Castello San Peyre

  


 

Castello San Peyre at Opio

Readers of Winifred Fortescue's books will be very familiar with her close friend Elisabeth Starr, 'Mademoiselle', (and her dog 'Squibbs'), an American who took French citizenship and lived just down the mountain at Castello San Peyre. The Castello features in most of the books, as a home, a billet for soldiers, etc.  It had formerly sheltered eight peasant families and their animals. In 'Escape to Provence' the author states that according to local lore it had past served as  one of the grand summer dwellings of the monks of a local monastery, possibly the rich and powerful Benedictines of Óle St Honorat off the coast of Cannes. (An order now replaced by Cistercians). Having worked hard for the Red Cross in the area during WWI, Eisabeth Starr stayed on at the Castello during WWII and was primarily responsible for the setting up of the the Foyers du Soldat for the French troops in Provence and the Alps. Sadly, after Winifred's escape to England, she died of malnutrition during the war and Winifred never saw her again.

Augustus John painted 'The Pool At The Castello' in oils in 1946. It shows the little hut that Winifred and Elisabeth shared during the general mobilisation - long gone. The painting went up for sale at Christies in 2005. John was a tenant, or more likely a guest, there on two occasions. A wealth of information on the Castello and its neighbouring properties can be found in the new publication 'Escape to Provence' by Maureen Emerson.

 

Early days at The Castello

The Castello around the time Elisabeth Starr bought it in 1922

Elisabeth in the courtyard at the Castello

Elisabeth in the courtyard at the Castello

Elisabeth in doorway at the Castello

Elisabeth in doorway at the Castello

 
Elisabeth painting in the studio at the Castello

Elisabeth painting in the studio at the Castello

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Pictures - M. Emerson