Escaping to the Chateau, but in love with Southend
Escape to the Chateau star Angel Adoree is currently reaping the benefits of her incredible vision and drive to build an overseas wedding and lifestyle business from scratch with husband Dick Strawbridge. Here she tells Essex Life about series five of the hit Channel 4 show and how a strong Essex work ethic helped her dream so big
Benfleet-raised vintage enthusiast, author and entrepreneur Angel Adoree is so busy juggling her booming wedding venue business with motherhood that she’s moved in her doting parents for half the year. But that’s more than okay, because she happens to live in a castle.
Angel, 40, and husband Dick, 60, fell in love with France early in their relationship vowing to buy property there and to raise a family. Further research revealed that they could afford much more than a country cottage. In fact, if they were prepared to put the work in, they could aim big — ‘turrets-style’ big. So, they ploughed all their cash into a 19th century derelict fairy-tale chateau, complete with moat.
Renovating the crumbling 45-room landmark was not a romantic task, but if anyone has the personality to pull this off, it’s Angel.
Channel 4 have followed the couple’s inspirational journey at Chateau-de-la-Motte Husson over the last four years since they purchased the property in the Pays de la Loire region for £380,000. Before decorating could commence, they had to install electricity, heating and source labour to revive a sewage system in just nine months, as their own wedding day deadline of November 2015 loomed.
To supplement the £20,000 budget they had left, Dick nipped off for three months to film a series with National Geographic and it’s been an intimate documentary with tempers fraying. Often it seemed like they’d taken on the impossible – poring over ancient deeds and forced to talk shop 24 hours, but they are no ordinary couple.
Angel is a fascinating mix of Earth Mother, 1940s style matron and Art Deco designer, complemented by Dick’s many accolades including former army colonel, Celebrity MasterChef finalist, Scrapheap Challenge presenter and engineer extraordinaire. Viewers have seen them infuriate, adore and delight one other, but then you’d have to be in tune to make their life work, as they take the ‘can do attitude’ to a whole new level.
‘It has been a bit of a surprise that the series has been so well received and very humbling,’ smiles Angel.
‘We started looking seven years ago to live in France and when you start looking that’s the problem. We’re both workaholics and had gone to the Carcasonne area, the first holiday both of us had had in about ten years.
‘In a simple gite, one storey high with shutters opening out on to the attractive town, we knew we could buy it for £30,000. So we quickly thought, “What are we doing with mortgages and working to pay different rents? Let’s do it!”
‘I’m a bit of a hybrid. I’m an Essex girl, but a Londoner as well. I love the hustle and bustle, but France was the place we fell in love with. As soon as Dick said it, I was straight on the internet buying £20million chateaus in my mind.’
The couple have been together for eight years and married for two.
‘As he’s 20 years older than me, Dick jokes around saying I’ve got less time to hang around,’ laughs Angel.
Father to two grown up children from his first marriage, going back to nappies and sleepless nights was unlikely to faze someone who seizes so much from life.
‘I’m 40, so I was desperately at that right age to want to have children,’ reveals Angel. ‘If I’m honest I planned to have one, but Dick is the perfect father. We argue all the time, but he’s
‘I love the hustle and bustle, but France was the place we fell in love with’
a good, good man – my perfect man.’
Their children, five-year-old Arthur and four-year-old Dorothy, have adapted seamlessly. ‘They speak French at school and when they come home they speak English. Arthur thinks he can remember our Southend home. He says, “I’m a Londoner,” and Dorothy sees so much stuff about Queen Elizabeth around the house. She’s desperate to meet her. They’re settled, but still very British.’
The chateau’s official website declares the mantra, ‘The harder you work the luckier you get’. These are not empty words.
‘Before we met we both had strong work ethics. My mum and dad are workaholics, my dad owned Paradise jewellers in Benfleet for 20 years and a restaurant (Flutes). My brother Paul now runs the jewellers on Canvey Island. It’s nice to instil those values early on because it’s important. I think the Essex mindset is more go and get it. Maybe not coming from a plethora of wealth can make you a bit more hungry for it.’
From her beginnings in Benfleet where she’d cycle to Leigh on Sea and sit outside The Peterboat pub as a teenager, Angel has achieved in two decades what most wouldn’t come close to in a lifetime, and strong family values appear the bedrock of her ambition.
A trained accountant, she was lured to the capital where her family have roots, running an East End vintage stall before launching The Vintage Patisserie in Hackney back in 2001.
‘My Grandma was in Dagenham, my Nan is still in Mile End. She’s 95 and been to the chateau countless times. My dad’s just been home getting her hair done flying Rennes to Southend – London Southend is the nicest airport ever.’
The couple are fortunate that Angel’s parents, Jenny and Stephen, are recently retired and free to support them.
‘We have a bit of a giggle that they’re here for free holidays, but they’re here more for the wedding season to help us. Having a multigenerational living arrangement is quite special. When I’m older, if Arthur and Dorothy want us around, we’ll feel like we’ve done something right.’
The fact the series still has legs is testament to Angel and Dick’s unstoppable innovation way beyond your typical hotelier. There has also been spin-of show Escape to the Chateau DIY.
‘We are working on one of the last suites in the chateau and climaxing with a wedding special. Everyone has loved the glamping business and our Food Lovers Weekends are off the scale. We have tens of thousands of enquiries.’
Here guests get to feast on the finest French fayre with Dick in the kitchen whipping up his specials, and the chance to go fly fishing. One of the most amusing elements of the business is that the charming life they have created means people actually pay for the pleasure of toiling alongside the ever-industrious Dick on his 12 acres.
‘We charge £150 for people to come and work on garden work days, but it’s not all like that. They get high tea and tours,’ explains Angel. ‘And they all
‘For every show that comes out, I’m riddled with butterflies’
want to come back. This is all in addition to weddings. We’re busier than ever.’
The couple are of course also keen to accommodate visitors more attuned to kicking back with fine wine and lashings of brie, a balance they haven’t had a second to succumb to themselves.
For inspiring her passion for all things retro, Angel credits her female relatives, her unique flame red hair styled with a glamorous forties bouffant, and knotted headscarves.
‘My mum used to be so glam in the Sixties. Nan always wore capri pants and pointy glasses. People made so much of an effort.’
Curvy with a dazzling smile, Angel still has nerves being filmed. ‘Every show that comes out I’m riddled with butterflies,’ she admits. ‘I don’t particularly like seeing myself on television. I’m always thinking that I could do with losing a stone or two. Dick is the total opposite, but I’m a girl. I’m totally normal,’ she laughs.
And yet the end goal for this savvy pair belongs back in Essex. ‘Southend was a nice place to be by the seaside with the shops on your doorstep, and the old Victorian promenade – I love it there. We enjoyed ourselves for a year and a half while looking in France. When I make my millions, I’m going to buy something there. There’s nothing like being by the sea.’
Find out more
The new series of Escape to the Chateau returns to Channel 4 this autumn. Or catch up on All 4.For more information on staying with Angel and Dick, visit chateaudelamottehusson.com
Chateau de la Motte Husson
Angel’s creative flair is a feature of the chateau
Dick and Angel Strawbridge
LEFT:Dick and Angel have been together for eight yearsBELOW:With a blank canvas, Angel’s designs have been able to have full impact
Dick and Angel with Arthur and Dorothy
The chateau has undergone a stunning transformation