FEATURED in ALPHABET SOUP, in THE BEST OF REDBUBBLE, in NAUTICAL, in 60 AND BEYOND and in HARBOUR LIFE
The slate covered houses along Quai Ste-Catherine on the west side of the Old Harbor in Honfleur
The first written mention of Honfleur is a reference by Richard III, duke of Normandy, in 1027. By the middle of the 12th century, the city represented a significant transit point for goods from Rouen to England.
Located on the estuary of one of the principal rivers of France with a safe harbour and relatively rich hinterland, Honfleur profited from its strategic position from the start of the Hundred Years’ War. The town’s defences were strengthened by Charles V in order to protect the estuary of the Seine from attacks from the English. This was supported by the nearby port of Harfleur. However, Honfleur was taken and occupied by the English in 1357 and from 1419 to 1450. When under French control, raiding parties often set out from the port to ransack the English coasts, including partially destroying the town of Sandwich, in Kent, England, in the 1450s.
At the end of the Hundred Years’ War, Honfleur benefited from the boom in maritime trade until the end of the 18th century. Trade was disturbed during the wars of religion in the 16th century. The port saw the departure of a number of explorers, in particular in 1503 of Binot Paulmierde Gonneville to the coasts of Brazil. In 1506, Honfleurais Jean Denis departed for Newfoundland island and the mouth of the Saint Lawrence. An expedition in 1608, organised by Samuel de Champlain, founded the city of Quebec in modern day Canada.
After 1608, Honfleur thrived on trade with Canada, the West Indies, the African coasts and the Azores. As a result the town became one of the five principal ports for the slave trade in France.
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