Houlgate: Wikis


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Coordinates: 49°18′05″N 0°04′33″W / 49.3013888889°N 0.0758333333333°W / 49.3013888889; -0.0758333333333

Commune of Houlgate

Houlgate nouveau blason.png Houlgate ancien blason.png
Town logo
Houlgate is located in France
Country France
Region Basse Normandie
Department Calvados
Arrondissement Lisieux
Canton Dozulé
Intercommunality Estuaire de la Dives
Mayor Jean-Claude Pupin
Elevation 5 m (16 ft) avg.
Land area1 4.69 km2 (1.81 sq mi)
Population2 1,902  (2006)
 - Density 406 /km2 (1,050 /sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 14338/ 14510
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population sans doubles comptes: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Houlgate (formerly Beuzeval) is a commune in the Calvados département in the Basse-Normandie region of France. Its postal code is 14510.



Houlgate plan.png

Houlgate is located along the English Channel in the valley of the Drochon. The valley is mostly built up or used for animal grazing. The town's area is 4.69 km² and the average altitude 5 m. Despite its low average height, the town contains two hills which form the natural limits of the commune:

  • Butte de Houlgate 123 m
  • Butte de Caumont 103 m

The high parts of the town are covered by Houlgate's two woods: Le Bois de Boulogne on the Butte de Houlgate and Le Bois de la Butte de Caumont.

The Drochon

The Drochon as seen from the Rue Pasteur.

The douet (Normand variation of ruisseau or stream) Drochon (once spelt Drauchon) finds its name from the Germanic Drogo or Drogone. This stream, with an irregular flow, is formed by the confluence of at least ten lesser streams and brooks; The Mennetot, des Broches, Gonneville, Riqueville, Tolleville, the Pagné, Petiot, Désert and Bougon springs and the Bérézina.

Some of the springs and fountains of the Drochon's tributary are still subject to pilgrimage; the Saint-Laurent spring at Trousseauville is said to cure skin problems. One can see when visiting the site, discarded clothing. Pilgrims wet items of clothing and stroke their wounds and then offer the clothes as donation to the Saint.

The Drochon's estuary has always caused problems as sand accumulated. In 1880, the commune paid a labourer 135 a year to keep the river's bed clear and maintain the flow.

There were up to three mills, once the property of nobles or the Saint Etienne Abbey of Caen. The only mill still standing is the Moulin Landry which is privately owned. The village had one wash house built in 1885 which was restored in 1990 and still stands near the railway station.

Falaises des Vaches Noires

Falaises des Vaches Noires, summer 2004

To the East of Houlgate and below Auberville and West of Villers-sur-Mer lie the impressive wild site of the Falaises des Vaches Noires, the cliffs of the black cows. These cliffs are a wide fossile necropolis underneath which lay countless ammonites. The cliffs are slowly being eaten by the sea[1]. Areas of the cliffs have been nicknamed the desert, the chaos... The chaos is prone to landslides due to the sipping of water from the ground and down to the beach. The top layers of clay slowly sliding above the layers underneath, creating unique terrain.

The cliffs are made of three distinct layers; Callovian, lower Oxfordian and higher Oxfordian[1].

Bois de Boulogne

The first photographs of the Butte de Houlgate show a barren hill[2]. Quickly, the SCI planted trees. In 1928, the municipal council voted to create a picturesque zone to protect it from further building and maintain its character. This meant that the trees would be kept and would prevent future landslides. The plateau was from 1942 occupied by the Germans. They installed an artillery position with 155 mm cannons of French origin. The cannons were sunk in concrete and link to an important subterranean complex with food reserves and shelter. A Würzburg radar was installed to complete the installations. Beginning on the 26 April 1944 and up until the liberation, the site was heavily bombed and as a result was rased, this also resulted in the disappearance of all the conifers planted in the early 19th century. Since then, vegetation has grown back; sycamores, horse-chestnut and ash.

Butte de Caumont

The Butte de Caumont was originally an arid area. Caumont comes from Calvus-Mons Mont Chauve, Shaved Mount and was named as such in 1260[3]. In a charter written by Philip the Bold the hill is referred to as Chauve-Mont sur Dives.


Up until the last century, Beuzeval consisted of only a few small houses and farms, surrounded by small gardens with wild hedges dotted throughout the valley or on the hillsides. On the southern side of the stream was Le hameau de la mer, consisting of a few houses, a tile and brick manufacture and the picturesque water mill, the moulin Landry. In 1793, a mere 204 inhabitants live in the commune[4].

The sea was for a long time considered a danger and the local population lived further inland. Such can be seen by the old church of Beuzeval (now demolished), situated 3 kilometres inland.

Middle Ages

Houlgate was at first just a hamlet in the commune of Beuzeval. Beuzeval was part of the deanery of Beaumont and of the sergentery of Dives-sur-Mer.

Lords of Beuzeval

Coat of Arms of de Séran family
Blason de la famille de Séran.png
Escutcheon (English) Of blue with three golden crescents.
(French) D'azur à trois croissant d'or.

Saint-Aubin of Beuzeval was a very old parish and was part of the of fiefdom of the Aché (or Achey). There was a string of lords. With marriages, several families inherited the title; the Mailloc, de Saint-Laurens, de Morel, de Prémagny.

In 1066, Jean d'Aché is made lord of Beuzeval. In 1096, Eudes, the lord of Beuzeval is also made lord of Gonneville. In 1537, Marguerite Daché, lady of Beuzeval, married Jean Lebrun. In 1607, Thomas de Séran married Jeanne de Lesnerac and the lordship. The seigneurie went to Jacques de Séran, a protestant knight, in 1667.

François takes the title on in 1694. He is made Captain of the coast guards in Dives. With Marie Eléonore, they founde the Ecolettes which possessed a funding (rente) of £80 to pay for a teacher. The children of Beuzeval, in small numbers, was admitted to the school. This funding exited until the French revolution.

