Les Fontaines: At the Beginning…
From a large pond in the Middle Ages …
Les Fontaines owes its name to the presence of numerous springs (“Fontaines” in French) over its 52-hectare grounds; there are still 3 in the park today.
Going back in time to the Middle Ages, we would be under water … Since the 13th century, a large pond was present between Gouvieux and Chantilly, fed by the Nonette and with a dike located near the locality “La Chaussée” (between Gouvieux and Saint Maximin).
In 1658 happened a catastrophic flood. The pond overflowed, the frost not allowing lifting-up the bungs, necessary for the evacuation of the extra water. The dike then opened into a formidable breach into which waters rushed violently.
The pond lost its name and became a marshy meadow. It was never restored.
… To a romantic garden in the Age of Enlightenment
The history of the site began in 1781 with the purchase of a 28-hectare plot by Jacques Berthauld, landscaper, who aimed to create a romantic garden.
These so-called “romantic” gardens were born in England around 1720 and fashion reached Enlightenment France during the 18th century. In these pre-revolutionary times, these picturesque gardens, “which speak to the soul”, were particularly appreciated by enlightened minds, readers of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot and Abbé Prévost. They heralded the romantic movement that will flourish in the next century.
With these romantic gardens, which are to be appreciated like a work of art, the aim was to showcase nature. To do this, landscape architects planted remarkable trees here and there, while working on volumes, shapes or colors. They also built caves, small bridges and ornamental kiosks.
Here in Les Fontaines, this led to the diversion of the Nonette river to create a lake around three islets; the construction of a half-timbered house on the main island (which is no longer visible today), and two half-timbered kiosks on the southern and northern shores; as well as the creation of two artificial caves to the east from the lake (one of them is still here today).
The son of Jacques Berthauld, artist, will make himself known through his poetic engravings of the place.