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For other places with the same name, see Abbeville (disambiguation).
The belfry, entrance to the Boucher-de-Perthes Museum (fr)
The belfry, entrance to the Boucher-de-Perthes Museum (fr)
Coat of arms of Abbeville
Coat of arms
Abbeville is located in France
Coordinates: 50°06′21″N 1°50′09″E / 50.1058°N 01.8358°E / 50.1058; 01.8358Coordinates: 50°06′21″N 1°50′09″E / 50.1058°N 01.8358°E / 50.1058; 01.8358
Country France
Region Picardy
Department Somme
Arrondissement Abbeville
Canton Abbeville
 • Mayor (2014-2020) Nicolas Dumont
Area1 26.42 km2 (10.20 sq mi)
Population (2012)2 24,237
 • Density 920/km2 (2,400/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 80001 / 80100
Elevation 2–76 m (6.6–249.3 ft)
(avg. 8 m or 26 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Abbeville French pronunciation: [ab.vil] is a commune in the Somme department and in Picardie region in northern France.

It is one of the chef-lieus of the arrondissement of Somme, and on the River Somme. It was the capital of Ponthieu. Its inhabitants are called the Abbevillois.



A map of Abbeville and the surrounding communes

Abbeville is located on the Somme River, 20 km (12 mi) from its modern mouth in the English Channel. The majority of the town is located on the east bank of the Somme, as well as on an island.[1] It is located at the head of the Abbeville Canal, and is 45 km (28 mi) northwest of Amiens and approximately 200 kilometres (120 mi) from Paris. It is also 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) as the crow flies from the Bay of Somme (fr) and the English Channel. In the medieval period, it was the lowest crossing point on the Somme and it was nearby that Edward III's army crossed shortly before the Battle of Crécy in 1346.

Just halfway between Rouen and Lille, it is the historical capital of the County of Ponthieu and maritime Picardy.

Quarters, hamlets and localities[edit]


Abbeville railway station (1905 postcard)

Abbeville is served by trains on the line between Boulogne-sur-Mer and Amiens and between Calais and Paris. Abbeville was the southern terminus of the Réseau des Bains de Mer, the line to Dompierre-sur-Authie opened on 19 June 1892 and closed on 10 March 1947.

Abbeville is located just near the A16 autoroute, and is about 1:50 by car from Paris.


Demographic evolution[edit]

year population
1901 18,519
1906 18,971
1990 23,787[1]
2006 24,829


Abbeville manufactured textiles, and in particular, linens and tablecloths when the Van Robais family created la Manufacture Royale des Rames in 1665;[citation needed] however after the Edict of Nantes was revoked and the subsequent migration of Protestants away from the area, the cloth business succumbed.[2] Also affecting the economy of the town was the closure of the river port on the Somme River due to excessive silt.[2] It also has cordage factories, carpet factories, and spinning mills. Finally, it also fabricates locks, has breweries, and produces food and, until 2007, sugar,[1][3][better source needed][2]

Culture, festivals, sport and leisure[edit]

Abbeville in literature[edit]


The Romans occupied it and named it Abbatis Villa.[1][4]



Politics and administration[edit]

Abbeville was the capital of the former province of Ponthieu. Today, it is one of the three sub-prefectures of the Somme department.

St. Vulfran Collegiate Church

International relations[edit]

Abbeville is twinned with:



The name Abbeville has been adopted to name a category of paleolithic[1] stone tools. These stone tools are also known as handaxes. Various handaxes were found near Abbeville by Jacques Boucher de Perthes starting in 1838 and he was the first to describe the stones in detail, pointing out in the first publication of its kind, in 1846, that the stones were chipped deliberately by early man, so as to form a tool.[6] These stone tools which are some of the earliest found in Europe, were chipped on both sides so as to form a sharp edge, were known as Abbevillian handaxes or bifaces,[7] but recently the term 'abevillian' is becoming obsolete as the earlier form of stone tool, not found in Europe, is known as the Oldowan chopper. Some of these artifacts are displayed at the Musee Boucher-de-Perthes.[8]

A more refined and later version of handaxe production was found in the Abbeville/Somme River district. The more refined handaxe became known as the Acheulean industry, named after Saint-Acheul, today a suburb of Amiens.

It retained some importance into the Bronze Age.[1]

Middle Ages[edit]

Abbeville during the ninth century was part of the abbey of Saint-Riquier,[4][8] and was an important fort city responsible for the defense of the Somme. It had a charter granted to it in 1184.[1][8] Afterwards it was governed by the Counts of Ponthieu. Together with that county, it came into the possession of the Alençon and other French families, and afterwards into that of the House of Castile, from whom by marriage it fell in 1272 to King Edward I of England. French and English were its masters by turns till 1435 when, by the treaty of Arras, it was ceded to the Duke of Burgundy.