The de Morel family did not live in the Manoir de Beuzeval. Around 1720, Gaspard de Morel, knight, lord and sword general of the bailiwick of Caen, captain of the coast guards in Dives and High justice lord in Beuzeval. In 1724, his daughter, Anne de Morel married Jean Bart in Douville. Again in 1724, Gaspard de Morel sells his mill (then a privileged ownership) and two items of land to Pierre Pastey, a mill grinder.

The last family to hold the title was the des Boistard de Prémagny. Guillaume François, councillor to the king, lived in Rouen. He was squire, lord of Grangues and Vauville and sold land in Beuzeval. His daughter, Marie Françoise Delphine, married Pierre Armand de Saint-Philbert. Their son, Albéric de Saint-Philbert donated the field called le Clapier to build the current church of Saint-Aubin.

Little by little, the land of the Beuzeval was stripped and sold to rich farmers. The parish developed but was finally surpassed by Houlgate.

The old church of Saint Aubin in Beuzeval.


It all started on the south side of the river Drochon, between 1845 and 1850, the fashion of sea bathing came to Beuzeval. The Pilter family opened the first guesthouse for poorer protestant families in 1851 on Rue Sébastien-de-Neufville. A few tourists from Caen and then Paris started staying in Beuzeval for their holidays. With numbers of tourists increasing a wooden boarding house was built. The sea side village was named Beuzeval-les-Bains and attracted much Protestant gentry. After a decrease in population from 1806, it increased from the 1860s: 270 inhabitants en 1851, 345 in 1861, 515 in 1872 and 1 011 en 1881[4]. From the 1880s, the increased slowed.


During the 1870s was built the Kursaal[5][6], both a casino and baths, in Beuzeval-lès-Bains. It was built of wood on stilts and was situated between the William the Conqueror column and the PN83 level crossing. This complex of buildings, all in wooden planks, was built to carry two functions, a casino and baths as well as an entertainment centre for tourists. It was named the Kursaal, a word of Germanic origin, often translated in French and English as casino[6]. Unlike Houlgate casino, there were gambling tables. It filled its purpose of baths well, containing warm baths and guarded beach but never succeeded in becoming a bona-fide casino. It remained little more than a ball. The Kursall was demolished by the Germans in 1941[6].

Hôtel Imbert

Hôtel Imbert in spring 2005

In 1877 was built the Hôtel Imbert, Houlgate's second grand hôtel, in Beuzeval-les-Bains[7]. The hotel replaced the Mer-Imbert motel (Relais de l'hôtel de la Mer-Imbert) which had been built ten years earlier. In 1907, a rotunda was built, adding to the two wings. In 1921 a new wing to the building was built. The hotel was the most prestigious of Beuzeval-les-Bains and welcomed much rich Protestant gentry. Between 1914 and 1918, the Hôtel Imbert was requisitioned by the French Army's 3rd corp and used as a temporary military hospital. In 1928, the hotel was enlarged by the construction of a new level in the building's attic. Between 1939 and 1940 the hotel was once more used by the French army as a military hospital then occupied by the Germans[7]. After the liberation, the hotel's owners, the Laout family tried to re-open it. They refurbished bedrooms in groups of ten and opened a restaurant. Their efforts were hampered in 1956 when they closed the hotel. Like many other hotels in Houlgate, it was divided into flats.

Creation of Houlgate

The north bank of the Drochon, larger and flatter, was still undeveloped. A company, the Société de Construction Immobilière (S.C.I.) was formed 12 years later in 1858 with plans to develop that area of Beuzeval. Its goals were to build with method and according to an urban plan. The company was formed by three men, a financier, a lawyer and a member of Parliament. The SCI bought most of the land, divided it into properties, drew the lines for streets and built a wall protecting the developing town from the sea. Within a few years large villas (then called chalets) were built and the quality of build can be seen now as most of these proprieties still exist now and the few that have been destroyed were gone during the Second World War or by recent estate operations.

Grand Hôtel

In 1858, Aubin Albin Vergnile, an important financier and president of the Caisse Centrale de l'Industrie decided to build a large hotel in Beuzeval-Houlgate. The construction was led by the architect Baumier and the first part built included 120 bedrooms with terraces with view on the Channel. Each bedroom was different and luxurious. The building was completed with the construction of two towers and a rotunda.

In 1896, the hotel offered 350 bedrooms and had a large staff; more than 300. Stylish and varied, it had its own barber and hairdresser, ironing and dry cleaning services and even seamstresses. Life in this palace was rather monotonous despite the living rooms and even with its large dining room which could be transformed into a ballroom. Dinner was server early, usually around 18h and evenings usually ended at the casino. Guests accessed the casino by walking through a luxurious garden, now a mini golf.

In 1914, the hotel was requisitioned by the military authorities and was the main part of the temporary hospitals 23 and 24 of the Army 3rd corp. Numerous wounded were treated and healed but many are now laid in Beuzeval cemetery. In 1917, the number of wounded reduced and the order of derequisition was signed. The hotel resumed its main purpose but Houlgate's golden age had ended. The big fortunes present before the great war no long came but newly found fortunes and a new clientele permitted the hotel to continue business.

In 1939 the hotel was once more requisitioned not by the military authorities but by the SNCF divisional offices in Strasbourg. In 1940 the hotel falls into the hands of the Germans and in 1941, the hotel manager, worried for his wine collection, sold his most prized bottles.

After the war, the hotel tried to continue business but had to close. A short lived hotel opened in a portion of the Grand Hôtel building. Although no longer a hotel the building now divided into apartments is still a prominent figure in the town's skyline.

In 1860 the chapel of Notre-Dame de Houlgate was built. It replaced the old church which was situated too far inland and had become too small to accommodate the growing population. The first casino was then built: it was a wooden construction situated in front of the Grand Hotel.

