Hauteville House, Hugo’s Home in Exile


This April, as the Bella Luce re-opens its doors for our 2019 season, so to does one of Guernsey’s most famous buildings: Hauteville House.

Hauteville House was the residence of French writer and poet Victor Hugo (Les Miserables, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Toilers of The Sea, etc) during 15 of his 19 years in exile from France.  The property, at 38 Rue Hauteville in St Peter Port, was closed to the public in 2018 whilst it underwent a £2.6 million refurbishment funded by a billionaire French businessman François Pinault (Kerring Group – owners of Gucci, YSL and many other big name fashion brands). 

Inside Hauteville House (The Red Lounge): credit Heather Cowper (Creative Commons)

Originally built around the year 1800 by an English privateer, Hugo purchased it in May of 1856 eight months after arriving in Guernsey using income from the sales of a collection of poems, Les Contemplations, thus ensuring that as a property owner he could not be expelled from Guernsey as he had been from Belgium and Jersey before.  He set about transforming the house, lavishly redecorating and furnishing every room across its four floors in a style representative of his creative genius.  This unique residence includes such features as a tapestry room, “red” and “blue” lounges on the first floor where the Hugo family received guests, the poet’s library, collections of art and porcelain, and on the top, third, floor a glazed belvedere where Hugo wrote and gazed out over St Peter Port, the sea, and towards his native France in the distance.

Victor Hugo on the Terrace at Hauteville House: credit Arnaud 25 (Creative Commons)

Hugo returned to France after the fall of the Second Empire in 1870 but retained Hauteville House and it remained in his family until 1927 when, to celebrate the centenary of the Romantic Movement, his descendants donated the property to the City of Paris.  The City of Paris continues to conserve the two properties where Hugo resided the longest (the other being the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée in Place des Vosges in Paris where he rented an apartment for 16 years), with Hauteville House being the only property that Hugo owned.  It now houses an honorary consul to the French embassy at London, as well as the Victor Hugo Museum.

Hauteville House and its garden is open daily (except Wednesdays) from April 7 - September 30 from 10am to 6pm for guided tours only, and reservations are required.

Adults £10
Concessions £8
Gardens £4
School Groups £2
Under 18 Free


* Header and footer images reproduced courtesy of Visit Guernsey.

Written by:

Bella Luce