Vos Hôtes

Your Hosts

Vanessa & Matthew Williamson  


Vanessa Williamson

B.A University of  Sydney Archaeologist & Medieval History 

              Bonjour, I am Vanessa born in Sydney Australia, your host and co-owner of L'Hotel de Hercé with my husband Matthew.   I am an Archaeologist and Heritage Conservation specialist.  At Sydney University I took a degree in Archaeology, studying Greek, Roman, Middle Eastern and Australian Pre-History archaeology.  With a co-major in Medieval Studies, and courses in Ancient History, Classics, History, and Heritage Conservation. After being offered a place in the Honours Program, I undertook a research thesis, and specialist training at the Australian Museum.  My research explored Coastal Occupation in Australia and Shell Middens analysis learnt at the Australian Museum. I Contributed to a ongoing research project in Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory. My research was presented at Conferences and the annual Scientific Research Presentation, at the  Australian Museum.   I worked for two years as a volunteer researcher on the Australian Museum Balmoral Beach Rock Shelter site project. As a Consultant Archaeologist on  excavation and post excavation research projects across Sydney. I contributed to the National Trust in Sydney as a volunteer researcher and for two years sat as a member of the Sydney National Trust Industrial Heritage Committee. 

     My return to France has been a long-held dream after backpacking around France in the 1980s. I always yearned to live immersed in European history and now live in such an extraordinary house and town, my very own archaeology and history research project. As lifetime sewer, with interest in the history of Clothing & Historical Textiles, I am seeing work only ever previously available online or in books. A recent discovery in our attic, of a box of hand sewn antique textiles was an extraordinary rare find.

           I love living in  beautiful Mayenne at junction of three stunning regions, Pays de Loire, Brittany & Normandy. We chose to establish our B&B away from the big tourism destinations, a visit and stay in Mayenne will be an experience of authentic French life. I hope to welcome you to stay very soon. Vanessa 


De Hercé


Origional owners of the L'Hotel

           The earliest history of the de Hercé family goes back to 1191. When a Philippe-Auguste announced the call out for men to accompany him, in joining the king of  England on the Third Crusade to the Holy Land.  He is recorded as calling the men of Maine, "who came running in crowds".  Listed among them was is the first known Hercé, Guillaume of Hercé, knight Baron.  There are breaks in the family history records, but we do know eight generations later L'Hotel de Hercé was built  or purchased by Jean de Hercé Lord of Rigardon, Plessis Colombiers and Coudray and his wife Françoise  Tanquerel, daughter of René Tanquerel: Attorney General to the  Duke of Mayenne. We believe the acquisition happened around 1719 at the time of their marriage in the Basilic of Mayenne. Three generations of de Hercé lived in the house known as l'Hotel de Hercé, until the family was expelled, by the Revolutionary Government around c.1789. Although the youngest member of the family did return to live in ville de Mayenne after the terror had passed, the family never was able to return to the house. So last summer when an elegant lady and gentleman arrived in our courtyard, you can imagine our delight to discover and welcome Madame and Monsieur de Hercé.  M. de Hercé is a direct descendant of the family who once lived here, and it was a first visit to the ancestral home. It was our great honour to have them as our guests to dinner and share the fascinating story of their family.     


Matthew Williamson

Ex Aust Army Royal Engineers           B.A History Aust Nat University

            Hi, I hail from the country town Glenn Innes NSW Australia, where I grew up on a dairy and cattle farm. I began my career in the Australian Army in the Royal Australian Engineers, trained as a feild engineer and surveyor. I was posted to Asia and seconded to the Australian War Graves Commission in Malaysia and Thailand, working on the Thai-Burma Railway memorial at Hell Fire Pass . After an parachute accident,  I left the army and worked in road, rail and telecommunication construction, doing a part time Degree in History at Australian National University, Canberra.  I contribute Military History articles to magazines; Wargames Illustrated, to my own blog "Storm and Conquest Blog Spot" & "WW2 Kampfgruppewillow Blog Spot", and work as a group Administrator and coordinator  on many on-line military history Forums. I worked as a Guide at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and in Sydney at the Military Installation Battery Point in the Rocks. Military History is my lifelong interest with French Medieval, Renaissance, Napoleonic, and WW2 history of special interest. I also have had a long involvement in Napoleonic and Medieval Historical Re Enactment groups in Australia. Wargaming has been a part of my life since childhood, I have run re-enactor and wargaming conventions and events, president of various wargaming clubs, owned a miniature business and worked as a miniature wargaming figure painter on commission for decades.

                   With the New Year of 2020, my focus is restoring our first floor 18thc salon to  our dedicated Wargames room. In the evenings you will find me at my wargame painting table creating new, armies, specific to individual French Battles, with miniature figures representing actual men who participated, with their authentic heraldry, which I have painstakingly researched. My current project is the Battle of La Brossinière. I am recreating authentic French landscapes, towns for the new Wargame table in the salon.  I continue ongoing research into the details of the fascinating French History of our region. Investigating Chateaux, Knights, Heraldry, and reading online primary source documents, archaeological reports, most only available in French. I work consistently to ensure we have the best Western France Military History Guided Tours on offer for history enthusiasts and Wargamers.

Hope to see you very soon, Matt

Street view 2.jpg

L'Hotel de Hercé

18th Hôtel Particulier c.1720

            Mayenne’s finest mansions are located on Place de Cheverus, forming part of the most beautiful quarter of Mayenne.  The townhouses are an example of urban architecture reflecting the lifestyle of well-to-do families of the 17th and 18th centuries. Featuring many "L’Hotel Particuliers"; a French luxurious house built within a city, inhabited by only one family and staff.  Typically, an aristocratic residence demonstrating the prestige of the owner, featuring interior courtyard and rear façade overlooking a garden.  The homes were a statement of the wealth of a family, the significant funds for construction included; purchase of land in urban areas, architect, stone & oak building materials, maintenance, and staff (maids, cooks, grooms, cook).

            Other features to the homes included a porch with ornate carriage door  to the street,  paved courtyard,  sometimes framed by outbuildings housing stables , kitchens, laundry room, servants' rooms.  The interiors featured a vestibule entry to the ground floor or the noble floor in the most luxurious hotels, large reception apartments divided into “parade rooms” and “company rooms” for friends. The apartments rooms in a row overlooking the street or courtyard, are clearly distinguished from private apartments. Traditionally, the private apartments were located upstairs  with beautiful views of the garden and  better heating in winter, with lower ceilings and exposure to the sun.

        L’Hôtel de Hercé was built in the first quarter of the 18th century. The facade is an imposing three levels, divided by bands of impressive cornices, 5 sets of windows across the street facade, and graduating window dimensions on each level.  The centre of the roof is marked by a cupola, with viewing platform, and one of the highest points in Mayenne. The simple and elegant early neoclassical façade gives no indication of the beautiful woodwork and sculptured panelling within the house. The contrast between facade and interiors was also a feature of the houses.