Etablissement des Bains

After the construction and opening of the Grand Hôtel in 1859, was built the first casino and the grandly named Hydrotherapy baths which were managed by François Blanc. The baths aims were to monitor swimmers and to provide cabins. At the time, it was considered imperative to go to a hot bath once out of the sea to resume normal bodily functions (the minimum requirement was a foot bath). The establishment was not only open to swimmers but also to anyone who fancied a hot sea water bath. Tanks was filled and hauled by three percherons which went tummy height into the sea and hauled water back to the establishment for heating. Heating was done by a boiler, smoke was evacuated through a tall brick chimney. This fashion was short lived and was abandoned. The building, on the Rue des Bains was not destroyed during the bombings of 1944 but was demolished to make place to the current baths.

In 1905 the village took the name of Houlgate, name which comes from the hill situated to the north east of the coastal village[4].

Town hall

Houlgate town hall.

It was not until 1865 that the decision to build a town hall was made. The decision was made during a council meeting and also decided the construction of a boys school and part funding for a new church. Until then, the small municipal archives were kept by the mayor in office. At least some council meetings were held in some of the mayors' homes.[8] When deciding to build a town hall it was stipulated that one room should be used exclusively by a library. Once built, two rooms houses the post office for letters and telegraphs (which were relayed to the semaphore on top of the Butte de Houlgate). A superb mahogany desk was donated to the commune in 1875 and was once used by the council as a meeting table; it is now the mayor's desk. In 1880 was created a permanent post office organisation and it moved to its own premises in 1895. The town hall was modified several times such as the building of a village hall. In June 1897, the municipal council voted to cover the walls of the village hall and to buy 150 chairs at a cost of 5.60 each.[8] In 1980 the offices were extended, the council meeting room was extended, the vicarage was converted into a tourist office and its garden transformed into an open square.

At this time there were two distinct sea resorts. Beuzeval-les-Bains continued its development and in 1863 a hotel complex was built to house the Protestants coming to the sea side. A Protestant church was also built. Both villages grew independently.

Post office

In 1815, Dives-sur-Mer had its own stagecoach postal service with departures on Thursdays and Saturdays. There was not yet a post office in Beuzeval, post was transported from Beuzeval to Dives by stagecoaches and taxed. In 1829, the government reformed the postal services and imposes that every commune in France should have its own post office. Post is then delivered to homes and paid by another tax. Beuzeval-Houlgate's first sorting office was in the Villa Bourgeuil, now Avenue des Alliés (Avenue of the Allies), once called Avenue de la Poste (Post Avenue). In 1894, the council voted for the construction of a post office. It was to house postal and telegraphic services in the building still in use today next to the old boys school (now school canteen and kindergarten). Its architect was MR. Lewicki who also built several mansions on the sea front. The building was then extended to the back.

Arrival of the railway

Houlgate train station in winter 2008.

In 1882 the railway arrived in Houlgate, the station was built between both villages so as to accommodate both of them. The dreaded walk below the cliffs separating Dives-sur-Mer and Houlgate soon became history when the railway line was built along the south side of the estuary of the river Dives. Indeed the railway line was built on a retaining wall protecting it from the winter storms and protected a new road built behind it. The line was then only connected to Mézidon-Canon with train connection at Caen. Only a few years later, in 1884 the line to Villers-sur-Mer was finished, linking Houlgate to Paris (via Trouville-Deauville). It then took 4 hours by train to travel from the Paris Saint-Lazare in Paris and did not require a change of train.

Houlgate sea retainer wall in spring 2005

By 1898 with the village of Houlgate becoming larger and more important than its earlier Beuzeval-Les-Bains counterpart, the town was renamed Beuzeval-Houlgate. In 1905, the name changed again, reverting to Houlgate.

After the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and the First World War of 1914-1918, many luxurious houses, shops and small industries were built following the streets the SCI had once built. The Grand Hotel was enlarged in 1895 and a rotunda was built at the south west corner of the building. The post office then moved out of one of the town hall annexes to its new accommodation. A public school for girls and another one for boys were built in the vicinity. The Promenade was finished in 1911. The town then welcomed many celebrities and royalty.

Although the town had then lost its bipolar configuration, the catholic population preferred the north side of the town whereas the Protestant population visited the south side as proved by the Protestant Queen Ranavalo of Madagascar's visit to Beuzeval-Les-Bains and the visit of Queen Isabelle II of Spain to Houlgate's Grand Hotel.

World War I and the Années Folles

World War I war graves in Beuzeval cemetery.

Like all communes of France, Houlgate saw all called men leave the town on August 2 1914[9]. The French Army's 3rd corp created temporary hospitals 23 and 24 and requisitioned all hotels and some large villas. Houlgate was until 1918 a hospital town where local Houlgatais mingled with health services militaries, wounded from the front. All corps were represented; metropolitan soldiers, colonial and Belgium.

In 1917, Henri Larigauderie, wounded at war, opened Houlgate's first bar-tabac. He opened his establishment in a Norman chalet at n°39 of the Rue des Bains.

Tourist activities resumed timidly in 1917. Fortunes were lost and Houlgate never found the bustle it had experienced during the Belle Époque. The Versailles Treaty was signed on 26 June 1919 and the war ended. A month later, Mr Vaussin lodge a complaint with the département regarding the presence of wooden huts on the promenade. The sub-divisionary engineer declared the complaint legitimate but it appears nothing was done at the time since the tradition of erecting huts is still exercised during the summer season. In 1919, a storm erupted and severely damaged the promenade[10]. In 1921 was opened Houlgate's first mini golf. It was situated between the Villa Alcyon and the life guards' office near the temple. The golf comprises 18 holes and was transformed into a children's park shortly before the second world war, it is now the Place du 3ème Bataillon-du-Génie. At the bottom of the Avenue de la Poste (now Avenue des Alliés) was a small garage, it was demolished in the 1920s and a hotel of Norman architecture. The hotel was originally a bicycle repair shop. A few years later a little bazaar was built. The Bazar de la Place still exists in its original form.

