History :

The indices of a human occupation around Clérac are ancient. A lot of prehistoric artefacts certify of this human presence such as flintstones, polished axes, parts of ceramic Neolithic …

Gallo-Roman remains were indicated in the east part of the territory. Indeed, Clérac was situated in the former province of Aquitania, near Roman important roads. The tradition evokes a first church built around the 5th century.

In the 11th century, Lord Adoïcus gave Saint-Vivien’s church and the near lands around to the abbey of Guîtres. This act marks the birth of the prieuré of Clérac. The church was probably reconstructed according to a model characterized by a vessel of three spans, ending in apse. The bordering lands were cultivated by monks.

During the Hundred Years War, part of the church and the prieuré were destroyed. The lands were ravaged and the inhabitants suffered from famine.
In 1462, Hardoin de Maillé and his wife Marguerite de La Rochefoucauld, lady of Montguyon gave to the knight Bertrand Ardilhon, in appreciation of her services, “hostels, domains and seigneury of Clérac”. Bertrand Ardilhon built then his current manor house, named the “castle of Caillères”. In 1492 and until the Revolution, the seigneury of Clérac passes by inheritance to the family Potter de Caillères, native of Angoumois.

It was still in the 15th century when vaults and head of the church Saint-Vivien were reconstructed, and the chapel was Saint Antoine added to the building.
The 16th and 17th centuries are characterized by new confusions in particular bound to the religious Wars. Many inhabitants adopted the reformed religion and several confrontations took place near: fight of Montguyon hanging the “Fronde” in 1652, then revolt of the farmers of the seigneury of Montguyon against the fiscal conductor in 1661.
In the 18th century, a big part of the parish’s territory was swampy, covered with moors and copses, the western half was dedicated to the sheeps and the ewes; East, the banks of Lary were cultivated with cereal. Until the middle of the century, travelers going from Paris to Bordeaux went throw Clérac. About 900 cléracais lived there modestly, mortality was very high, resulting from the weakness of the farming technics, but also from bad harvests bound to the bad weather, and from the epidemics consecutive to a great insalubrity. The Revolution had few consequences, the Lord of Clérac, Louis de Caillères was incorporated in the republican army, then became mayor of Clérac. Raphaël de Caillères, Lord of the Valade became commander of the National police of Clérac. Only the priest François de la Faye d’ Ambérac, has left Clérac.

From the 19th century on, the municipality prospered. To clean up the west part of the town, pines were planted, in order to produce some resin. In the second half of the century, one of the main resources of Clérac consisted in the production of brandy. The sheep farming was replaced by cows and pigs. One should not forget to mention the massive exploitation of the “white clay” for potteries, glass factory of Gélie, earthenware factory of the family Trijaud then for the manufacturing of terra-cotta pipes by an Alsatian having run away the war of 1870. This last one became the main activity in the Interwar period, employing several hundreds of workers on careers and factories situated near Clérac’s station. Clérac took advantage of the improvement of the ways of transport.

The roads network extends with the road Chevanceaux-Libourne; the road of Orignolles to Valin which crosses Clérac from north to south along Lary and road Montendre-Guîtres in the South. As consequences of this economic prosperity, the municipality counts henceforth more than 1500 inhabitants in 1861, among which former inhabitants of the Landes who came to learn technics concerning pine trees, bretons learning breeding and Italian, employed as farmers or craftsmen. The opening of the railroad Surgères-Saint-Mariens in 1903 allowed to export brandy towards Cognac, as well as resin, wood and clay towards the port of Bordeaux. The village was transformed, the city hall and the school complex were built in 1886, the church was restored and enlarged with the chapel of the Virgin. Some prosperous families built beautiful houses as the castle of Espie, or the house Geneuil. It is only since 1960-1970, after the economic slowdown, that the population started to decrease.

Carte de cassini, gare, distillerie, rue du jeu de quilles

Rich industrial heritage of the 19th end until 20th centuries:

  • Berteau’s lime factory, brickyard, tilery
  • Distillery of Mr Nau
  • Distillery of Mr Poupelain
  • Factory of preparation of product mineral, clays and minerals

Church Saint-Vivien :

Built in the 9th century for its first state, the church owes its origin to the Benedictine monks. Ownership of Guîtreses abbey, it owes its patronym to the famous bishop of the 5th century, Saint-Vivien, from Saintes. The saint’s day, today September 4th (before August 28th) was originally the “frérie’s” annual local popular celebration (see schedule).

Originally, the church Saint-Vivien was formed by a simple nave, ended by a southeast directed semicircular apse. The Roman arch which precedes the transept is very representative of the architecture of the 11th century.

