1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Harfleur

HARFLEUR, a port of France in the department of Seine-Inférieure, about 6 m. E. of Havre by rail. Pop. (1906) 2864. It lies in the fertile valley of the Lézarde, at the foot of wooded hills not far from the north bank of the estuary of the Seine. The port, which had been rendered almost inaccessible owing to the deposits of the Lézarde, again became available on the opening of the Tancarville canal (1887) connecting it with the port of Havre and with the Seine. Vessels drawing 18 ft. can moor alongside the quays of the new port, which is on a branch of the canal, has some trade in coal and timber, and carries on fishing. The church of St Martin is the most remarkable building in the town, and its lofty stone steeple forms a landmark for the pilots of the river. It dates from the 15th and 16th centuries, but the great portal is the work of the 17th, and the whole has undergone modern restoration. Of the old castle there are only insignificant ruins, near which, in a fine park, stands the present castle, a building of the 17th century. The old ramparts of the town are now replaced by manufactories, and the fosses are transformed into vegetable gardens. There is a statue of Jean de Grouchy, lord of Montérollier, under whose leadership the English were expelled from the town in 1435. The industries include distilling, metal founding and the manufacture of oil and grease.

Harfleur is identified with Caracotinum, the principal port of the ancient Calates. In the middle ages, when its name, Herosfloth, Harofluet or Hareflot, was still sufficiently uncorrupted to indicate its Norman derivation, it was the principal seaport of north-western France. In 1415 it was captured by Henry V. of England, but when in 1435 the people of the district of Caux rose against the English, 104 of the inhabitants opened the gates of the town to the insurgents, and thus got rid of the foreign yoke. The memory of the deed was long perpetuated by the bells of St Martin’s tolling 104 strokes. Between 1445 and 1449 the English were again in possession; but the town was recovered for the French by Dunois. In the 16th century the port began to dwindle in importance owing to the silting up of the Seine estuary and the rise of Havre. In 1562 the Huguenots put Harfleur to pillage, and its registers and charters perished in the confusion; but its privileges were restored by Charles IX. in 1568, and it was not till 1710 that it was subjected to the “taille.”