TOURISME La Ferté-Bernard
between MAINE & PERCHE

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A brief History

The district of the Huisnes river Valley with 33 small towns and villages ( Communauté de Communes de l’Huisne sarthoise ) starts from the Perche region up to the Huisne river valley and  has an interesting past .

Back to the Acheulean period ( -300 000 to –  160 000 before JC)  men were hunting and gathering fruits and berries.

  In Grez sur Roc, dating back to – 5000 before JC, settlements have been discovered and carefully studied some years ago. The Neolithic period left important traces like a dolmen (long and heavy stone on 2-4 standing stones as pillars) in Vouvray s/Huisne and some menhirs (high and heavy standing stones) in Duneau.

Gallo- roman settlements have been found and dug out in Sceaux s/Huisne and St Jean des Echelles. 

Villages have definitely been settled during the Middle Ages (from 600 to 1200 after JC). The present landscape with fields and meadows closed by hedges you may see during your trip is coming from the clearings of forests and bushes and from the breeding of cattle during this time.

Kings of France and England contested this region. Famous meetings took place, like that between Thomas Beckett and Henri II Plantagenêt in Montmirail in 1168.  In 1189 that between Philippe August and Henri II.

 In the forest around Le Mans, Charles the VI th , King of France , already prone to lunacy,  had a raving madness in 1393 when chasing the Lord of La Ferté Bernard.

In 1490, this region came back to the French Crown thanks to the help of the small towns like La Ferté Bernard.  With the end of the Hundred Years War starts the very expansion of this region. Cattle coming from Poitiers is bred in our region and sent to Paris where people are more and more found of meat.

A significant part of the population grows heap for cloths and sails for ships as well. Villages and towns build walls, some abbeys like in Tuffe are attracting again.

All along the years,  when life got safer ,mansions, castles and manors are  built, the population increased , churches were getting bigger like the church Notre Dame des Marais  in La Ferté Bernard ,an example of the  religious architecture by that time .

 From ca 1500 on, houses and churches are built following the new Renaissance style.

During the French Revolution the so called “Big Fear” spread out in this region as well.

 The  Big Fear ( la Grande Peur ) was the result of the turmoil generated by the Bastille Day  on July 14th 1789 .All over France,  from July to August the same year, in towns and villages people feared that foreign monarchies with the help of a part of the French nobility would attack France . Enemy was supposed to be everywhere; people took up arms, gossips led to a neurosis. Populace damaged, set in fire or destroyed castles as the symbol of the monarchy and the power.

 During the French Revolution the republican army fought furiously against the vanguards of the catholic armies from la Vendee, a western part of France, close to Britany.

The   bulky Percherons horses, famous for their strength, are bred here and then sent to Paris for heavy transports (wine barrels, stones …)

Industries and transport (trains) are getting more modern from the first decades of the XIXth century.

Paper mills are popping up along the Huisne river and later electricity will be used by local people.

In 1870-1871 during the war against Germany, battles took place around, during WW1 military hospitals took care and treated injured soldiers; during WWII Jewish children were protected.

After the Normandy landings in June 1944, French and US armies drove through La Ferté Bernard to Paris.

After WWII, the food industry grew very fast because the vicinity of Paris easily reached by train or by the highway.( 160 km.)

The textile industry, very active during the Middle Ages gave place to other opportunities for subcontractors in various industries: cars, aircraft, robots, electronics,  joinery and luxury goods.

 

Text by : François Xavier DUCELLIER – President of Perche Sarthois Society – https://paysfertois.pagesperso-orange.fr/

Translated by : François MARIANNI

 

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