Reshaped during the 15th century, the nave was heightened and enlarged by two spans. Its head is transformed with a big Gothic window. On the south aisle was attached a chapel dedicated to Saint Antoine.

The latin cross plan of the building was created in 1856. Abbot Millieurenche, priest of Clérac, built a chapel dedicated to the Virgin, with stained glasses. Year 1863 was marked by a serie of repairs, initiated by the priest Chaudruc, a part of the nave and the window of the sanctuary.

In 1909-1910, the bell tower and the front were rebuilt. The front wall’s clock was also installed.
Inside the church are some remarkable limestone sculptures made by Camille Raphaël Arnold in 1863, a font, a baptismal tank and the high altar. In the chapel Saint Antoine is placed a big wooden Christ and a virgin’s statue made in polychromatic wooden Renaissance style, recently restored.

The Bell photo cloche

You should not forget to see the bell always in service since its creation in 1636, which is classified in the National Inventory.

This bell carries a Latin registration inscription: “ Iesus matri que maria et sancto viviano de clerac ” which means ”praise Jesus and Marie her mother, as well as Saint-Vivien of Clérac”. This inscription is also completed by the names of the godfather and the godmother, Allain de Caillères and Izabelle de Girard Bongirauld.

Castle of Caillères :

The castle of Caillères was formerly the site of Clérac’s seigneury.

Situated in a wooded area, this house is very representative of the “noble houses” raised in the countryside of Saintonge in the second half of the 15th century, after the departure of english invaders. The lodging house for the Master is situated in the rear of courtyard and consists in buildings flanked by a round staircase tower. The main building possesses high attic windows with pine nuts, endowed with pinnacles of the 17 and 18th centuries. All buildings are covered with slates.

Next to the castle, before the Revolution, was created an artificial pond intended for feeding moat (today filled) and for serving as fishpool. This noble hotel of Clérac is mentioned during a transaction in February 20th, 1478, in which Lord Hardouin of Meshed and his wife Marguerite de la Rochefoucauld, lady of Montguyon gave to Bertrand Ardillon and his wife Jeanne Giraud, the house the fief, the hotel of Taillan and the fortress of Aurignac as well. Bertrand Ardillon having no direct descendant, the properties of Clérac and Taillan fell into one of his wife’s nieces’s hands, Pérette de Fart, married on May 14th, 1492 to Jean de Callières, rider, Lord of The River near La Rochefoucauld in Charente.

By 1623, her back grandson Jacques de Callières began working in the castle; then Charles Raphaël, Lord of Clérac married in 1721 to Catherine de Bonneiru (lady of Coustolle) who gave him three boys. The elder brother, Charles, born in 1722, inherited the castle and got married late in 1783 to a common woman named Elisabeth Verrier, but not without much protestations from his brothers. Their son Louis was born in 1775. Louis de Callières, heir of the domain got married in 1793 to Marie-Louise de Mallet who brought him the nearby domain of The Magdeleine. He became a soldier, hunter on horseback in the 3rd regiment for the Homeland’s defense, then was decorated with the “lily flower” (fleur de Lys) in 1814, and made marquess. That’s the reason why y was received for lunch in the Tuileries castle by Her Majesty on July 28th, 1814. Two of his descendants will be mayors of Clérac from 1847 till 1870.

The dynasty of Callières, owners of the castle, came to an end in 1945 with Charlotte de Callières, who sold the property to Mr Fleurian.

Castle of Espie :

It’s a big house of the 19th century encircled by a nine hectare park, which had Jules Nau and his wife Marthe Delhuile as owners. The story of this castle remains closely connected to the one of its owner Jules Nau, mayor of Clérac from 1884 to 1919. As an undertaking man, he decided to settle a dairy, a distillery and a wine shop there. The main part of the house was consequently enlarged by two wings by 1880. To be able to receive people, a large kitchen was settled. His affairs have become very prosperous, therefore he asked Georges and Marie-Thérèse Nau to come and live on the property after their wedding in 1911. The couple had four children. For technical reasons, in particular the lack of cooling water for stills, the distillery was transferred to Teurlay du Lary.

In 1925, the wine business definitively stopped with the death of Jules Nau.
During the Second World War, the castle shelters refugees from the factories “Depreux filatures du Nord”. They quickly gave up the place, for five years, to the German occupants.
Suzanne Nau had inherited the castle, and leaved Clérac after her wedding, but came back with her three sons after the death of her husband Jean Roi in 1976.
The story of the castle of Espie came to an end in 2002, with the saling of the property by the Nau’s family.

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