Valognes is a town in French Normandy a couple of miles away from Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte. Nicknamed derisorily the “Versailles of Normandy” and deservingly so, Valognes was at one time the favorite getaway and hangout town for noblemen looking to escape the manners and lifestyle of the Court.
The “Versailles of Normandy” is a rather appropriate title. Valognes and its church was badly damaged in WWII, mostly caused by the bombing that took place in 1944. Restoration of the church has led to a charming blend of the ancient and the modern. The town is still home to some 40 private mansions that were built in the 17th and 18th centuries – a rare architectural heritage for a town of its size. Most of the mansions are hidden away by walls and trees, except for the Beaumont Residence, which is open to the public. The frontage of this estate measures 50 meters long and boasts a monumental staircase. Other mansions include the Thieuville Residence, which houses the Museum of Leather and the Museum of Calvados, the Maison du Grand Quartier, which is home to the Cider Museum, and the Granville-Caligny Residence, which was where Barbey stayed whenever he visited Normandy.
Valognes was founded a short distance away from the Roman town of Alauna. It became a fortified stronghold in the days of the Normans. It was in Valognes that William the Conqueror learned of his conspirators plans to assassinate him, which enabled him to flee.
In the 13th century, King Henry III of England took control of the town and ruled over it for thirty years, after which the town served as a resort for English aristocrats for centuries until the 1920s. French noblemen also began vacationing and residing in the town, which led to the construction of many aristocratic mansions and palaces.
In WWII, many buildings in Valognes were destroyed in the Battle of Normandy including the 14th century church of Notre Dame. The destruction has left only a fraction of the lavish buildings that once stood in Valognes.
Gaudez, René, Hervé Champollion, and Angela Moyon. Tour of Normandy. Rennes: Éditions Ouest-France, 1996. ISBN: 2737317185.
“Valognes.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valognes>
 Gaudez, 23