The History of Château Terre Blanche

In the early 20th century, the French Count Joseph-Gabriel Breitbach, born in the town of Chambery met and befriended the family of Jean Baptiste Lagrange born in the village of Chalabre in 1848.

The Count spent some time living with the Lagrange family in Nice. It was through this friendship that the Count purchased the plot of land from the sister of Jean Baptiste Lagrange.

The Count had chosen Chalabre to build a “Maison de Maitre”, along with a factory, like the one he owned in Argentina, which he hoped, would boost the local economy.

In July of 1911, the men set out to find a local business to manage the task of building the Château. Joseph Salinas and sons, from nearby Limoux, started the construction of the Château in late 1911 using stone from the local Quarry of d’Alet, situated between Limoux and Chalabre.

With the threat of the First World War, the Count worried that he would have difficulty getting back to Argentina to manage his main financial activity. So he and two personal assistants returned to Buenos-Aires. The Count was absent for the full course of the war, only returning to Chalabre to see the Château completed in 1918. Unfortunately, his close friend Jean Baptiiste died in Chalabre the same year.

This was to set off a whole series of terrible events for Count Brietbach. He had returned at the end of the war and, possessing a German sounding name, even though he was French, the locals started to be suspicious of him and his private secretaries. As these suspicions grew, so did the abuse from the villagers, calling him and his two assistants traitors and German spies. Even the Mayor and town council became involved in the abuse of the three men.

Count Brietbach turned to the regional council to end the abuse and seek compensation for damages. He won the case, donating the money to the local group of nuns who ran the charity called the Small Sisters of the Poor. Unfortunately, this did not change the attitude of the locals who still refer to Terre Blanche as the Château Allemand, German Castle. It did not help that during a period of the Second World War it was occupied by sixty Nazi Troops who did considerable damage to the wood work in the house.

Eventually, after the case for compensation, the Town Hall sent the Count a message that the Village Council wished to have a meeting with him. He accepted knowing full well they wanted him to build his factory in the village, which under the circumstances of his treatment by them and the villagers, he declined.

In between the end of the first and start of the Second World War, the Count visited Chalabre and the Château less frequently. He proposed to Joseph Salinas that he and his family move into the house and continue the work and maintain it for him. Then in 1934, the Count left the house for the last time, never to return, He instructed the Salinas family to expect two large trucks to pick up his furniture. He also asked them to organise a photographer to take photos of his furniture in the rooms of the Château, before its departure.

The family continued to forward on the Count’s mail to Argentina. One day, they received it all back with return to sender message attached, saying that no one by the name of Brietbach was known at the address in Buenos-Aires. With no news from the Count or his family, regarding his whereabouts, or intentions with the Château, the family then took to paying the taxes and bills, and did so until thirty years later, when the house was passed to them under French law because there was no claim by the Count or his family. Members of the Salinas family tried to find out what happened to the Count, but because they were not direct relatives, it proved too difficult.

The House was then sold by the Salinas Family and it is now owned by an Australian company.