The presence on the Cauchois Coast of the town of Fecamp is attested from 875 under the name "super fluvium fiscannum". It will become "Fiscannus" from 990, then slowly drift towards the current appellation.
The existence of Fecamp is linked to two important historical parameters : fishing to feed men and the Viking invasions. But these are far from being the only milestones in the history of this city.
Fecamp - Feeding men :
Fecamp is irrigated by the Ganzeville and the Valmont, the first flowing into the second, at the mouth of which is the fishing port of Fecamp.
Fishing has therefore been one of the main activities of the town of Fecamp for centuries. Without however succeeding in competing with Granville, another Norman port, which has always been and still is THE supply port for the capital, Paris. But when Granville is able to supply almost without exception all the products from the sea, there is one in particular on which Granville had trouble with the future Norman capital that Fecamp would become, it is the cod caught in the waters from Newfoundland.
Signposted "straight" at the exit of the dikes of the port of Fecamp, the waters of Newfoundland made the prosperity of the city of Fecamp, the port of Fecamp even having its own shipyard whose main activity was building of "Terres-Neuviers", a sailing ship designed to spend several months at sea with dozens of sailors on board. Heavy at the start because loaded with salt, these sailboats were also heavy on the way back.
Fecamp - City of Women :
Once caught, the cod was salted and stored in the bowels of the vessel until the bunkers were full and sounded "time to go home".
These cod fishing campaigns lasting several months a year have earned Fecamp its nickname "City of Women".
Indeed, the port of Fecamp armed up to 73 tall ships Terre-Neuviers in 1903, a golden age of cod fishing which will allow Fecamp to supplant Granville on this product only. In the space of 10 days, 2,600 men left the city ! ! For an average duration of 6 months.
Source : Boutmenteux
Cod fishing will keep Fecamp alive from the 16th century until the end of the 70s. The arrival of steam engines, but above all the arrival of diesel engines (after World War II), kills sailing ships. And by the same way signal the end of the "Chantiers Navals de Normandie" ("Shipyards of Normandy"). This industrialization of cod fishing led to a slow agony of this activity by the scarcity of the resource exploited without any limitation, which led in 1987 to the unilateral decision of Canada to prohibit fishing by foreign vessels in its waters.
This decision will have serious economic consequences for the city of Fecamp, which will then enter an economically difficult period with an unemployment rate higher than the national average for almost two decades. At the dawn of the 2000s, Fecamp will take the turn of water sports and tourist activities, in order to write new pages for its port and maritime history.
From that time, there is not much left today except:
- the frame of the Gothic hall of the Benedictine palace, frame built by the carpenters of the city's shipyard,
- two schooners of the French Navy and the only Terre-Neuvier still alive, the last survivors of this period and built in Fecamp: the Belle-Poule and L'Etoile for the French Navy and the Marite (the last living Newfoundlander fishing vessel to have known the heyday of Fecamp).
If the two schooners of the French Navy were entirely built in Fecamp, the Newfoundland ship Marité was bought bareboat from a shipyard in Paimpol by a shipowner from Fecamp who had her transferred to the Chantiers Navals de Normandie. He had it fitted out for fishing, that is to say capable of carrying 25 crew members (and the Doris that go with it) and he had it rigged accordingly by the Fecamp shipyards. The ship was delivered to its owner a year later, on .
At the start of the 2010s, there was an attempt to revive the Fecamp shipyard which did not meet with the expected success, while the initial idea of the project was to take advantage of the expected rise in power on the share of the waterway to green land transport, since more than 80% dominated by road. The French naval architect Lebefaude with twenty years of experience and working daily with small Polish shipyards thought to produce an increasing quantity of river barges at the Fecamp shipyard. But greening land transport is still a pious idea, even in 2020 and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This test ended in 2016. The remains of the shipyard are therefore slowly but surely being erased from the Fecamp port landscape (see below). Still hypothesizing a little more a return of shipbuilding to the city of Terres-Neuviers.
Source : Geoportail (5) and Google Maps (2)
If deep-sea fishing from Fecamp is now a thing of the past, there remains a modest coastal fishing activity. In the products of coastal fishing, there is the herring that has always been fished in Fecamp and around which crystallizes AND the nostalgia for the past as a deep-sea fishing port that the elders still have in mind AND the folklore of the celebrations surrounding this seasonal product of fishing. "Folklore" that we find from Etretat to Le Treport via Fecamp, these three coastal towns being historically fishing villages, before each taking their own path.
Photo Montage : Tours-in-Normandy.fr