Houlgate was supplied with electricity from 1911 and on 4 September 1927 was inaugurated a new water pump on the Auberville plateau. Its purpose was to elevate the water from Heuland at 89 m to La Mare aux Poids at 145 m, fresh water then fell towards the Tournebride and Boulogne reservoirs in Houlgate[11]. The inauguration was accompanied by a banquet. A plaque is still present in the building in Heuland to commemorate its construction.

In 1933, an Alsatian named Laurent Laemlé, created a beach club called the Neptune Club[12] and installed a portico near the casino and quickly opened another one near the Kursaal. At the dawn of war, he possessed two sites. In 1946 he resumed his work from the casino site only. In 1953 he began operating the Etablissement des Bains. He retired in 1984 and the Neptune Club was taken over by his stepdaughter.

Twenty years after the end of World War I, rumours of another conflict worried the inhabitants. These worried were accentuated with possibilities that the Grand Hôtel might close. Despite fear of war, tourists were still present in July 1939 but the season ended at the beginning of World War II.

World War II

On 3 September 1939, after twenty fragile years of peace, France declared war on Germany. During the first phase and until 1940 there was little fighting, fear of bombardments encouraged some to move to peaceful areas such as Houlgate and moved into their summer villas. The Alsatian SNCF offices moved to the Grand Hôtel, the employees were moved into inhabited villas. With the population increase, an annex of the Lycée Malherbe was opened.

With the surrender of France, Germans begun arriving in Houlgate, they stayed until 21 August 1944. During the first months of the war, soldiers were present in numbers, enjoying rest after a lightening strike. Their numbered reduced and from 1943 the Wehrmacht concentrated on the construction of the Atlantic Wall with the laying of barbed wire, concrete bunkers, anti-tank obstacles. The most important element of the Atlantic Wall in Houlgate was the installation of a 155 mm cannon and a radar on the Butte de Houlgate. These installations were the target of several aerial and naval attacks between the 26 April and 21 August 1944.

Shortly before the arrival of the German troops, the French authorities decided to destroy the large quantities of petrol stockpiled in the Port of Le Havre. A large fire lasting forty-eight hours followed and smoke plumes were seen from Houlgate. The smoke was so dense that inhabitants of the time described it as night time during the day. More smoke was to be seen in Le Havre from the beach but this was a result of aerial bombardment by the British air force. On 24 June 1944 a curfew was installed: no circulation in the streets between 10 pm and 4 am, this doesn't appear to have paused much constraint on the population. The curfew was extended to being from 19 pm following the derailing of a German rail convoy in Airan.

Operation Sunstar

On 22/23 November 1941, British Commandos led Operation Sunstar. Their objective was the Batterie de Tournebride on the Butte de Houlgate[13]. Ninety men of No.9 Commando travelled across the English Channel on the HMS Prince Leopold[14] and landed at the bottom of the Vaches Noires. The old ferry transported 4 Assault Landing Crafts which were used for the landing. 4 fast gun boats were used to provide cover.

The operation encountered difficulties and did not succeed in destroying the battery position despite being located. It did not succeed in making any prisoners either but precious information was collected. The commandos quickly left the scene and escaped on board their ALCs[15][16].

Despite being well engineered and equipped and having been led away from inhabited areas it was unsuccessful and unknown by local inhabitants.

Sale of wines

Houlgate Grand Hotel.

Upon their arrival in Houlgate, the Germans requisitioned many buildings in the town, including the large hotels. This was the case of the Grand Hôtel of which the large wine cellar had not been moved. In 1941, once the number of Wehrmacht staff had diminished, hotel management decided to discretely sell its wines.

Amateurs of fine wines were able to buy at reduced prices, one shopper purchased several dozens of bottles of white Bourgogne, including two bottles of Château Yquem, one of which was opened at the end of the War[13], the other bottle was subtly taken by an alcoholic washer woman.

During the landings and Operation Overlord, the curfew was extended to allow inhabitants to conduct shopping during two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. Only the health officers and passive defence agents were allowed to travel.

Compulsory Work Service

The Compulsory Work Service (S.T.O.) was a mandatory scheme in place between 1942 and 1944, several inhabitants did manage to avoid or escape enrolment. Other schemes were put in place to monitor and prevent further sabotage, following several derailment of trains around Houlgate and Beuzeval. One of these schemes was set up by the Wehrmarcht to monitor the destruction of telegraph poles. In 1943, due to fear of an allied landing in Normandy, the Germans began the construction of the Atlantic Wall. Volunteers were sought to build these fortifications within the population, despite relunctance to participate, the local population found solice in the pay and possibility to provide for their families. In addition to these, the local Kommandantur proceeded in the requisition of men and material. This was the case of the scheme which saw the installation of Rommelspargel. In likely landing spots for gliders and parachutists, the Germans emplaced slanted poles with sharpened tops. The scheme included the requisition of the town's fire service's water lances. To avoid digging holes to insert the poles, water was used. Such behaviour was unwise as it was witnessed when the Villa Gabrielle burnt down due to the unavailability of equipment to the fire services.

Notable Houlgate inhabitants S.T.O. volunteers include Henri Dobert.


The allies landed on the Western beaches of Calvados on 6 June 1944 and several reconnaissance flights were made over Houlgate during the following days. To increase their range, the fighters used during these flights were fitted extra petrol tanks. It is one of these tanks that dropped off and landed on Villa Gabrielle and burnt it down.

