Dieppe, the town with four ports
It is also known as ‘la ville aux quatre ports – the city with four ports.’
You’ll enjoy watching the many trawlers, ferries, freighters and pleasure boats coming and going in the fishing port, commercial port, Channel ferries port and the marina!
11th century texts referred to the fishing port of Deppea, a name probably from Saxon origin.
The town developed on both river banks, thus forming two distinct districts.
Dieppe was destroyed and rebuilt during the Hundred Years War.
However, the French re-seized it in 1435 and enclosed it within fortifications.
From the French Renaissance to the early 19th century
Charles VIII, Louis XII and Francois I, the patrons of the French Renaissance, extended their protection to the city.
They indeed turned Dieppe into a major port and a large commercial metropolis specialised in the trade of spices and ivory.
The city produced several great seafarers who embarked for distant Sumatra, Brazil and Canada.
Among those were Captains Aubert and Verassen, who in 1508, sailed for Newfoundland and named the river St. Lawrence.
Many inhabitants of Dieppe rallied the Protestant faith during the 16th century.
Several thousand went into self-imposed exile after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.
The city was once more destroyed on 22 and 23 July 1694 during the Nine Years War when the French and Dutch fleets attacked.
However, reconstruction lasted several decades and was not completed until 1720!
As a result, Dieppe lost its predominance and its status of commercial metropolis.
Napoleon I relaunched the expansion of Dieppe by building the bassin Berigny, a harbour large and deep enough to anchor warships.
This harbour was later filled and developed.
A trendy seaside resort of the Belle Epoque
The city walls were pulled down in 1824 at the instigation of Caroline de Bourbon to turn Dieppe into a trendy seaside resort.
The inauguration of the railway line Paris-Dieppe in 1848 largely contributed to attract the elite of the time.
However, Dieppe’s was consecrated as the trendiest resort, when Napoleon III and Eugenie spent their honeymoon there between August 20 to September 9, 1853 !
Dieppe’s heyday lasted from the Belle Epoque to the Great War.
The fishing harbour was therefore modernised and enlarged with seaport and marina the 1880s.
Elegant and luxurious villas and Moorish style casino (inaugurated in 1886) and a golf course were built along the seafront.
Finally, a steam ship was put in place between Dieppe and England!
Indeed, French and foreign royalty, artists and celebrities such as Saint-Saens, Debussy, Monet, Renoir, Montesquiou, Proust or Leopold II of Belgium rubbed shoulders in Dieppe!
Surprising as it may seem, Dieppe lost its appeal among the elite, when the French paid leave system was implemented in 1936!
Dieppe was too easily accessible from Paris!
It attracted a new clientele of workers and employees eager to discover the meaning of… holidays.
Even the new Art Deco casino rebuilt in 1932 didn’t succeed in attracting them back!
Dieppe, present days
The city was severely bombed, however, a few historic buildings fortunately escaped destruction.
In the past two decades or so, Dieppe has undertaken an economic development program focused on tourism.
A museum, founded in the 15th century Château de Dieppe, relates the city’s maritime history.
This castle, which is listed Historical Monument, overlooks the town from atop the cliff.
The museum also exhibits paintings of Dieppe by Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Boudin, Courbet and various foreign artists such as Walter Sickert.
The other exhibits include superb collections of ivory sculptured by the sailors during their long journeys at sea.
Today, the port is more than ever the heart and economic centre of Dieppe.
For decades Dieppe was the first banana port in France.
It is now the first port for shellfish!
Dieppe’s Oceanarium and marine life centre Estran Cité de la Mer, are very popular with the tourists and holidaymakers.
That said, Dieppe is not only an active port and seaside resort, but also a picturesque town!
The Eglise Saint-Jacques is among the few medieval buildings that escaped destruction through the various conflicts.
Built in 1195, it was altered several times over the centuries.
It is therefore a superb illustration of the evolution of French religious architecture.
The Eglise Saint-Rémi is much more recent, as it dates only from the 16th-17th centuries.
All that is left of the city’s 14th century fortifications is the Porte des Tourelles (the only remaining gate out of 5!)
It served as a prison during the French Revolution, and is now a privately owned.
Place du Puits Salé, the old town square, is another superb landmark of Dieppe.
It was named after the water of the well that became mixed with sea water at high tide!
The Maison Miffant is one of the city’s most beautiful half-timbered houses.
It dates from 1624 and is located at nos.9-15 Rue d’Ecosse, the old town main street.
Its stunning facade, which is a classified Historical Monument, miraculously escaped WWII bombings.
Le Pollet, Dieppe’s picturesque fishermen district, and the elegant 18th century villas in Rue de la Barre and Boulevard de Verdun, contribute largely to the charm of the town.
Finally, you might want to visit the WWII Canadian Military Cemetery in Saint-Aubin-sur-Scie (south of town).
Coordinates: Lat 49.922992 – Long 1.077483