1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Manche

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

MANCHE, a department of north-western France, made up chiefly of the Cotentin and the Avranchin districts of Normandy, and bounded W., N. and N.E. by the English Channel (Fr. La Manche), from which it derives its name, E. by the department of Calvados, S.E. by Orne, S. by Mayenne and Ille-et-Vilaine. Pop. (1906), 487,443. Area, 2475 sq. m.

The department is traversed from south to north by a range of hills, in many parts picturesque, and connected in the south with those of Maine and Brittany. In the country round Mortain, which has been called the Switzerland of Normandy, they rise to a height of 1200 ft. The coast-line, running northward along the bay of the Seine from the rocks of Grand Camp to Cape Barfleur, thence westward to Cape la Hague, and finally southward to the Bay of Mont St Michel, has a length of 200 miles. The Vire and the Taute (which near the small port of Carentan receives the Ouve as a tributary on the left) fall into the sea at the Calvados border, and are united by a canal some miles above their mouths. From the mouth of the Taute a low beach runs to the port of St Vaast-la-Hougue, where the coast becomes rocky, with sandbanks. Off St Vaast lies the fortified island of Tatihow, with the laboratory of marine zoology of the Natural History Museum of Paris. Between Cape Barfleur and Cape la Hague lie the roads of Cherbourg, protected by the famous breakwater. The whole western coast is inhospitable; its small havens, lying behind formidable barriers and reefs, are almost dry at low tide. Great cliffs, such as the points of Jobourg (420 ft. high) and Flamanville, alternate with long strands, such as that which extends for 30 m. from Cape Carteret to Granville. Between this coast and the Channel Islands the tide, pent up between numerous sandbanks, flows with a terrific force that has given these passages such ill-omened names as Passage de la Déroute and the like. The only important harbours are Granville and the haven of refuge of Diélette between Granville and Cherbourg. Carteret carries on a passenger traffic with the Channel Islands. The chief stream is the Sienne, with its tributary the Soulle flowing by Coutances. South of Granville the sands of St Pair are the commencement of the great bay of Mont Saint Michel, whose area of 60,000 acres was covered with forest till the terrible tide of the year 709. The equinoctial tides reach a vertical height of nearly 50 ft. In the bay the picturesque walls of the abbey rise from the summit of a rock 400 ft. high. The Sée, which waters Avranches, and the Couesnon (separating Manche from Ille-et-Vilaine) disembogue in the bay.

The climate of Manche is mild and humid, from its propinquity to the sea. Frosts are never severe; myrtles and fuchsias flourish in the open air. Excessive heat is also unusual; the predominant winds are south-west.

The characteristic industry of the department is the rearing of horses and cattle, carried on especially in the rich meadow of the eastern Cotentin; sheep are raised in the western arrondissement of Coutances. Wheat, buckwheat, barley and oats are the chief cereals cultivated. Manche is one of the foremost departments for the production of cider-apples and pears; plums and figs are also largely grown. Butter is an important source of profit, as also are poultry and eggs. Flourishing market-gardens are found in the west. The department contains valuable granite quarries in the Cherbourg arrondissement and the Chausey islands; building and other stone is quarried.

Villedieu manufactures copper-ware and Sourdeval iron and other metal-ware; and there are wool-spinning mills, paper-works and leather-works, but the department as a whole is industrially unimportant. There are oyster-beds on the coast (St Vaast, &c.), and the maritime population, besides fishing for herring, mackerel, lobsters or sole, collect seaweed for agricultural use. Coutances is the seat of a bishopric of the province of Rouen. The department forms part of the region of the X. army corps and of the circumscriptions of the académie (educational division) and appeal-court of Caen. Cherbourg (q.v.), with its important port, arsenal and shipbuilding yards, is the chief centre of population. St Lô (q.v.) is the capital; there are six arrondissements (St Lô, Avranches, Cherbourg, Coutances, Mortain, Valognes), with 48 cantons and 647 communes. Avranches, Mortain, Coutances, Granville and Mont Saint Michel receive separate treatment. At Lessay and St Sauveur-le-Vicomte there are the remains of ancient Benedictine abbeys, and Torigni-sur-Vire and Tourlaville (close to Cherbourg) have interesting châteaux of the 16th century. Valognes, which in the 17th and 18th centuries posed as a provincial centre of culture, has a church (15th, 16th and 17th centuries) remarkable for its dome, the only one of Gothic architecture in France.