The force used during the landings was such that conventional German navy was incapable of pushing the allies back. The Germans created K (for kommando) units which used small canoes laiden with explosives to attack allied ships. The piloted torpedoes were very effective. These boats were called linznen and the fleet was called the K211. K211 was based in Houlgate and included a fleet of wooden rafts, 5.75 m long, 1.75 m wide with a displacement of 1.3 tons and a 95 HP Ford V8 engine, they able to reach speeds of 35 knots. These boats were piloted by one man who would block the rudder once he abandoned ship, an attack wave would comprise two linzen and one command raft, manned with three officers[17]. A first test was conducted from Le Havre at the end of 1944 and was a failure. The K211, with its thirty-two linzen and eighteen command rafts led attacks on the nights of the 2nd to 3rd and 7th to 8th of August and sunk 45000 tons of allied ships; a destroyer, a trawler and a Liberty Ship despite losing 8 men including an officer.

The Batterie de Tournebride was attacked on 26 April 1944 by a formation of eighteen American B-26 Marauder bombers, many Germans were killed and one cannon was left intact. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel visited Houlgate and Tournebride during inspection of the Atlantic Wall and was not impressed by his engineers' effort, he deplored the fitting of the cannons on top of concrete vats instead of protected by domes. The surviving cannon stayed in situ until after the war.

On the night before the landings the RAF flew over the battery and although two canons had been destroyed in April by the USAF, dropped over 500 tons of bombs[18]. On the morning of D-day, the Royal Navy monitor HMS Roberts opened fire with her 15 inch guns on the battery, without much success. It was shelled again with 15 inch guns by the HMS Erebus in late June. The battery shelled Sword beach along with the battery at Mont Canisy until finally silenced at the end of June. The two mobile guns were moved frequently to avoid being hit by Allied fire.

There were hopes Houlgate would be freed soon around the 5th of 6th of June with the increased aerial activity but it was not to be so. The gliders were bound for Merville-Franceville-Plage and four accidentally landed up in the valley near Beuzeval, they were all destroyed or neutralised. Fighting could be heard to the West and Houlgate was bombed several times, especially Tournebride and its artillery position. German troops abandoned Western Côte Fleurie and British troops which included Canadian and Belgium soldiers began its careful progression Eastbound.

Houlgate Kommandantur, Villa Onexis.

At 5 o'clock on the 21st of August, Roger Lemoine noticed that the Kommandantur was empty[19]. At 5'30, vicar Lajoye noticed the post office was no longer occupied by the Germans. Other inhabitants found abandoned equipment in the streets and the sentinels atop the Protestant temple were no longer on duty. It was decided to lead two groups to find out about German activity: one group went towards Villers-sur-Mer, the other towards Cabourg[19].

Around 9 o'clock, Joseph Dauvilaire and Jean Boulanger left on their bicycles for Villers. They found a guard in Auberville but said they needed anti-infectious medicine from a chemist in Villers and they were let through. They found no signs of the occupants in Villers and began their ascent to Auberville, there, a zealous German officer ordered them to go back to Villers before letting them through.

Roger Lemoine and Julien Xavier proceeded towards Cabourg, they had to hold their bicycles above their heads while crossing the canal in Dives as the bridge had been blown up, the bridge between Dives and Cabourg had been blown up by the Germans and they found the French flag flying over the town hall in Cabourg. They were looking for allied soldiers to warn them of the German withdrawal in Houlgate and to ask them to stop bombing the hilltop as it endangered the town. There they met Mr Gontier who led them to the town hal. Shortly after they cycled in direction of Périers-en-Auge en route to which they were joined by Mr Sochon and Mr Messonet. They met Canadian soldiers who led them to the newly established command post in Beneauville, they arrived there at 12'45.

It was the beginning of the afternoon and the inhabitants of Houlgate were busy repairing roads when they saw a group of five men wearing the British uniform and flat helmet approach Houlgate along the Rue des Bains. The Belgian soldiers of the Brigate Piron were part of the British Army and were led to Houlgate town hall where they were celebrated. A few of the bottles of wine saved from the Grand Hôtel were hastily opened to welcome the liberators[19].

The patrol soon received orders to move on and with guide Lefèvre, a member of the Dives-sur-Mer resistance, they proceeded towards Auberville. A few hours later they were seen running the Route de Trouville from Auberville having been fired upon at the entrance to Auberville. The Germans did not return.

Modern Houlgate

From October 1944, begun the long task of demining the beach during which fifteen French soldiers died. The French 3rd engineers corp. moved to Houlgate in October 1944. Each site was double checked and it was not uncommon to find mines on the second run. Fifteen deminers were killed during the demining. The de-mining engineers are still remembered and celebrated each year[20].

Of the buildings destroyed during the war, the Beau-Rivage hotel was replaced by a car park, the Hôtel des Peuplier destroyed by the Wehrmacht was rebuilt with an annex, the evangelical house, part of the original Protestant colony was rebuilt to different plans since the Germans had built a bunker on the site of the original building, the Villa Gabrielle was rebuilt but the Villa l'Epine was left as is. A new Protestant temple was built on the site of the previous building as the remaining shell had become to unstable. The rebuilding of the temple was financed by Miss Harjès, daughter of bank magnate John Harjès[21].

The S.N.A. (Société normande d'alimentation) began opening a network of corner shops. One such shop was opened on the Rue du Général-Leclerc. Its first managers were Maurice Marie. The shop changed hands several times, being a 8 à Huit and now a Proxi Marché. Another such shop is still present in the Rue des Bains as a 8 à Huit and was managed by Mr Benoît from 1987 to 2008.

Due to the influx of inhabitants and refugees after the war, a new school was established in three wooden shacks on Place Franklin, along the railway line. These houses were cold and a council staff, Mr Dallongeville, had the task of bringing coal in every morning to fuel the lead cookers.

The 1960s were market with the increase in holidaymakers and in the summers, Nestlé kept three amphibious cars, called Nescannard'. These rafts were used to ferry children on trips of ten minutes along the coast near the beach.

The new Etablissement des Bains.

In 1963 was opened the new établissement des bains.

