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13 November 2014

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You are in: Guernsey > Places > Places Features > Hauteville House

Hauteville House being renovated

Hauteville House being renovated

Hauteville House

Most famous as the home of French poet, dramatist and novelist Victor Hugo, we took a look around Hauteville House with one of the tour guides.

The large white house which sits halfway up Hauteville was built in the late 18th or early 19th century and was purchased by Victor Hugo in late 1856 soon after his arrival in Guernsey while exiled from France.

Room of plates in Hauteville House

This room is lined with plates

Along with the four story town house, the site also features a large garden and overlooks the harbour at St Peter Port, Castle Cornet and Havelet Bay.

Before Victor Hugo moved in it is thought that the house stood empty for several years so the writer was able to make his own unique mark on the place.

Each room in the house is decorated differently with custom made furniture and fittings with each floor seemingly based on a different style.

Upon entering the house you are confronted by a unique archway from the lobby into the hall which features hand carved decorations based on Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a book he wrote before moving to Guernsey, but which obviously still held a place in his heart.

Chinese style statues

A pair of Chinese style statues in the red room

The rest of the ground floor is decorated in a neo-gothic style, according to Stephanie, one of the French tour guides who work in the house, and features some very large and ornate wooden carvings made by local craftsmen and based on styles Hugo had seen on his previous travels throughout Europe.

The first floor of the house features a more Baroque style of decoration combined with many Chinese aspects which became popular at the time thanks to Europeans travelling to the east and bringing back many items which inspired European designers.

Stephanie described the house's second floor as being "the most complex" as it features one large room designed and built in oak and featuring both a bedroom and living room area.

Once again the wood is very ornately carved with a four poster bed at one end and a large wooden candelabra standing over six feet tall built into the centre of the floor.

What makes this room especially bizarre is that it is thought to have never been used despite appearing to be the master bedroom.

One of several ornate wooden fireplaces

One of several ornate wooden fireplaces

Above this is the attic which features a panoramic lookout room where Hugo worked and wrote several of his most famous works including Les Travailleurs de la Mer (The Toilers of the Sea), which he dedicated to the people of Guernsey.

Also in the attic is the small bedroom where Hugo would have slept, which is designed in a style reminiscent of a ship's cabin and once again looks out over Havelet bay.

Throughout the house are numerous inscriptions both on, and incorporated within, the custom made furniture which make statements of a political, philosophical and personal nature.

Tour guide Stephanie described the house as being "like a poem" as it is entirely created and designed by one man with the intent of making both an artistic and philosophical statement.


In 2008 a process of restoration and renovation began to allow the house and its many artifacts to be maintained.

Some of the oriental design work

Some of the oriental design work

Work began on the roof, to make sure it was weather proof and further work is to be done to the conservatory, furniture and decorations as after more than 150 some have begun to deteriorate.

Since 1927 the house has been the property of the City of Paris who are responsible for the building's management and maintenance after the grandchildren of the writer donated it to the city.

last updated: 19/02/2009 at 15:41
created: 16/02/2009

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