Saturday 8 October 2022

French Baroque Chateau

Finished at last! I've been working on this chateau model for some three months now, and here it is. Whether it was worth all that work is up to you to judge, but I honestly don't think I've ever built anything more elaborate as a single model. 

Before you started to read this, you will no doubt have seen the new header picture of my blog. It shows Bavarian staff of the Franco-Prussian War: an officer of light cavalry reports to corps commander, general von der Tann. What's not changed is it still showing a wargames building by me, but figures mostly painted by my friend Garry. I converted the figures from 1866 ones by North Star. We work as a team on most of our wargames projects.

This was the second of three models I planned as a project. The first was the "mini chateau" posted a couple of months back, and the third will be the sort of chateau which started life as a mediaeval castle so is built of stone and has round towers. France is a country with perhaps 20,000 chateaus; no-one really knows the true number. Hundreds of the most attractive can be viewed by region on this nice site: So Châteaux ( No wargamer is ever going to have more than a couple of such models, so I wanted to build something that would represent the most characteristic types. When you really boil down the enormous variety of styles it comes to those which were once castles and those built from the 17th century onwards as stately homes, mostly in the style we call baroque. That means a version of classical architecture which stresses regularity and avoids over-elaborate details, but overall aims to impress the beholder as a dignified, tasteful display of power. So here's my attempt to express this, whilst keeping to a quite small "footprint" consistent with the ground scale of my games. 

The building is made from Wills sheets for the tiles and brickwork, resin castings for the windows and other details, and a lot of individual stones cut from styrene, as described on the work-in-progress post six weeks ago. In all there are well over a thousand individual parts.

In some ways French baroque is "all about the roofs", so I went to town on getting a complex roof shape. It comprises a central hipped roof section and a separate "mansard" roof at each end. A mansard roof is the typically French style that has a near-vertical outer face, usually of slate and a more horizontal top, normally of sheet metal. 

A common feature is what I call the "tricolour" scheme of contrasting reddish brick walls, off-white stonework and almost-blue (well grey really) slate roofs. I avoided anything which would disrupt that attractive colour scheme, keeping the roof finials grey rather than verdigris green for example. 

At first glance this looks like the previous picture but in fact it shows the back of the chateau, which has a different, plainer doorway.

And here's the side view. There are four different window types.

Elaborate chimneys are a feature of this style of chateau. The architectural detail of each one reflects that of the building as a whole, the materials contrasting nicely with the grey of the roofs. Because nearly all photos are taken from ground level, I couldn't work out where the heck the smoke actually emerges from this kind of chimney, there being no kind of chimney pot! Eventually I found a promotional video of one chateau taken by drone and discovered they have a line of slots along the very top. 

The tops of mansard roofs are made of sheet metal: lead, bronze, or from the nineteenth century zinc, as shown here. I studied pictures of old zinc roofing and found it tends to vary a little in colour between sheets, and to be vertically streaked by rain and dirt.

The front entrance from close up. You just might have wondered who the face is supposed to be on the dormers and above the door. These architectural embellishments might show a coat of arms or a pattern, but a face is another possibility. I took the original from a plastic figure. I see him as either an illustrious ancestor of the owner or perhaps a classical hero with some supposed link to the family.

Another staff group poses in front of the chateau, this time a Bavarian divisional commander. He's a conversion from the the Perrys' figure of Prussian general Steinmetz. You do get more idea of the relatively small footprint of the model here. It's actually just 134 x 89mm.


  1. A stunning piece there John and well worth the effort you have put in to it!

  2. John wonderful to see this model and you in the flesh at Parizan today. I can assure everyone this model is even better in the flesh than it looks in these pictures.

  3. Amazing work; the roof in particular is a stunning piece of miniature architecture.

  4. Yes, I think we can all agree, we have been hanging out to see the final results on this build, John - and as the others have said, as usual, you have not disappointed. Personally, I don't think I could put three months' work into a single terrain piece, even if I had the skills to create something like this (which I don't) but your results are phenomenal

  5. What a wonderful piece John, and nicely posed with the south German figures too!

  6. Fantastic! It looks very large and stately indeed until placed next to the is a testament to your method of truncated footprint models and how good they look. I also have the same experience of trying to build something and then suddenly being confronted with some heretofore never considered detail that you have no idea how it works--luckily you were able to find the drone photos!!

  7. That looks wonderful, a real labour of love. It is really interesting to read the background story and start to understand a little of the research and thought that has gone into every detail.

  8. Thankyou very much everyone. I couldn't resist taking this to the Partizan show on Sunday to show it off, where many of the hobby's "glitterati" also made nice comments. It would be immodest to list them.

    What a pleasure to bump into Martin Gane in person at the show, after numerous discussions on this blog and by email, not least about FPW rules.

  9. Awesome looking French chateau, fantastic detailing!
    Best Iain