In 1967 was created Houlgate's first horse riding club, the Shetland Club. Philippe Bellanger, officer of the Haras Nationaux and Jean Larigauderie opened the club to promote riding that once been part of the history of Houlgate and to lead riders on trips to the beach and to the town's countryside. In 1971 the club moved to the Clos Guilllaume where it remains[22].

1971 also marked the beginning of building of holiday flats in Houlgate. Some were built on empty plots of land in towns, others where villas were demolished and others in open fields close to the railway station. In 1971 were built La Verte Vallée, Les Béquettes; Les Régates. Les Goélettes in 1972, Le Sporting, Les Caravelles, Le Drakkar and Les Tennis (in place of the Villa Bréguet of aviator Louis Bréguet) in 1974, Les Frégates, Les Sables d'Or in 1975, Les Quatre Saisons in 1976, Les Vedettes and Le Vallandry in 1977, Les Tilleuls in 1978, L'Amiral, Le Pavillon, Les Floralies and La Galiote in 1979, Miramar Beach in 1987, Le Manoir in 1988, Hermès in 1990, Roland Garros in 1991, Clarisse in 1992, La Baronnie in a converted villa in 1993, La Cascade in 1995 and La Belle Marine in 1998 opposite the primary school canteen[23].

In 1974 the Saint-Aubin church received a new pipe organ, the old one was donated to the church in Dives which did not until then have one. The new organ was inaugurated on 19 July 1974 with a concert led by André Marchal. The thirty years of the organ were celebrated in 2004 with a concert led by Jean-François Moisson as well as an exhibition by abbot Lefèvre[20].

On 22 July 1979 was organise a horse riding competition which took place on Pré Blandin, used since then to welcome outdoor events in the commune. A hundred and thirty riders took part including a few celebrities such as Jean Rochefort. The event was repeated until 1986[22].

Breeder Francis Blin, also a butcher, opened Houlgate's second horse riding club in 1979. He took over a 150 hectare farm on the boundary between Dives-sur-Mer and Houlgate on the Chemin de Trousseauville. There he breeds approximately forty horses.

The manor in Beuzeval was converted into flats in 1980 and Mr de Lovinfosse (former owner of Union Chimique Belge) bought the grounds and built a 9 hole golf. Despite hard beginnings, the Countess de Brion, who was made administrator by Mr de Lovinfosse, opened a further 9 holes. Profit was small and the golf was taken over by Blue Green[24].

The Avenue de l'Europe was built and opened in 1985, leading from Place Franklin and Rue de la Vallée, near the Clos Guillaume. A new level crossing, n°83b was opened as a result.

The Bazar Nicolas, a shop of various beach items, owned by Mr and Mrs Nicolas, opened, in the basement of the store a kite shop. Eric Nicolas also manufactures kites and after good profit in the early years, opened in Danestal in 1995, a factory to manufacture the kites he sells. He uses ultra light material and employs three members of staff. His activities split and organised Tête en l'Air then Plein Vent kite flying events[25]. Popularity increased and he also opened a club, HAK (Houlgate Association Kite) which specialises in the operating of kite surf, buggy, paragliding and piloted kites[26].

In 1997 was create the Festijazz, a festival of jazz music concerts. The 2006 destival included 500 groups playing over three days[27].

In 2001 a landslide occurred on the Butte de Caumont, the slide left the light house unscathed. Road circulation was hindered during the months spent cleaning the mud from the road.

In 2005 the change of the commune's name to Houlgate was celebrated with a Belle Epoque centenary festival. Many participated including inhabitants and the mayor, all dressed in traditional 1900 clothing. A re-enactment of seine fishing was also part of the festivities as well as a demonstration of preserved 1900 fire fighting equipment, old bicycles, cider cart delivery and a group of 1900 baigneurs[28][29].


In the Middle Ages Beuzeval was called Bovalis, became Eclesia-de-Bovalis then Boseval, a name that can be found written so in 1077. Evolution of the name and variations are classic of Normandy[30] Some explain this name as meaning vallée des Boeufs (valley of oxen); others give it a Germanic origin. Examples of variations include Beuzeville, Beuzebosc and Beuzemouchel.

Houlgate is a common variation in Normandy of Norrois origin: holr gata chemin creux (deep path). Variation can also be seen in Danemark as Hulgade and in the United Kingdom as Holegate.[31]


Coat of Arms of Houlgate
Houlgate ancien blason.png
Adopted 29 October 1949
Escutcheon (English) A golden stripe with three sea shells accompanied by two golden leopards.
(French) De gueules à la barre d'or chargée de trois coquilles de sable, accompagnée de deux léopards aussi d'or.

Official documents had used a small armory with the letters B, H and C for Beuzeval, Houlgate and Caumont. The announcement for the new coats of arms was made in the Progrès de Dives, Cabourg, Houlgate newspaper.

Note that the English description in the box is just a description. The proper blazon would be Gules, on a bend sinister between 2 leopards Or, 3 escallops sable.


Mayors of Houlgate

List of Mayors (Sources: References)

Period Name Quality
1800 1804 Guillaume Robert Lebrun
1804 1806 Jean-Adrien de Beaumont
1806 1815 Charles Liégeard
1815 1831 Henry d'Agier
1831 1868 Jacques Landry
1868 1871 Gabriel Davioud Inspecteur général des travaux d'architecture de la ville de Paris
1871 1874 Charles Mofras
1874 1880 François Lavoley
1880 1911 Georges Landry Président du Conseil général
The comune was renamed Houlgate-Beuzeval in 1898 then Houlgate in 1905
1911 1913 Louis-Charles Tillaye (death) Ministre des Travaux Publics
1913 1914 Léonard Pillu (death)
1917 1919 Albert Février
1919 1929 Louis Burnouf
1929 1935 Georges Boulot
1935 1945 Louis Pillu
1945 1945 Georges Lelièvre
1945 1947 Jean Rouget Docteur
1947 1953 Louis Pillu
1953 1976 Jules Cappeliez
1976 2008 André Fauvel Docteur
2008 2014 current Jean-Claude Pupin