Early Modern era[edit]

In 1477 it was annexed by King Louis XI of France,[1] and was held by two illegitimate branches of the royal family in the 16th and 17th centuries, being in 1696 reunited to the crown. In 1514, the town saw the marriage of Louis XII of France to Mary Tudor, the daughter of Henry VII of England.[4][8] In 1685, it suffered a serious economic blow as the Edict of Nantes was rescinded and the Protestants, who were the majority of the skilled labor, left town. It never fully recovered from this exodus of talent.[1]

Abbeville was fairly important in the 18th century, when the Van Robais Royal Manufacture (one of the first major factories in France) brought great prosperity (but some class controversy) to the town. Voltaire, among others, wrote about it. He also wrote about a major incident of intolerance in which a young impoverished lord, the Chevalier de la Barre, was executed there for impiety (supposedly because he did not salute a procession for Corpus Christi, though the story is far more complex than that and revolves around a mutilated cross.)[citation needed]

19th and early 20th century[edit]

Abbeville was the birthplace of Rear Admiral Amédée Courbet (1827–85), whose victories on land and at sea made him a national hero during the Sino-French War (August 1884 to April 1885). Courbet died in June 1885, shortly after the end of the war, at Makung in the Pescadores Islands, and his body was brought back to France and buried in Abbeville on 1 September 1885 after a state funeral at Les Invalides a few days earlier. Abbeville's old Haymarket Square (Place du Marché-au-Blé) was renamed Place de l'Amiral Courbet in July 1885, shortly after the news of Courbet's death reached France, and an extravagant baroque statue of Courbet was erected in the middle of the square at the end of the nineteenth century. The statue was damaged in a devastating German bombing raid during World War II.[citation needed] It was an allied base during World War I.[4]

World War II[edit]

The German advance until 21 May 1940

On 12 September 1939 in Abbeville a conference took place in which France and the United Kingdom decided it was too late to send troops to help Poland in its fight against Germany. On 9 May 1940, authorities in Belgium arrested a number of both far right and far left activists and put them in custody of a French Army unit stationed near Abbeville. On 20 May, when the advancing German Army cut off the area (see following), a group of French soldiers carried out a massacre and killed a number of members of the right wing Verdinaso and Rexist Party and of the Belgian Communist Party. Altogether, twenty two suspects of varying political stripe were selected and executed without trial.

In the development of the 1940 Battle of France, the Germans had massed the bulk of their armoured force in Panzer Group von Kleist, which attacked through the comparatively unguarded sector of the Ardennes and achieved a breakthrough at Sedan with air support. The group raced to the coast of the English Channel at Abbeville, thus isolating (20 May 1940)[1] the British Expeditionary Force, Belgian Army, and some divisions of the French Army in northern France.[citation needed]

Charles de Gaulle (17–18 May 1940), then a colonel, launched a counterattack in the region of Laon (see the map) with 80 tanks to destroy the communication of the German armoured troops. His newly formed 4e Division cuirassée reached Montcornet, resulting in the Battle of Montcornet. Without support, the 4th DCR was forced to retreat. There was another counter-attack with the Battle of Abbeville. After Laon (24 May), de Gaulle was promoted to temporary general: On 28 May (...) the 4th DCR attacked twice to destroy a pocket captured by the enemy south of the Somme near Abbeville. The operation was successful, with over 400 prisoners taken and the entire pocket mopped up except for Abbeville (...) but in the second attack the 4th DCR failed to gain control of the city in the face of superior enemy numbers. [9] After five years - in September 1944 - Abbeville was liberated by Poles (Polish division of the Canadian Army) - First Armoured Division under General Maczek. World War II was not kind to the architecture of the town as the famous 17th-century Gothic Cathedral of St. Vulfran was nearly destroyed.[1] It, along with the town hall with its tower from the 13th century were saved, albeit damaged.[8]

Military life[edit]

Places and monuments[edit]

The Abbeville monument aux morts

The city was very picturesque until the early days of the Second World War when it was bombed mostly to rubble in one night by the Germans. The town overall is now mostly modern and rebuilt. Several of the town's attractions remain, including:

  • St. Vulfran's church, erected in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The original design was not completed. The nave has only two bays and the choir is insignificant. The façade is a magnificent specimen of the flamboyant Gothic style, flanked by two Gothic towers.
  • The Boucher de Perthes Museum, situated in the now unused bell tower is a tribute to Jacques Boucher de Crèvecœur de Perthes who also has a lycée named after him. The museum features artwork and artifacts from the 16th century onwards, along with other exhibitions that periodically change.
  • A monument aux morts with sculptural work by Louis-Henri Leclabart.
  • The church of the Holy Sepulchre situated in the heart of the old town centre is a gothic church erected during the 11th century. The stained glass was designed by Alfred Manessier (1911-1993) and was made in Chartres.
  • Southeast of the town is the Château de Bagatelle from the 18th century.[2]

Personalities linked to the commune[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Asimov, Isaac (1964). "Boucher De Crèvecœur de Perthes". Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology: The Living Stpries of More than 1000 Great Scientists from the Age of Greece to the Space Age. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc. LCCN 64016199. 
  • Canby, Courtlandt (1984). "Abbeville". Encyclopedia of Historic Places. I: A-L. New York, NY: Facts on File Publications. ISBN 0-87196-397-3. LCCN 80025121. 
  • Cohen, Saul B., ed. (1998). "Abbeville". The Columbia Gazetteer of the World. 1: A to G. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11040-5. LCCN 98071262. 
  • Darvill, Timothy, ed. (2008). "Abbeville, France". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-1995-3404-3. LCCN 2008279152. 
  • Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abbeville". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. ISBN 978-1-5933-9837-8. LCCN 2008934270. 
  • Van Valkenburg, Samuel (1997). "Abbeville". In Johnston, Bernard. Collier's Encyclopedia. I: A to Ameland (1st ed.). New York, NY: P. F. Collier. LCCN 96084127. 



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Van Valkenburg 1997, p. 8
  2. ^ a b c d Cohen 1998, p. 3
  3. ^ Anon 2007
  4. ^ a b c d Canby 1984, p. 2
  5. ^ Anon 2015
  6. ^ Asimov 1964, p. 223
  7. ^ Darvill 2008, p. 1
  8. ^ a b c d e Hoiberg 2010, p. 11
  9. ^ Anon 2014

External links[edit]