The scenic French village and its unusual claim to fame

Jane Hanks heads to Veules-les-Roses, in Seine Maritime, which boasts an unusual claim to French fame. One for future quizzes...

17 August 2020
A view of the sea in Veules-les-Roses, Seine Maritime, France.Connexion explores the history of Veules-les-Roses, Seine-Maritime. VLR-PLAGES-(c).Grégoire AUGER.
By Jane Hanks

Secret history of buildings

Veules-les-Roses, Seine-Maritime, is a pretty coastal village with 600 inhabitants. It is famous for having the shortest fleuve in France. A fleuve is defined as a water course from spring to sea, and the Veules is just 1km 149metres long – starting and ending in the village.

It is thought the name Veules comes from the old Saxon word for ‘a well’.

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The river and the sea have played an important part in the village’s history as it was originally a fishing port and at one time there were eleven mills on the river producing flour and rapeseed oil and grinding flax to be made into linen for the local weaving trade. Today just four mills remain.

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A French Kent

Francelina Ferreira from the Côte d’Albâtre tourist office takes people on guided tours and says it is a picture postcard village: “It sounds like a cliché but it is true as the thatched houses are very pretty with their walls in brick, sandstone and flint collected from the beach.” It is similar to the villages of Kent.

Originally it was called Veules-en-Caux but in 1897 the mayor decided to change the name as there were so many other villages with Caux in the title. He chose Roses as an alternative and gave every householder a rose plant. Houses are still characterised by the rambling roses climbing up their walls.

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In June every year there is the Rose en Fête Festival where growers come from all over France. Due to Coronavirus it will be held in September this year. The newly named Veules-les-Roses was a popular seaside resort and it became the favourite place for a number of French writers and actors.

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A romantic and creative history

In 1826, the Comédie Française actress, Anaïs Aubert, came to live in the village to flee an unhappy love affair. She spread the word and other Parisians came, most famously, Victor Hugo: “He stayed with his best friend Paul Meurice, who was a well-known dramatist with a house overlooking the sea. Victor Hugo came three times towards the end of his life and each time he stayed for several months. He is above all remembered for the banquet he held for one hundred of the poorest children in the village in 1882."

"He organised a tombola with a prize for each ticket so all the children went home with a present and there were fireworks. He made use of the occasion to remind parents that school, which had just been made obligatory was a good idea.”

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The main street in the village is named Rue Victor Hugo. During its history plague, war, and storms often diminished the population.

In the Wars of Religion the population was divided and the split was visually evident by the women’s clothes. Catholics wore red and Protestants blue. Prosperity returned with peace and expanded during the 19th century with the beginnings of tourism.

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The village was marked once again by war when much of the seafront was destroyed during the Second World War. It means one half of the village has 20th century buildings, whilst the heart of the village, away from the sea which remained untouched has kept its old world charm with its villas, fishermen and weavers’ homes. It is classified as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France.

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