Population (Sources: References, INSEE[32])

Year Inhabitants Year Inhabitants Year Inhabitants Year Inhabitants
1421 22 homes 1861 345 1906 1197[33] 1954 1740
1695 130 (40 homes) 1872 515 1911 1261 1962 1675
1789 240 (70 homes) 1876 658 1926 1182 1968 1741
1836 301 1881 829 1931 1221 1975 1730
1844 288 1891 1024 1936 1331 1982 1764
1851 270 1896 1138 1946 1836 1990 1707
1856 305 1901 1272 1953 1750 1999 1832
2006 1902[34].
Number taken into account from 1962: Population sans doubles comptes; residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
  • Population density (1990): 100 to 499 inhabitants/km²
  • Population growth: 3.82%
  • Canton of Dozulé


Houlgate is formally twinned with:


The inhabitants of Houlgate are called "Houlgatais". Most "Houlgatais" come originally from Houlgate, Dives-sur-Mer, Cabourg, Calvados and Paris.

Places of interest and monuments

Le Manoir de Beuzeval

The Manor of Beuzeval in summer 2004

3 km (1.9 mi) from the sea side is the Manoir de Beuzeval, built during the 19th century. It is built on the site of an older, medieval castle.

It was called the Manoir d'Aché-Beuzeval, after the family of lords that reigned over these lands. The castle was built over a motte-and-bailey of 200 paces in diameter, the moat was 12 feet wide. It had a bridge and a brook held up by a dam and mill. The castle also possessed a chapel (dedicated to Sainte-Marie-Madeleine). With its land and dependencies, its garden and park, it had an area of approximately 100 ha. The castle was lived in and transformed by the Dachey (D'Aché), de Séran, de Saint-Laurens, de Morel and Boistard de Prémagny families. Its last occupant was Louis Henry d'Agier, mayor of Beuzeval from 1818 to 1831. Old and uncomfortable it ceased being lived in.

Previously on the territory of the commune of Gonneville-sur-Mer it is in 1825 that after consideration of the many lands of the castle that it was decided to retrace the communal borders to place the castle in Beuzeval. A cadastrial survey took place and the manor, a portion of the court yard and the garden finally become part of Beuzeval (despite the residents being lords of Beuzeval and not Gonneville).

Between 1620 and 1640, the Château de Beuzeval was part of the fiefdom of the Aché.

In 1815 after the defeat at the Battle of Waterloo and the fall of the First Empire the region was occupied by Prussian troops.

In 1866, Victor Le Cesne, council member of Beuzeval, built a new luxurious manor house. Upon his death, his brother Jules took possession of the house. It was then lived in by the Viguier family and German occupants who damaged the building and then left it abandoned.

Jean of Aché (the then Lord of the Manor) accompanied William the Conqureror in 1066 for the Conquest of England. On the 6 of August 1066, a few days before his departure for England, William was forced to take refuge at the Château de Beuzeval due to a storm. The following morning, William thanked his host Pierre de Sinvillex and ordered him to accompany him to England. Pierre died at the Battle of Hastings.

During World War II the Germans, once again, established their local headquarters in the Manoir de Beuzeval. After seriously deteriorating the building it lay abandoned. It was subsequently tastefully converted into apartments and is now on the edge of a golf course with ponds inhabited by swans.

Le Château de Dramard

the Château de Dramard in 2004

Up the Chemin des Rouge Terres 2 km (1.2 mi) from Houlgate town centre is the Château de Dramard, a 17th century manor house built in limestone with a large central section with two small wings. The castle was built on the site of an older, medieval castle, or Priory of Mennetot.

In 1616 the château was bought by Pierre de Dramard, then councillor to the King, who became sire of Gonneville, Beuzeval and Mennetot.

In 1772, Pierre Louis Bonnet, Lord of Meautry, married demoiselle Gabrielle of Dramard. Pierre became mayor of Caen in 1791 then in 1792 was elected deputy of Calvados under the French Revolution.

The château still stands and is now a bed & breakfast / hotel.

Politics and urban regeneration

Work on the underground reservoir in May 2009.

Houlgate being a commune, also known as municipality it has its own mayor. He/She along with the municipal council has power over the municipal budget and hands out building permits.

The council also has the power to create municipal acts. As such Houlgate currently has a no dog fouling policy act that is not applicable at low tide when dog owners are allowed to walk their dogs on the beach.

The council also allocates funds and pays the Direction Départementale de l'Equipment (D.D.E.) for the maintenance of council streets. Indeed since the modernising of the town's streets the council has started to embelish the town by installing flower pots on most lamp posts as well as marble paving. This project started in late 1989 with the creation of a roundabout in front of the town hall. This new plaza features a fountain volcano.

During the mid-90s the council rebuilt the Rue du Général Leclerc and installed a one way system across the town centre.

The last road work project was the rebuilding of the Rue des Bains in late 2004. With the increase of the communal population during summer time, much of the commune's two water reservoirs are in great demand. In mid-July the council usually makes the decision to ban the unnecessary use of tap water.

An underground water basin was recently built along the Promenade Roland Garros preventing used water flowing into the English Channel[14]. The project affects the three coastal communes of the Estuaire de la Dives Communité de Communes and aims to increase the English Channel's water quality.

Commerce and nightlife

The town of Houlgate is geared towards the tourism market. Many drinking establishments are open throughout the year.

Casino de Houlgate

Casino's cinema.

Situated on Houlgate's seafront, the casino is the main establishment. Houlgate has seen two casino buildings on the site in front of the Grand Hôtel and added to the luxurious surroundings of the hotel.

The first casino was built in 1860. It was a wooden construction covered in sheets of zinc. It was rented to the company owner of the Grand Hôtel and managed by a François Blanc, former manager of the casino of Monaco. It had several rooms for shows, games of luck, reading and French billiard. It existed until 1906.

