In the heart of the Auge countryside, the little village of Saint-Ouen-Le Pin, situated 12 kilometres from Lisieux, is a place greatly appreciated by the neighbouring townsfolk. With its gentle valleys, apple orchards, and lush pastures, it was a two hour journey by horse-drawn vehicle. It was here, in the lower part of the village, on the road to Caen that the Fournet family owned a property known as “Le Manoir Gosset”.
This was a farm with large buildings, rented out to farmers, and a farm house, situated on the corner of the pathway to Theil and the road to Caen, and occupied at every opportunity on a Sunday or for longer during the holidays by the family.
The Fournets had two daughters, Marie-Rosalie and Celine. Marie-Rosalie married Cesar Maudelande and they had five children. Celine married Isidore Guerin [brother of Zelie Martin] and they had two daughters, Marie and Jeanne. In 1877, the visiting family members grew in number following the death of Zelie Martin. Her husband, Louis and his five daughters moved to Lisieux to be closer to his brother-in-law and his wife to who Zelie had entrusted her children. The youngest of these was Therese. From then on, visits to Saint-Ouen-le-Pin frequently included the Martin girls.
The two eldest, Marie and Pauline, already knew the Manoir Gosset; they visited with their mother, Zelie, in August 1873 spending a day with the Fournets, and, two years later, in August 1875, all the girls visited with their mother. Celine Martin wrote on that occasion: “We had a grand holiday and stayed with the Guerin family. It was a modest house on a farm rented to farmers, but we had a great deal of pleasure… At Saint-Ouen-le-Pin, everything was rustic, even the dishes and that is what we liked. The ponds and the little stream on the farm interested Therese very much, and beyond the meadows was a tiny little wood, no doubt the remains of an old park, named “Le Theil”, where we walked.”
Celine, her aunt, also mentioned the Martin girls in several letters to her husband Isidore, who had remained in Lisieux:
“Yesterday morning we went to Mass at 7 o’clock. It was lovely – helped it is true by the dawn breaking. In the afternoon, we went to the dairy and in the evening helped with moving the cows..… We were all very happy there. Therese’s face is always radiant with happiness. She amuses herself by drawing. She and Marie [Guerin]have undertaken to draw the farm house.”
“I have just let the four of them go to the meadow, pasture and le Theil; they left enchanted. Besides, Marie [Guerin] and Therese are enjoying themselves enormously. Therese is delightfully happy. Maman said to me yesterday that she has never seen Therese so gay, with her face so frankly happy.” (Letter dated July 29, 1885, from Mme Guerin to her husband Isidore)
On the death of the Fournet parents, Celine Guerin’s sister, Marie-Rosalie Maudelande-Fournet inherited the Manoir Gosset. The property was separated in to several parts, the farm being sold first. “La maison de Maitre” remained in the Maudelande family until 1970 when one of Marie-Rosalie’s daughters sold it to Mme. Ledru, the mother of the current owner.
125 years on from Therese’s visits to this little village, almost nothing has changed. An exceptional steadfastness in time!
The house has had no major transformation; the little garden has the sort of plants Therese would have recognised. The yew, the imposing boxwood hedges and the very old rose bush all witnessed the games of the Martin, Guerin and Maudelonde children.
The Theil path leads to the church; the road to Caen is now known as “la route de Manoir Gosset”; the neighbouring houses are all as Therese would have known them. The farmhouse for the Lesuffleur farm was built in 1884, the year Therese visited whilst convalescing from whooping cough, and this farm only ceased milk production in 2016. The Lecourt grocery is no longer open, but the interior remains the same.
It was said at some point by Mgr Durand that “If St Therese returned today to Saint Ouen Le Pin, she would find little to alter on the drawing which she signed on 8th August 1884”.
The house is available to rent via AirBnB: https://www.airbnb.fr/rooms/9498842
You can see more pictures of this lovely house at http://www.la-petite-therese.com/