James Gassiot - the Chateau de Rys

The Chateau de Rys after the storm

A storm sweeps over the Chateau de Rys

August 1991. A storm swept over the Chateau de Rys near Bossay sur Claise. The chateau was owned by Hispano Suiza and provided holiday accommodation for the company's employees.

One of the turrets ("pepper pots") damaged by the storm


With a few seconds, storm force winds tore a branch off a 100 year old cedar which seriously damaged two turrets and the roofing.

A spire lying on the ground


September 1991. James Gassiot's company was asked to rebuild the two spires - 3 metres in diameter and 6 metres high.

Click the pictures to show them full size

Top of page

An unclad spire

Making the new spires in the workshop

November 1991. The reconstruction of the spires started in the workshop with the cutting and assembly of the main beams, the structural beams and the rafters (not so long ago, the work would have been carried out on top of the turret using scaffolding and all these heavy beams would have been pulled up using a pulley).

Cladding one of the spires suspended from the gantry crane


Next the spires were covered with slats of poplar wood, positioned carefully at an angle to make the spires perfectly round. The spires were hung horizontally from a gantry crane to make it easier for the carpenters to work on.


A local transport company took the spires from the workshop to the castle where they would be lifted into place.

Loading a spire onto the lorry at dawn

The spires set off into the mist

Click the pictures to show them full size

Top of page

The spires covered with slates

Putting the spires on the turrets

When the spires had been unloaded below the walls of the chateau using a 3 tonne telescopic loader (each spire weighed 3 tonnes), the spires were covered. First the slates were cut to size so that each row had exactly 42 slates, then the slates were attached using stainless steel slate hooks plus two nails at the top of each slate.

One of the spires with its weathervane


The zinc weathervanes were 2.85 metres tall and were made in the workshop by M Gassiot himself (including the 4 points of the compass).

The spire is lifted above the pepper pot, and lowered into place


March 1992. A specialist lifting company used a 25 metre high crane to lift the spires, with their magnificent slate covering, onto the turrets.


All that remained to do was to put the weathervanes onto the points on the spires, being sure to get them the right way round.

James Gassiot detaches the rope from the top of the spire before fitting the weathervane

It was at this point that things started to go wrong.

M. Gassiot was lifted up in the bucket with the first weathervane, but the points of the compass became tangled in the ropes and he had to come down again to untangle them. When he was lifted up again, he tried to position the weathervane, but when he pushed it one way, the bucket went the other - a minuet in the sky. Finally, when both weathervanes were in position, The crane packed up and went home.

The caretaker looked at M Gassiot with a strange expression on his face. He looked where the sun rose and said "East". Then he looked where the sun set and said "West". Then he looked at one of the weathervanes.

The weathervanes had been sitting in the workshop for weeks without anyone noticing that, on one of them, East and West were the wrong way round!

But, all's well that ends well . . .

We can be proud of the quality and efficiency of our work and wish these turrets a long and uneventful life

James Gassiot

Click the pictures to show them full size

Top of page

The Touraine nutcracker

Text, photos - James Gassiot
Page layout - T-T-Web

Contact James Gassiot JamesGassiot@FR37.net

The music is the Chopin Winter Wind Etude Op 25 No11 played by Robert Finley.