The current casino was opened in 1907 and its looks have not changed much since its construction. Only the balustrade and iron lamp posts have disappeared. Built with tourism in mind, it offered concerts, balls, fêtes and other shows, welcoming theatre companies and at one had its own permanent company. The casino also had a round room for ladies and organised fayres for children.

Here is an example of such an event for the 1913 season:

Daily, from 11h to 17h, grand orchestra concert. Thursdays and sundays, balls for children with gift donations. Daily at 15h, guignol, jeu des petits chevaux (or ludo), baccara, bridge. Every evening at 19h, cinema. Every evening at 21h, instrumental concert. Every evening at 22h, dancing.

The Casino features American-style fruit/slot machines (as opposed to the British bandit), a boule table, a colonial-style bar, the Pondichéry restaurant and a sea side bar. The casino's nightclub 'Le Manhattan' closed in the early 1990s and the restaurant opened in the former club's room. The sea side bar sees many live performances throughout the summer season. The building also boasts a 150 seat cinema with Digital Dolby Surround sound and digital video (as well as analog). The casino's main entrance is to the back on Rue Henri Dobert next to the mini golf.

La Rue des Bains

The Rue des Bains is Houlgate's main street and as such many bars and restaurants are open there.

The street boasts Italian (Le Marigot, la Patio), sea food (La Maison des Coquillages), brasserie (Le Globe), salon de thé (Lepicq) and gastronomical restaurants (Le 1900).

Although the town has two small corner supermarkets (Proxy Market and 8 à huit) it has retained its traditional charm and possesses traditional shops such as butcher's, baker's, fishmonger's, newsagent's, pâtissier and pork butcher's. The town also boasts an indoor market, open Thursdays and Saturdays off season and every day during the summer. Many local shop keepers have a stall in the market. Due to the proximity of the fishing fleet at Dives-sur-Mer, fishmongers and market stall keepers sell fresh sea food, usually harvested in the early morning (depending on the tide).

Gastronomy and food & drink

Normandy has a rich cultural and gastronomic heritage. Indeed due its history, the formerly independent duchy of Normandy has inherited particular food habits. The most common local products are Calvados, cider, tarte normande and teurgoule.

Visiting royalty and famous people


Because the town was built for the purpose of tourism, Houlgate is not particularly known for its industry, nevertheless on the 18th of March 1852 the Patrelle Company was founded, specialising in aroma. Stews, sweets and ice creams are made around the world using Patrelle products.[35]



  • Marcel Miocque (1993). Houlgate Sous L'Occupation, 1940-1944 Éditions Charles Corlet
  • Marcel Miocque, Huguette Vernochet, Alain Bertaud et Lise Dassonville-Agron (2001). Houlgate entre mer et campagne. Éditions Charles Corlet ISBN 2-85480-976-9
  • Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. Éditions du Petit Chemin ISBN 2-7546-0021-3
  • Jean Bayle. Ports et plages de la Côte Fleurie ISBN 2-85480-625-5
  • Direction Départemenale de l'Equipement du Calvados. (1996). Le Tour du Calvados en 80 Cartes.
  • Marcel Renault. (1958) Houlgate-Beuzeval.


  1. ^ a b Marcel Miocque (2001). Houlgate entre mer et campagne. p47
  2. ^ Marcel Miocque (2001). Houlgate entre mer et campagne. p14
  3. ^ Marcel Miocque (2001). Houlgate entre mer et campagne. p21
  4. ^ a b c Source : Des villages Cassini aux communes d'aujourd'hui.
  5. ^ Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p70
  6. ^ a b c Marcel Miocque (2001). Houlgate entre mer et campagne. p72
  7. ^ a b Marcel Miocque (2001). Houlgate entre mer et campagne. p65
  8. ^ a b Marcel Miocque (2001). Houlgate entre mer et campagne. p85
  9. ^ Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p129
  10. ^ Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p142
  11. ^ Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p153
  12. ^ Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p159
  13. ^ a b Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p182
  14. ^ a b http://www.naval-history.net Retrieved 5 February 2009
  15. ^ Marthe Rambaud et Jean-Claude Bosquain (1995). Gonneville-sur-Mer 1939-1945.
  16. ^ Commando Veteran Association Retrieved 01 February 2009.
  17. ^ Michel Bertrand (1985). Commandos de la Mer. Editions Maritimes et d'Outre-Mer
  18. ^ [http://www.atlantikwall.org.uk/houlgate.htm The Atlantik Wall In Normandy ] Retrieved 14 December 2009.
  19. ^ a b c Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p189
  20. ^ a b http://www.ouest-france.fr/actu/actuLocale_-Commemoration-des-Demineurs-avec-le-Souvenir-francais-_14338-avd-20090923-56815032_actuLocale.Htm Retrieved 25 September 2009
  21. ^ Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p200
  22. ^ a b Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p216, 225-226
  23. ^ Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p219-220
  24. ^ Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p227
  25. ^ ficher média Retrieved 3 February 2009
  26. ^ Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p231-232
  27. ^ Houlgate council website Retrieved 3 February 2009
  28. ^ Marcel Miocque et Huguette Vernochet (2006). Houlgate regards sur le passé. p244-247
  29. ^ Houlgate council website Retrieved 3 February 2009
  30. ^ Beuzemouchel: le « moncel » de Boso, in François de Beaurepaire, Les noms des communes et anciennes paroisses de la Seine-Maritime, éditions Picard 1979.
  31. ^ Jean Renaud, Les Vikings et la Normandie, éditions Ouest-France Université 1989.
  32. ^ on the INSEE website
  33. '^ 1905: 365 (Beuzeval) + 826 (Houlgate)
  34. ^ Source: Ouest France, n°19560, Édition Caen, Vendredi 2 Janvier 2009 p8 .
  35. ^ Patrelle website

External links

Links to maps are accessible from the ccordinates link in the top right hand corner of this page.

See also

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