Mediterranean, with hot dry summers, rainy winters, and moderate springs and autumns. You can expect to get 300 days of sunshine a year in the Languedoc, but the region covers a large area, and for various reasons the weather can vary considerably within its borders. After Corsica, the Languedoc and Roussillon region is the hottest in France, with average annual temperatures between 13.5°C and 15°C. A local city, Nīmes, reputed to be the hottest place in France, recorded a shade temperature of 43C (110F) in 2001. Summer temperatures are frequently in the eighties (30C +).


The coastline, sheltered by mountains, tends to be sunnier than and warmer than the inland areas. The mountains of course tend to be cooler, and valleys damper. Generally, the inland temperatures are a few degrees cooler in winter and a few degrees warmer in summer. St-Ferriol, about 40 Km from the coast and at 400 m altitude in the foothills of the Pyrenees tends to be few degrees cooler that the plains of the bas Languedoc.


Rainfall is about 28 inches a year. Heavy rains come in autumn and sometimes in spring. Summer rain is infrequent and the days are long and dry.



The Languedoc has some of the most extreme weather in France. It has not only the hottest summers, but also the highest winds. It has spectacular lightning storms, hailstorms that can strip a car of its paint, and occasional floods. Heavy snows are common in the winter in the nearby mountans (which is good news for skiiers).


Examples of Work Completed


New door at the Château de St-Ferriol None of the original doors has survived in working order, although a few of them are salvageable. Also, there is enough evidence to repair, or in most cases recreate, doors in the original style. These are heavy wooden doors, held together by traditional iron nails which provide attractive decoration. Heavy hand-forged iron straps, also nailed on, are hinged on iron pins (gonds) set into the stonework. Many medieval builders set the iron gonds directly into the stonework, often with unfortunate results. Dipping iron in molten lead, before it is set into stone at the Château de St-Ferriol When the iron got wet and oxidised, it expanded - often cracking the stonework. At least one of the workers on the original construction new the old Roman trick of dipping ironwork in molten lead before setting it into stone - a technique which avoids the problem. We have therefore been using this technique for setting new gonds into stone, and have hung more than a dozen new doors in this way.






Various items were discovered in a cellar which had been sealed and recently re-opened. Among them were chain mail; a number of pots, some of them whole; glass; jewellery and an unidentified tool.


Unidentified tool



Louis XVI coin found at the Château de St-Ferriol Louis XVI coin found at the Château de St-Ferriol In front of the front door inside the courtyard we have discovered a large pit, which does not appear to for drainage. We believe that it was originally defensive, covered over by wooden boards in times of safety, and quickly removed in time of trouble. It is positioned directly under a bratice (for tipping unpleasant things - boiling oil according to popular imagination - on unwelcomed visitors. Discoveries elsewhere included coins dating from the reign of Louis XVI - just before his execution.


Fireplaces Rebuilt.

Kitchen chimney at the Château de St-Ferriol All of the monumental stone fireplaces had suffered from movement, and the lintels were damaged. Using a range of techniques, and replacing a few stones, stonemasons have repaired them. Three of them are now in regular use in the winter months - burning logs which generally need to people two move them.


Stone carving




Gardens created.

The land around the house had not been cultivated for many years. Along with teams of volunteers we have demolished a number of recent stone buildings, terraced the main area to the East of the chateau, and planted a number of gardens - mainly for fruit trees, vegitables, and herbs. We are now almost self suffient in fruit and vegitables, and grow about thirty different herbs.




Window restored to original form.

Before: Old window in the Great Hall of the Château de St-Ferriol, converted into a door, probably arounf 1900 After: Window in the Great Hall of the Château de St-Ferriol restored to its original form A ground-floor Renaissance stone mullioned window had been converted into a doorway to allow farm vehicles to be housed in the Great Hall. (see left)

In 2003 two stone masons restored the window to its original form (see right).




Preparing for an event at the Chateau




Rebuilding a wall




Rebilding the stonework for a Renaissance window


Leaded Glass window



Excavating a tower





Stone Masonry




Creating a herb garden.







The Chateau Museumn


Litter of Dogs

A litter of 12 newborn Standard Poodles We breed poodles - not the cosseted modern lap dogs that many people associate with the word "poodle". These are large dogs, the original breed, natural water retrievers. The last litter consisted of twelve live births of which we kept two bitches. Most of them have found homes in France, but others now live in Spain and the USA. Charlotte in the snow Charlotte suckling her 12 puppies Poodles are the most intelligent dogs. They grow quickly and are naturally inquisitive. This means that they learn quickly and need lots of exercise, which in turn calls for lots of long walks in the countryside. As they are natural swimmers - they even have webbed feet - they particularly enjoy summer walks down to the nearby river.

Click on the following link to open a website on real Standard Poodles in a new window:


Decorating the Great Hall

Not cloth, but a painted wall in a local church The walls will be lime washed and then painted in late medieval style. Surviving paintwork in one room reveal that the original owners were still decorating in a what would have been a very old fashioned style in the fifteen hundreds. The technique, widespread in the earlier part of the Middle Ages, was to paint large regular ashlars onto the plain lime washed walls. Sometimes, as in the surviving sample, they were left plain. Sometimes a simple design would be repeated in the centre of each painted stone. (This fashion was never abandoned in local churches, so you can find hundreds of examples in the area, and our restauration will be based on these). Contemporary fashion in the sixteenth century was to paint was to paint walls with abstract repeating designs or murals, often in bright primary colours. We hope to decorate other rooms in this style.




The Languedoc. Click here to open this site in a new window    
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