Dieppe – an ancient fishing port of Normandy

Located as a fishing and channel port at the mouth of the river Arques flowing into the Manche, Dieppe sustains a regular ferry crossing to the port of Newhaven in England. Dieppe is located along the Alabaster Coast of Normandy.

Dieppe fishing portDieppe is a good place to visit and take a stroll through on a warm and sunny day. It is famous for its scallops, rests alongside a very popular pebbled beach and is home to some great and ancient examples of fine architecture. Visitors can search out the churches of Saint-Jacques and Saint-Remi and visit the old and robust 15th century castle just behind the shoreline.

The town of Dieppe first came into existence in 1030. The small fishing port was a strategic target during the hundred year’s war with the English. Dieppe also became the home of the great French school of cartography and navigation in the 16th century. This institution educated two of France’s best seaman, Michel le Vasseur and his brother Thomas. They both pioneered early sea expeditions to the New World.

The Second World War also pinpointed Dieppe as a principal place of defence by the German army. They saw it as a possible point of invasion by Allied forces. During the summer of 1942, Dieppe was invaded by a company of mainly Canadian soldiers. Their intention was to principally gain some intelligence and lure the Luftwaffe into open battle. No major objectives were achieved and the Allied death toll was large with the deaths or capture of more than 3000, mostly Canadian, soldiers. There has always been a strong association with the Canadian and French people throughout history and the shared culture remains very poignant to this day.

Chateau de DieppeThe great castle, Chateau de Dieppe, preserves the strong international connection. Today it can be visited as a museum and presents a solid sense of Ocean crossing, sailing ships and sea navigation. The museum also displays a large collection of ivory carvings and folding fans, a speciality of Dieppe. These objects were created by sailors at sea during the great days of world discovery. The interior courtyard in the chateau is a place of great beauty to admire as well.

In a park close to the chateau at the western end of the Esplanade rests the Square du Canada. This was erected by the French people to remind visitors of the great connection between the French and Canadians. At the base of the primary monument is a plate inscribed with the words ‘Nous nous souvenons’. ‘We remember’. Above the plaque flies the Maple Leaf flag of Canada alongside the French Tricolour.

Normandy Alabaster CoastThe Normandy Alabaster Coast has always attracted the attention of many of the great impressionist artists and Dieppe was a visiting location for a number of them. Painters like Monet, Renoir and Sisley often came to stay and some remained for many weeks.

The seafront promenade presents an excellent view of the wide sea to the north and the town layout to the south. There are many of the English style ice cream stalls and souvenir shops, children’s amusements and café vans. The heavily pebbled beach is easy to walk across and can be very refreshing on a breezy day.

Dieppe remains an active fishing port and the town frontage presents itself as a seaside resort. It is easy to just gaze upon the lively activities going on and the architectural features. It is important also to reflect on the often war-like past and Dieppe’s navigational substance going back in time more than a thousand years.

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Bob Lyons

Retired airline pilot and European explorer

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