Sadly, very little is known about the man himself. After literally minutes spent on the internet and flicking through books I was only able to establish the following: Godard was born in Nice in 1823 and died in Bordeaux 58 years later in 1881. His occupation was that of a “négociant”, a trader in wine and other produce, a position which is perpetually held in high esteem in Bordeaux. Négociants invariably carve out a status in the city’s high society and, above all, regularly become extremely wealthy.
This was Godard’s case: with the fortune he had amassed, in 1855 he acquired the renowned Château Kirwan wine-growing estate in Cantenac, near Margaux. As well as overseeing the production of the château’s wine (which had just been ranked as a “Grand Cru”), Godard also designed its gardens – he was a keen amateur gardener and botanist. When Godard died in 1882, it also transpired that he was to be a posthumous philanthropist.
|Château Kirwan and its magnificent Camille Godard-designed grounds (and vines).|
In short, Godard was officially committed to bequeathing his fortune to the city of Bordeaux and stated that investments would yield enough funds to enable the city to do things which were beyond its regular means. His request was that the money be used to build squares, embellish walkways, lay down roads, build schools, and initiate lessons, libraries and awards. His first wish was for the city to create a gardening school. Along with his money, Bordeaux inherited Château Kirwan itself. Management duties were handed over to the wine traders Schröder & Schÿler, until 1926 by which time partner Armand Schÿler bought the château outright. His family still owns the domain.
The first venture facilitated by Godard’s funds was the purchase and landscaping of the Parc Bordelais. The area had previously been earmarked as the venue for a Paris-style “jardin d’acclimatation” but the project, led by a group of stakeholders from Caudéran (an independent town at the time) fell through. On July 15th 1882, Caudéran sold the plot to the city of Bordeaux on the condition that it would become a “lieu de promenade”, i.e. a nice place for a pleasant stroll. The park was officially inaugurated by the French president Sadi Carnot in 1888.
A year later, the city of Bordeaux erected the aforementioned monument to its benefactor. The statue which can be seen today is the original marble sculpture (revealing a little further information about Godard: he was bald and sported a substantial bushy moustache). At the outset, a plaster copy had been installed but this was stolen in 1904. The decorative pedestal features the city’s coat of arms and three-crescent emblem as well as the words “la ville de Bordeaux reconnaissante” as a mark of the city’s appreciation for Godard’s generosity.
|The Camille Godard monument in Parc Bordelais.|
|"Le jardin botanique universitaire de Talence", in the grounds of Château Peixotto, visible in the bottom-left photo.|
|Now best-known as Château du Haillan, the mansion is surrounded by training grounds and facilities.|
|The entrance to the modern-day Camille Godard "lycée horticole" in Le Haillan.|
- Find them: Château Kirwan, Cantenac; Parc Bordelais, Bordeaux; Château du Haillan, Lycée Horticole Camille Godard, Le Haillan; Monument aux Girondins, Rue Camille Godard, Camille Godard bus and tram stops, Bordeaux.
- Thanks to Lesley Graham for clarifying some of the sketchier details about Château Carrière.