1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gravelines

GRAVELINES (Flem. Gravelinghe), a fortified seaport town of northern France, in the department of Nord and arrondissement of Dunkirk, 15 m. S.W. of Dunkirk on the railway to Calais. Pop. (1906) town, 1858; commune, 6284. Gravelines is situated on the Aa, 11/4 m. from its mouth in the North Sea. It is surrounded by a double circuit of ramparts and by a tidal moat. The river is canalized and opens out beneath the fortifications into a floating basin. The situation of the port is one of the best in France on the North Sea, though its trade has suffered owing to the nearness of Calais and Dunkirk and the silting up of the channel to the sea. It is a centre for the cod and herring fisheries. Imports consist chiefly of timber from Northern Europe and coal from England, to which eggs and fruit are exported. Gravelines has paper-manufactories, sugar-works, fish-curing works, salt-refineries, chicory-roasting factories, a cannery for preserved peas and other vegetables and an important timber-yard. The harbour is accessible to vessels drawing 18 ft. at high tides. The greater part of the population of the commune of Gravelines dwells in the maritime quarter of Petit-Fort-Philippe at the mouth of the Aa, and in the village of Les Huttes (to the east of the town), which is inhabited by the fisher-folk.

The canalization of the Aa by a count of Flanders about the middle of the 12th century led to the foundation of Gravelines (grave-linghe, meaning “count’s canal.”). In 1558 it was the scene of the signal victory of the Spaniards under the count of Egmont over the French. It finally passed from the Spaniards to the French by the treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659.