The elaborately designed iron cast entrance gate with a coat of arms, the more than hundred year-old pine tree in the garden, the nineteenth-century stone fountain and the lemon trees on the estate. These are all silent witnesses of the long and rich history of the Domaine de l’Etoile in Mandelieu.
The first written records in the Archives Départementales des Alpes-Maritimes in Nice date back to the early nineteenth century and show that the present house was part of a 96,000 square metre estate with arable land supporting fruit trees and a small vineyard. Until 1953 the estate was known as Chateau de Vignasse or Domaine de Vignasse.
In 1882 it was the property of Madame Marie Jeanne Olivier, the widow of Mr Calvy from Cannes, and after her death it was owned by her daughters from her second marriage who sold several parcels of land.
In 1922 the estate was sold for 32,000 FF to Major the Honourable Arthur George Villiers Peel and his wife Lady Agnes (néé Lygon). Normally known as George Peel (27 February 1869 – 25 April 1956) he was a descendant of a long line of British nobility and politicians, including two prime ministers.
In 1922 the house was partly destroyed by fire, subsequently being renovated by George Peel. A photograph from 1924 shows the couple, surrounded by their servants and many workers. To commemorate the renovation the Peels had a stone plaque attached to a wall facing the gate; the plaque bears their coat of arms, a Latin text and part of a poem by the French poet Frédéric Mistral.
In 1935 the property was sold by the Peel family to Dr Léon Gorodiche and his wife Fanny (néé Hertz). At the time the estate measured a total of 52,500 square meters. Dr Gorodiche (1864-1940) was born in Lithuania and emigrated in 1886 with his wife, via Switzerland, to France, where they became French citizens. In 1935 Léon Gorodiche and his wife moved from Paris to Mandelieu. He died on 31st July 1940 in the Clinique St.Nicolas in Cannes.
His wife Fanny fled the Nazis in 1944 and moved to London. The estate remained in the hands of the heirs of Léon Gorodiche until 1953 when it was sold for 6 million FF to the Société Civile Immobilère et Agricole du Domaine de l’Etoile,which over the course of the next twenty years sold several parcels of land from the estate.
Archives municipales, Mandelieu
Archives Départementales des Alpes-Maritimes, Nice
The town, founded in Roman times is situated at the edge of the Mediterranean, at the gateway to Cannes, between the Massif de l’Esterel and the woodlands of the Tanneron.
The 14th century Chateau de la Napoule with its famous garden is now a cultural centre.
The 18-hole Old Course Golf near the Mediterranean is one of the oldest golf courses in France. Another golf course is the Riviera Golf de Barbossi.
The charming marina, Port de la Rague is a mere 5-minute drive from the city. Also the marina of Mandelieu-La Napoule is worth a visit.
The most important technology park in Europe, Sophia Antipolis is 20 kilometres away from Mandelieu. This technology park is home to the R&D division of major multinationals such as Ericsson, Cap Gemini and Intel. Ahead of its time and in constant evolution, Sophia Antipolis is regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious references for voluntary integrated economic development.
Arthur George Villiers Peel (1869-1956)
He was was the son of Arthur Peel, 1st Viscount Peel, a senior British Liberal politician. George Peel, an Oxford graduate, was a prolific writer on economics, politics and fiscal policies.
In 1906 at the age of 38 he married Lady Agnes Lygon (1880-1960). The couple remained childless. One of his ancestors, Robert Peel (1788-1850) restricted the powers of British banks and in 1844 gave exclusive note-issuing powers to the central Bank of England.
The Peels lived in Belgrave Square before World War I. In 1920 they acquired Blounts Court in Berkshire where they farmed until both died.
In 1922 they bought Domaine de la Vignasse as a second home. The Peel family oversaw extensive renovations to the main house of the Vignasse estate as witnessed by an elaborate foundation stone which still exists. In 1935 they sold the estate to Dr Léon Gorodiche.
Dr Léon Gorodiche (1864-1940)
Léon Gorodiche was born in 1864 Lithuania, the largest of the three Baltic States and at the time part of the Russian Empire.
In 1886 he moved to Switzerland where he became an active member of the circle of the influential Marxist Georgi Plekhanov, and was a supporter of the Russian Revolution.
In 1908 Gorodiche moved to Paris and became a noted neurologist and psychiatrist who collaborated with the famous ‘back to Freud’ psychiatrist Jacques Lacan. Gorodiche lectured several times in the USA between 1909 and 1912.
In 1935 he moved from Paris to Mandelieu with his wife Fanny Hertz. Léon Gorodiche died in 1940 in Cannes of natural causes.
His wife fled the Nazi’s in 1944 and moved to London. The couple had three children: Jean (who became a decorated fighter in the French Resistance during WW II), Rose Marie, and Marie Hélène who became a celebrated painter.
After WW II parts of the inventory of the house, among others, the 2000 volume library, were returned to the widow.
The influential French Symbolist painter Eugène Carrière painted a portrait of the Gorodiche family in 1903. The painting is now in the Musée des Beaux Arts in Dijon (DG 86-42).