The château is first mentioned in a charter dating from the early 12th century in which Hugues II, Lord of Châteauneuf-en-Thimerais, confirms that the monks from St-Père de Chartres enjoy possession of the church in Senonches, and its related stipends.
From this charter, we also learn that it was Hugues II who built the castle on the site of an earlier ruined fortress, and erected the fortifications surrounding the town. The first of these were made of earth, and a fragment can still be seen running parallel to rue de l’Ecole (in the grounds of the Pomme de Pin hotel) and under the castle walls.
Hugues II inherited authority over the estate, which included the Thimerais lands, following the death of his father Gervais 1st. In 1140 or thereabouts, he rebuilt the Château de Senonches of which the only remaining parts today are the tower entrance (listed as an historic monument in 1923) and parts of the defensive and curtain walls.
When the barony of Thimerais became extinct at the end of the 13th century, the estate devolved upon the Counts (and subsequently Dukes) of Alençon. In 1563, it passed in inheritance to the Gonzague-Mantoue family, in whose possession it remained until 1654.
Louis IV de Gonzague, a naturalized Italian nobleman, inherited the seigneuries of Senonches and Brezolles after the death of his grandmother, Anne d’Alençon. He married Henriette de Clèves, heiress to the Duchy of Nevers. In recognition of the services rendered to the Crown, the King of France Charles IX raised the estates of Brezolles and Senonches into the French principality of Mantua in favour of Louis IV de Gonzague-Mantoue. This is how Senonches acquired its coat of arms in 1566, the same as the emblem adopted by the Duchy of Mantua.
This family undoubtedly took the decision to rebuild the main castle building, to be used as the Lord’s residence as well as his hall of justice. A prison was also built with two vaulted rooms and a small cell.
In 1654, Charles II de Mantoue put an end the Gonzague seigneury and sold Senonches to François-Marie de Broglie, Count of Revel in Piedmont.
In 1667, the castle was impounded and awarded by royal decree to Henri-Jules de Bourbon Enghien, son of the Great Condé.
His daughter, Marie-Thérèse de Bourbon Conti subsequently inherited the castle and, upon her death in 1719, passed it on to her daughter, Marie-Adelaide de Bourbon Conti. She was succeeded by her nephew, Louis-François de Conti who sold Senonches to Louis XV in 1770. The King gave it in the form of an irrevocable legacy to Louis-Xavier, known as ‘Monsieur’, the Duke of Anjou, Count of Maine, Perche and Anjou, brother of Louis XVI and the future Louis XVIII.
In 1792, the castle became national property and, in 1831, was sold to a society of ironmasters from Dampierre, represented by Louis Nicolas Simon Canuel.
In 1831, his heir Louis Auguste Adrien Goupil, who had become sole owner of the castle, bequeathed it to the town. But the gift came with strings attached: the obligation to convert the château into a school for boys based on the principles of ‘mutual instruction’ along with lodgings for the teacher, a room for the town hall and chambers for a justice of the peace. In 1832, a school for boys was built in the courtyard and subsequently expanded in 1888 along the lines advocated by the educational reformer Jules Ferry.
The Goupil legacy anticipated the possibility that the town hall and justice of the peace chambers might be moved out of the castle. In the event of the premises falling vacant, the benefactor’s will specified that the castle should be devoted to another public service, such as a police station or prison. This led to the creation of an infantry corps of gendarmes and their installation in the château in 1844… to the effect that the 16th-century buildings and a part of the castle keep would be used as a police station and prison until 1965.
In 1958, the boys’ school moved to new premises that subsequently became the town hall. The nursery school was then set up in the castle and remained there until 1966 when the current nursery school was built on rue des Vallées.
In 1998, the municipality entrusted the responsibility for managing the castle to the Association du Château, which decided to open a museum in the main building and former courtyard.
In 2005, extensive restoration work began with a view to opening to the public a cultural heritage centre devoted to the Forest and Foresters.