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Crowdfunders Came Together and Bought Themselves A Castle

Social Media is used for a lot of things; it’s a place to share fake news, a platform for trolls to roast people and a place to show off your material possessions. Of course, it’s not all bad though; social media can actually be used for some good. People use it to highlight injustice happening around the world, pool in their resources to help certain people in need and surprisingly, some internet users also come together to use it to buy a castle in order to restore it.

In a first, 18,558 crowdfunders came together to buy and save a French castle called Mothe-Chandeniers, which is situated in Trois-Moutiere, Western France.  This particular castle was not under the tutelage of The National Trust and hence, was not maintained properly since a fire ravaged a majority of the main building.

What happened at the Castle?

The history of this 13thcentury castle goes such that the property was taken by the English twice in the Middle Ages, plundered and then left in despair when the French Revolution started. Then in 1809, Francois Handcart, who was a French businessman, bought and restored the castle, adding a vineyard to the estate. In 1870, an esquire of Napoleon III rebuilt the castle inspired by the Loir Valley castles. Since then, the property was bought, sold and passed on to a lot of people.

But tragedy befell the castle when in 1932, a huge fire ravaged the castle when another owner, Baron Edger attempted installing central heating. The damage was so bad that a report in Le Figaro stated that an entire library of rare and old books, antique furniture, paintings and tapestries were all lost, forever.

How did crowdfunding happen?

When the organization Adopte un Château – which aims to protect and restore the country’s heritage – heard of the castle and its pitiable condition, it tied up with a French crowdfunding site called Dartagnans, to raise money by asking the public to buy shares in the castle, and all this money would be used to restore it.

The latest ingenious idea which came up was crowdfunding, and since it started, €834,064 has been raised to purchase and restore the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers in the French region of Poitou-Charentes. With just a small contribution of €51 (£45 or $61) a donor can purchase a singular share in that company (Société par Action Simplifiée or SAS) which owns the castle. With a €60 donation, you could receive a special Christmas box, which holds a membership tag and a co-ownership certificate. The project has settled on an agreement with the owners, so there is no imminent treat of getting outbid at any auction, later on.

What is the future of the castle?

The idea of publically raising funds was pursued so that they can make a goal-oriented platform where each and every owner of the castle can follow the progress of the project, proposals, events etc., and foster a collaborative and participative environment.

Out of all the money raised, it has been decided that only €500,000 will go to buy the castle, its adjoining buildings and the surrounding estate, while the rest of it would go towards the restoration process of bringing it back to its former glory. The long-term goal is to open it up for everyone and make it a self financing tourist attraction. There is even talk of renting out the property to production and film companies to shoot their videos there.

The future of castle restoring

It doesn’t just end there. The main goal is to reach €1 million to cover all the financial expenditures related to the castle, which includes the hiring of architectural experts and art restorers, and teams for securing and clearing out the ruins. The Mothe-Chandeniers castle is not the only castle that Dartagnans is investing in, there are seven more deals that are in the pipeline! There’s a 15thcentury Nièvre castle called the Château de Meauce and the Château de Lassay, another 15thcentury castle in Mayenne, among the prominent ones, which are in dire need of restoration.

What made the campaign a success is that the promoters were able to successfully portray the castle as a symbol of the ‘collective & creative expression’ which is essential to spread heritage and culture.  It is possibly the reason why this first-of-a-kind form of cooperation over the internet rescued a piece of cultural heritage, and this hasn’t happened in the world of World Heritage before.

For all their encouragement and support, the co-owners have keenly followed the restoration work and will be among the firsts to visit ‘their’ castle in the Spring of 2018.

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