Dieppe, France


Dieppe is a French commune located in the department of Seine-Maritime (of which it is the capital of the arrondissement) in the Normandy region. The inhabitants of the city of Dieppe are called the Dieppois.



Gallo-Roman period
In the Gallo-Roman era, the Camp de César or "City of Limes", located north of the current city of Dieppe, is a Gallo-Roman wall which attests to the oldest presence of human life in the Dieppe region. . A few rare remains of Gallic pottery or weapons bear witness to this still little-known period.

From Vikings to Dukes
In 910, the Vikings settled at the mouth of the Tella, a deep river that flows into the sea. They nickname it Djúpr "the deep" or Djúpá "the deep river". Fishermen sporadically occupy the site to fish for herring, but the real urban installations were in the land in Arques where a castle was built. The oldest mention of Dieppe dates back specifically to a charter of 1030 designating by name a small fishing port called Dieppe. During this period of the Middle Ages, within the feudal system, the locality belonged to the county of Talou.

The conquest of England by the Normans from 1066 gave all its importance to the small fishing port, then in the shadow of the city of Arques, for the development of cross-Channel relations. Dieppe is one of the ports on each side of the Channel that the Normans set out to equip and develop. On December 6, 1067, it was in particular from Dieppe that William the Conqueror re-embarked for Great Britain.

Still sparsely populated, Dieppe enjoyed increasing prosperity during the 12th century after Empress Mathilde gave an acre of land in Dieppe to her chamberlain to constitute a fiefdom. Dieppe then benefited from the close relations which were established between Normandy and England and a castle was built there in 1188 by Henri II Plantagenêt. However, in 1195, this castle was razed and the city burned down by the troops of the King of France Philippe-Auguste, at war against Richard the Lionheart, Duke of Normandy. Two years later, in 1197, the latter granted the lands of Dieppe to the archdiocese of Rouen but in 1204, after the fall of Château-Gaillard and the capture of Rouen, Dieppe and Normandy were annexed to the kingdom of France by Philippe-Auguste. By coming back under French control, the Dieppe site loses its advantageous position and the source of its prosperity based on relations between Normandy and England. The city itself struggles to recover from the incendiary passage of Philippe-Auguste.

The geography of the place allows access to the port at high tide and at low tide, in particular thanks to a natural dyke formed by pebbles (pebbles which were also used to build the foundations of houses in the city center; remains of old medieval houses are also visible thanks to the cellars preserved from the time). It is then an important port because it is the only one on the Normandy coast between Saint-Malo and Boulogne-sur-Mer accessible at low tide. The sailors of Dieppe trade with Scandinavia, Venice or even the Hansa.

Dieppe under the Capetians
At the start of the 14th century, the city of Dieppe had about 7,000 inhabitants and extended to the villages of Bouteilles and Pollet. If the houses built in stone are more numerous on the quays, the types of constructions are generally disparate but many are built on a stone flashing generally in sandstone and made of a wooden frame and a half-timbering filled with cob composed of 'clay and straw or dried hay.

During the Hundred Years War, Dieppe found itself at the heart of the conflict between France and England. It was not until 1300 that Dieppe regained its aspect of port city. In 1339, sailors and privateers from Dieppe took part in a victorious raid on Southampton. The city was also attacked by the Flemings, causing limited damage. In 1345, King Philippe de Valois, by letters patent, abolished the right of gabelle and granted the Dieppois some liberalities in trade. He especially authorizes the Dieppois to fortify the city.

In 1348, the Black Death struck the city, killing about a third of the population, or more than 2,000 people. The epidemic even became recurrent still striking the city at the beginning of the 1360s, in 1387, in 1408 and in 1438. The high mortality upset the urban landscape, many houses, finding themselves without inhabitants, fell into ruins giving way to land waves.


In 1358, if the fortified enclosure of Dieppe was not yet completed, the city had gates which were closed at night. In 1361, King John II the Good granted the people of Dieppe the right to levy taxes in order to finance the fortifications, ditches and other necessary works. In 1363, the king considered Dieppe to be a city henceforth difficult to take without sieging it.

Charles V the Wise grants new exemptions, privileges and other largesse that allow the city to take off. From 1364, Dieppe fishermen became navigators and set off far away to look for spices and ivory (the date of the first trip to Africa). Thus two large ships from Dieppe sail as far as present-day Cape Verde where they disembark and then sail along Guinea and set up a trading post which they call Petit-Dieppe at the mouth of the Rio Cestos on the coast of present-day Liberia. They will bring back some raw ivory and a bag. Navigators from Dieppe also founded La Mine, on the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) before the Hundred Years War interrupted Norman expeditions.

In 1394, the 2nd Dieppe Town Hall called "Maison de Ville" was built near the hillock of the place du moulin à vent, on which a stone sentry box was perched serving as a lighthouse to light up the entrance to the port (the hâble) located between the Tour aux crabes (a square tower 9.20 m side, 11.25 m high with walls 1.40 m thick) and the cliff of Pollet.

In 1420, following the Battle of Agincourt, Dieppe was occupied by the English who treated it as a rebellious city. They keep it for 15 years. In 1430, the city was notably the place of provisional detention of Joan of Arc before she was transferred to Rouen where she would be tried and burned at a stake.

Dieppe was finally liberated from the English occupation on October 28, 1435 when the city was taken over by the French under Captain Charles Desmarets (died in 1469) on behalf of Charles VII. Charles Desmarets (or Charles des Marets) endowed the city with large fortifications and undertook to build a new castle. However, 8 years later, in 1443, the English again besieged the city from Pollet. Dieppe resists Talbot's troops and definitively repels the attackers thanks to reinforcements brought in by Jean de Dunois, the bastard of Orleans, and by the Dauphin Louis, the future Louis XI.