MOUVAUX - as seen from Buckingham


Mouvaux is in Northern France, about two hours from Calais, in a region called Flanders, very near the Belgian border. A visitor will see signs of this connection in the architecture, in the use of Dutch as a language and in the food enjoyed by its inhabitants. It is also twinned with Halle in Belgium and Neukirchen-Vluyn in Germany.

It forms a triangular link with the towns of Roubaix and Tourcoing, north of the metropolis of Lille. Its population is of a similar size to Buckingham's at about 14,000.

The name of the town seems to be of Latin origin, coming from multus (many) and vallis (valley). The area became a parish in 1242 and was ruled by the Counts of Flanders, then the Dukes of Burgundy and in a long and varied history came under Hapsburg, Spanish and Austrian rule, before becoming a permanent part of France at the end of the 18th Century. It saw many conflicts over the years but the bloodiest battle occurred in 1794, when the Austrian troops were defeated and in a scorched earth policy they left the town burning through the night. Very few houses escaped that fire: the few that did are called the "resegrees" - one can be seen at 75 Rue de Lille. The town was occupied by Germany in the 20th Century until liberated in 1945.

The industrial revolution brought in coal-mining and textile factories but these have largely gone. The town is now a quiet and prosperous settlement reverting to its role as a suburb of Lille in terms of employment and business life. It does however retain a feeling of green space: rural activities of horticulture and farming still take a significxant place within its parish boundary., In spite of its close location to Lille, it is proud of its distinct separate identity with its own mayor and town hall.

It has state nursery, primary and secondary schools, as well as private schooling facitities. There is a range of sporting facilities, including the Marcel Fournier stadium, tennis courts and an indoor gymnastics hall. The town has more than 100 clubs and associations.

The oldest church in Mouvaux is St Germain in the centre of the town. This dates from 1766. As it was in ruins by 1869, it was rebuilt in its present form in 1881. In 1893 Francois Masurel, a textile manufacturer in the region, financed the building of a new church on ground owned by him in the Les Francs quarter: it was consecrated in 1895. The very modern church of Le Sacre Coeur was first begun in 1906 but completely modified in the 60s to be consecrated in 1964. Worth seeing is a small chapel of the Chapelle des Malades built in 1680. Towards the end of the 17th century it served as a rallying-point for parishioners, hence the name. Like many chapels built during the regign of Louis XIV, this one is of Jesuit style, a religious order that had a strong influence on the king at that time.

Two features of the town also merit mention. The Grand Boulevard includes a tramway which goes through the centre of the town. This was originally conceived by Alfred Mongy in 1885 to link Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing. It was completed in 1909 and very efficient it is too! The other feature of the town is the marvellous Hautmont park containing over 16 acres of viustas and lakes: it was given to the town by a local industrialist.

Enjoy your visit!

Geoff Shaw