Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Le Havre

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HAVRE, Le (originally Havre de Grâce), a town of France, the second to Marseilles in importance as a seaport, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Seine-Inférieure, is situated on the north bank of the estuary of the Seine, 143 miles N.W. of Paris and 55 W. of Rouen by rail. The greater part of the town stands on a level plain, but from the heights on which Ingouville, since 1856 united to Havre, is situated, a charming and varied prospect is obtained. In the lower part of the town the streets run chiefly in straight lines, and they are grouped round the basins or docks, which communicate by lockgates and are placed so as to form a triangle entered from the Outer Port. The old fortifications surrounding the town were demolished in 1856, and it is now defended by forts erected on the heights of Ingouville and Sainte-Adresse. The principal street is the Rue de Paris, running from north to south in the centre of the town, and among the principal promenades may be mentioned the Boulevard de Strasbourg, the Place Louis XVI., and the Jetée du Nord, which terminates in a lighthouse. Havre possesses a tribunal of the first instance, a tribunal of commerce, an exchange and chamber of commerce, a chamber of agriculture, a hydrographic school, and a communal college. The principal buildings are the churches of Notre Dame and St Francis, the new Hôtel de Ville, the Musée, containing apartments for a library, and for art, antiquities, and natural history, and with statues in front of Bernardin de St Pierre and Casimir Delavigne, natives of Havre, by David Angers; the theatre, the clubhouse called the Cercle du Commerce, the new palace of justice, the marine arsenal, the town-house, the custom-house, and the Frascati bath-house. The docks are among the finest in the world, and consist of eight separate basins, which, with the late enlargement of the outer harbour, afford 150 acres of accommodation for vessels. The new entrance to the harbour has a width of 100 metres or 328 feet. Lines of rails have lately been laid along the docks. As these have absorbed much of the space on the quays, lading is frequently a slow and tedious process, but the completion of the lately projected harbour will afford all the facilities necessary in this respect. The completion of the proposed canal between Havre and the Seine near Tancarville would be a great commercial benefit to the port whose prosperity has, notwithstanding its advantages as the port of Paris, and its unsurpassed facilities for dock accommodation, been much hampered by the system of centralization, which has both retarded improvements and led to the levying of exorbitant shipping rates. Partly on this account, not only has France been unable to maintain the transit of goods for Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany, but even much of the traffic of its own northern and eastern provinces has been directed to Antwerp. The latter port is served by an abundant network of railroads and canals, while Havre has only one convenient railroad (that to Paris by Rouen), and the river Seine with its dangers and high tariff. The completion of the scheme for a railway over Montivilliers to Dieppe will afford partial remedy for this state of matters. In the extensive shipbuilding yards of Havre the finest vessels of France are built, and many are also built for other countries. The construction of two new dry-docks has lately been proposed, one of which is to afford accommodation for the largest Atlantic steamers. Havre is now fortified as a fleet station and harbour of war. The port has regular steam communication with London, Liverpool, Southampton, Dublin, Glasgow, Hull, Swansea, Bristol, Dunkirk, Brest, Cherbourg, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen, St Petersburg, Constantinople, West Indies, San Francisco, Vancouver Island, and New York. The total number of vessels which entered the port in 1878 was 6491 with a tonnage of 2,192,778, while 6458 cleared with a tonnage of 2,148,517. For the 5 years ending 1878 the average number of vessels that entered was 6041 with a tonnage of 1,841,265, the number that cleared 6006 with a tonnage of 1,818,189. The average annual value of exports and imports is about 2800 million francs. The trade of Havre with the United States is very large, and it has always retained its superiority in the importation of cotton, one-third of which, however, it imports from other countries than America. It is also the chief port for the exportation of French goods to the United States, and an important point of emigration. Besides cotton its principal imports are petroleum, coals, wheat, woollen, silk, flax, mohair and jute tissues, spices, sugar, coffee, hides, dyewoods, and building timber. The principal exports are various French manufactured cloths, leather, jewellery, agricultural and dairy produce, wine, brandy, and oil. Fishing is extensively prosecuted. Besides the various industries connected with shipbuilding, Havre possesses sugar-refining works, tobacco manufactories, iron foundries, salt works, breweries, vitriol works, and manufactures of faience, lace, silk, and paper. It is also much frequented for sea-bathing. The population in 1872 was 85,538, and in 1876 it was 85,407.

EB9 Havre.jpg

Plan of Havre.

1. Prison.

 5. Theatre.

 10. Church of Notre Dame.

 6. College.

 11. Musée.

3. Exchange.

 7. Marine Arsenal.

 12. Custom House.

4. Tribunal of Commerce

 8. Church of St Francis

 9. Courthouse.


Until 1516 Havre was only a fishing village possessing a chapel dedicated to Notre Dame de Grâce, to which it owes its original name Havre (or harbour) de Grâce. The building of the harbour was begun by Francis I. who gave the town the name of Franciscopolis. At the entrance to the harbour he erected a tower which served as a lighthouse for ships until it was demolished in 1862. The town in 1562 was delivered over to the keeping of Queen Elizabeth by the Prince de Condé, leader of the Huguenots, and the command of it was entrusted to Ambrose Dudley, earl of Warwick; but the English were expelled within a year, after a most obstinate siege, the progress of which was pressed forward by Charles IX. and his mother, Catherine de’ Medici, in person. The defences of the town were greatly strengthened by Henry II. and Louis XIII., and under Louis XIV. it became an important fortress. In the 17th century it was several times vainly besieged by the English, who also bombarded it in 1759, 1794, and 1795. It was a port of considerable importance as early as 1572, and despatched vessels to the whale and cod fishing at Spitsbergen and Newfoundland. In 1672 it became the entrepôt of the French East India Company, and afterwards of the Senegal and Guinea companies. Its development was greatly furthered by Louis XVI., and Napoleon I. raised it to a war harbour of the first rank. Havre is the birthplace of Bernardin de St Pierre, author of Paul and Virginia, Casimir Delavigne, Mademoiselle Scudéry, and the naturalists Ancelot and Lesueur.