Mers-les-Bains, one of the ‘Trois Villes Soeurs’
Mers-les-Bains is along with Le Tréport and Eu, part of the ‘inter-regional community of Bresles Maritime’.
The three resorts are known as Trois Villes Soeurs – Three Sisters Cities.
This enclave of the Picardie coastline, facing the English Channel, is part of the Opal Coast.
The numerous flints discovered in the area show that this region has attracted humans since the Palaeolithic.
Closer to us in time, some 2000 years ago, the Romans built a temple dedicated to Mars, their god of war.
However, Mer-les-Bains was no more than a small fishing village until the 19th century, when the aristocracy and wealthy bourgeoisie discovered sea bathing!
By then, Le Tréport had been already extensively developed.
The making of Mers-les-Bains
In order to respond to this enthusiasm, Louis-Philippe decided to develop a second seaside resort and a marina on the northern shore of the Bresle.
However, the only available land for this project was the communal meadow in Mers-les-Bains, a vast expanse situated between the two resorts.
The seaside resort was developed in 3 distinct phases.
The first houses appeared between 1809 and 1850 by the sea and at the foot of the cliff, and on the southern section of the meadow.
The second development phase took place in 1862 on the north end of the esplanade that runs along the shore, and transformed Mers-les-Bains into a fashionable seaside resort.
The opening of the railway line Paris – Le Tréport in 1872 highly contributed to the resort’s success and popularity.
Finally, the last phase took place between 1880 and 1896 on the land situated beyond the casino.
The cherry on the cake was the opening of the tram line connecting Le Tréport, Mers-les-Bains and Eu in 1902.
Mers-les-Bains – architecture
The latest houses were built in the early 20th century!
Their various styles therefore reflect the evolution of 19th century seaside architecture, ranging from Anglo-Flemish to Art Nouveau.
Mers-les-Bains is indeed considered a perfect illustration of the Belle Epoque era!
The first seafront houses were built in a minimalist style, where brick appeared in its basic state.
The decorations and embellishments consisted mostly of cast iron balconies and Mansart style roof dormers.
The apparition of a wealthy foreign clientele, especially English, triggered the appearance of tall narrow terraced waterfront houses.
These villas boasted stunning bow-windows, loggias and extensively decorated facades.
Town houses, on the other hand, had a conservative style, with more understated facades and elegant wrought-iron balconies.
Then came the lush Art Nouveau with its elaborate floral decors and regional architectural features.
This style that gave a unique charm to the waterfront villas!
Art Nouveau indeed made extensive use of terracotta ceramics, glass paste, fine earthenware or enamelled sandstone.
Ceramics had a decorative and utilitarian purpose, as they also served as villas’ names and shop signs.
Intricate patterns in bricks and tiles of varied colours were used in order to create unique facades and roofs.
These features of incomparable artistic value have become the witnesses of a distant era.
A green holiday resort
The popularity of Mer-les-Bains took a new turn in 1937 with the advent of paid leave!
Many boarding houses were indeed built in order to accommodate Parisian working-class families, most of whom discovered then the sea for the first time!
This unique architectural heritage has been fortunately spared from destruction after WWII.
In 1986 the waterfront, adjacent streets and town center was even classified as ‘conservation area’.
Current day Mers-les-Bains is a very attractive seaside resort!
It is indeed difficult not to fall under the charm of its Belle Epoque waterfront houses.
Its 900m long pebbles beach, which unfolds at the foot of the white chalk cliff, turns into a sandy beach at low tide.
Mers-les-Bains was officially classified as ‘seaside resort and tourist resort’ in 2009.
Finally, it was then granted the label station verte de vacances – green holiday resort in 2011, and the label of ville ludique et sportive – fun and sporty city in 2011.
Department of Somme – Picardie region
Coordinates: Lat 50.066072 – Long 1.389287