History

A long story

Granville owes its name to its first occupiers after the Vikings: the Grant family.
William the Conqueror asked for their help in 1066 and, in return for their loyalty during the conquest of Great Britain, granted them lands.
In 1230, having no male descendants, the Grant family became allied to the Lord of Argouges (of Gratot, near Coutances) who himself never lived in Granville.

In the 14th century, the English  conquered Normandy except for the Mont Saint-Michel which they tried nevertheless to invest from the port of Genêts.
By 1410, Genêts was not safe enoughand in 1439, Sir Thomas Scalles discovered Roque de Lihou - Granville's first name. He bought it from Jean d' Argouges and built a strengthened rempart. He also had a trench dug, in the heart of the cliff, seven meters wide by eighteen meters deep with a twenty-metre base so that the rising flow from the North joined the Bosc River and the sea on the south side.

In 1442, the defenders of the Mont Saint-Michel took the bastion and repelled the English people for good. Charles 7th, king of France, having understood Granville's strategic interest, decided to fortify the city and signed in 1445 a charter granting a coat of arms and exempting the inhabitants from taxes.

Granville's first blazon granted by Charles 8th in 1487

Granville's plan according to Cassini

Statue of Georges-René Pléville Le Pelley

In 1492, the Jews chased from Spain, arrived at Granville. Forbidden to live within the city, they settled down in the suburbs where they acquired the right to trade as silversmiths and money-lenders. It is in particular thanks to this activity that the Granville fleet developed. From 1450, fishing-boats from Granville and the surrounding area began to fish in Newfoundland, Canada.

In the course of centuries, Granville became an important cod-fishing port. Under the reign of Louis 14th, boats also had the right to be equipped for military privateering. Granville counted 70 to 80 ships and gave 15 admirals to the country such as the famous “privateer with a wooden leg” Pléville le Pelley.


Under the reign of Louis 13th, the fortifications were modified to fit with the progress of the artillery. The Eastern doorwas also moved southward. It is the current Main entrance, protected on its left by the " Bastion de l’œuvre ".

Flat of Granville

Historically, the socio-economic development of Granville was closely linked to its sea-front: from the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century, Granville was an important cod-fishing port sending each year 110 sailing boats around Newfoundland, and vying with Saint-Malo for the title of leading French most important port.

In the Haute Ville, historic centre of the city, are the mansions that were the main residences of the rich ship owners of Granville.

The “Bisquine”, a handsomely-rigged sailing ship, was designed as a dredger, and used on the beds of the wild-oysters, the “pied de cheval” (horse’s hoof) in the Mont Saint-Michel’s Bay.

The decline of in-deep sea fishing began with the early development of tourism and coastal resorts. From the mid 19th century, the “bathing season” attracted increasing number of summer visitors.

The construction of the Paris/Granville railway, during the 2nd Empire, encouraged the inflow of tourists to board on the “pleasure trains”.

Granville's Port at the beginning of the 19th century

The beach of the "Plat Gousset" at the beginning of the 20th century

For three months every year, Granville was transformed into an elegant quarter of Paris. Urbanisation based on the architecture of the seaside and given impetus by some great Parisian architects, gave the city of Granville its present layout: the Casino, built in 1911 is a listed historic monument, the “Hôtel de l’Ermitage” in Donville-les-Bains and villas such as “Les Rhumbs” (which was bought in 1906 by Louis Dior, the couturier’s father), were built at the same period. In 1912, the Granville golf course, one of the only true golf-links in the Atlantic Arc, was built by the greatest pre war golf-course designer.

View on the district Saint Paul

Granville is still developing its seafront: its marina built in 1975 offers 1 000 berths and 700 more are envisaged in the future. Its fishing port, leading port in France for shellfish, is home to more than 60 trawlers and all-purpose boats.

The marina (at the bottom to the left). In the foreground and from left to right, the commercial harbour and the outer harbour.

Almost 155 000 tons of gravel and scrap metal are exported yearly from the Commercial Port. Every year in the first weekend of August, this activity that is inherent to Granville is celebrated during the Nuit des Soudeurs: welder artists and craftsmen occupy the trading port’s quays for one night to draw inspiration from the scraps of iron and materials amassed there and shape them… An average of 160 000 passengers depart from Granville to reach the Chausey archipelago and its coastal area, or the Channel Islands via a daily link to Jersey for instance.

Free large-scale events are organized on a regular basis from February to October: from Carnaval, which is famous for its spontaneity and its good-natured satirical spirit, to Toute la mer sur un plateau – which puts seafood in the spotlight – to the street arts festival – Les Sorties de Bain, La Nuit des Soudeurs, etc. Boasting a highly attractive cultural policy and an exceptional architectural and natural heritage, the City of Granville is applying to obtain the Ville et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire label. The town council is currently compiling the cultural and heritage actions that the city has undertaken. This is an application prerequisite.