Version française du site

Cliquer sur le drapeau pour y accéder
Our Lady Collegiate church in Vernon
A whole site dedicated to this monumeent (in English)
Please, click on the thumb

Please click on the icon
Vernon half-timbered houses
A whole site about our numerous old houses (In French only, sorry !)
Please click on the thumb
Vernon Giverny Website auf deutsch

Bitte, auf die Fahne clicken

Pass the mouse over the photos for further information
The Old Mill in Vernon
Click to enlarge
Monet's house and garden at Giverny
Click to enlarge
The XIIth c. castle keep in Vernon
Click to enlarge
Visits, indeed, but there are so many other things to do in Vernon
Click to enlarge
Walking and cycling around Vernon
Click to enlarge
Museums in Vernon (paintings by Monet) and Giverny
Click to enlarge
A walk in the streets of Giverny
Click to enlarge
The water lily pond at Giverny
Click to enlarge
Tourelles castle in Vernon
Click to enlarge

Hither and thither:
a (surprising) chronicle of the town and its neighbourhood

Turner in Vernon

Turner in Vernon Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), a British painter and aquarellist, had a prestigious career. He was hardly 23 years old when he was elected to Royal Academy, this outstandingly famous London institution.

In addition to his oil paintings, which were highly innovative (remember the Turner, Whistler and Monet exhibition in Paris a few years ago), Turner also produced lots of drawings and watercolours, particularly while travelling all over the continent. As early as 1821 he took a keen interest in the river Seine where he was to come back four more times. Vernon was one of the places where he made drawings, in 1827 then again in 1833.

Unfinished drawing by Turner, 1827. One recognizes the Tour des Archives (Archive Tower) and the Collegiate church. Of course the medieval bridge no longer exists today.

  Drawing by Turner, 1833 engraved by William & Willmore. (Private collection) On the very left, Château des Tourelles (Tourelles Castle), the medieval bridge in the centre and, on the right, Rouen Gate (demolished, Place Chantereine, now) Notice that the church bears little likeness to its model.


Vernon - April 6, 2005 :
Vulcain 2 rocket engine to enter into production stage

"After the successful qualification flight of Ariane 5 ECA on Frebrury12, 2005, the Vulcain 2 engine can now enter into the production stage" declared Jean-Paul Bechat, President of Sagem-Snecma group, in presence of the Minister of Industry, Patrick Devedjian, during a celebration that was held on the Vernon site.

Vulcain 2 is a modification of the Vulcain cryogenic engine used by the Ariane 5 Generic launcher. It has an increased thrust of 20% so as to provide an additional lift capability of 1.3 tons into geostationary orbit.

Vulcain 2 is used for the main stage of Ariane 5 ECA, which is to inject into geostationary orbit a 10 ton load and by Ariane 5 ES ATV which will lift the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to the International Space Station. The first journey is due in 2006, when Ariane will place ATV into orbit 300 km from the earth, from which altitude ATV will use its own propulsion system to reach the International Space Station

Ignition of Vulcain 2 during 12- 2-05 liftoff

Patrick Devedjian, the French Minister for Industry (right) during the ceremony

SNECMA has received a contract for thirty engines to be engineered by the Vernon plant.  (See also this page dedicated to the Ariane rocket)


Vernon in the early 19th century : a foreigner's look at the town

"The limits assigned to Normandy by the treaty of Louviers, made Gaillon a frontier town of the duchy; and here therefore I should take my leave of you, but that, in the prouder days of its history, Vernon was likewise swayed by the ducal sceptre.

Vernon also seems peculiarly connected with England, from the noble family of the same name still flourishing, agreeably to their well-known punning motto, on your side of the water.

This motto is in the highest degree inapplicable to the present state of the town, whose old and ruinous appearance looks as if it had known neither improvement nor repair for centuries. Better things might have been expected from the situation of Vernon, on the banks of the Seine, in a singularly beautiful valley, and from its climate, which is reported to be so extraordinarily healthy, that instances of individuals attaining in it the age of one hundred are not unfrequent."

Letters from Normandy - Account Of A Tour In Normandy by Dawson Turner
[Volume II - Letter 30 - August 1818]

There is no photo to go with this text as we have found no place in Vernon that was unsightly or derelict enough to illustrate it!

The Millers' Wife of Vernon

A (somewhat risqué) song from the 16th century by Clément Janequin. It is found in a collection of songs named as follows:

1555, second book of Mr Cl Jannequin's Musical inventions. Contains the Song of Birds, the Lark's and the Nightingale's Songs, the Capture of Boulogne[*], the Subjugation of Boulogne [*], the Miller's Wife of Vernon, One day Seeing, Grass and Flowers, four-part songs recently revised.
Nicolas Du Chemin, Paris August 1555

Maybe this welcoming lady was the miller's wife of our Old Mill. Who knows?

The millers' wife of Vernon
Draw draw draw out your gift gift gift
She is attractive and comely
And she is actually , as it is said,
Draw draw draw out your gift gift gift
Used to fair loving.
One day, not far from
Draw draw draw out your gift gift gift
A willow grove and a river
A very fair young companion
Draw draw draw out your gift gift gift
Besought her love
Then kissing her, the sweetheart
Draw draw draw out your gift gift gift
Betook himself to a caressing welcome
Then he sat on her lap
Draw draw draw out your gift gift gift
With good grace and manner.

[*]Henry VIIIth of England invaded France in 1544, at the head of an army of 40,000 but the only achievement of the French war was the capture of Boulogne, which he agreed to give back in the Peace of Ardres in 1546.


Vernon - St Marcel, a world leading centre for waste management

On October 9th, SITA Tech was inaugurated : this facility is an expert technical centre with a ground area of 2,400sqm. Its modern and open architecture houses the research, technical, environmental, quality, safety, information and technical training management units of the SITA group. Altogether there are 60 engineers and 20 laboratory technicians in charge of co-ordinating international programmes and sharing expertise among over 30 countries.

World experts in waste or not, this does not prevent people from letting their refuse-bins
anywhere in the streets, even if this spoils the sight! ( Rue Bourbon Penthièvre)


The capture of Vernon by Philip II, the French king in 1194

Extracts from "Récits d'un Menestral de Reims" (Account by the minstrel of Rheims) , an anonymous author towards 1260.

"King Philip had lead his army straight to Vernon, a very beautiful, well located and strong castle and he had their tents and banners pitched in the meadow on the bank of the Seine, all of them together with all his barons. The king had had the tents and the standards pitched in a meadow along the Seine, together with all his barons. Then he had lost no time setting his war machines at work but in vain because those in the castle were well trained and the castle was too strong. When the king saw what the situation was he ordered the assault to be halted but swore he would continue besieging the city for seven years. In the mean time the city dwellers were observing; they were anxious for they knew that the king would not leave before he had seized the city by storm. The king remained there all through the winter until St John's day. Everyone was expecting king John [*] to come to the rescue but he did not and sent no-one.

When the captain of Vernon saw he would have no help from his Lord, when he also saw that king John was hopeless and when he also saw the power, intelligence and wealth of king Philip, he asked him a safe-conduct to hold a parley with him, a request that was granted.
The captain went out with nine knights, went straight to the king's tent, greeted him and said :"Sire, I have come to talk with you. You have been besieging Vernon, the captain and defender of which I am in the name of king John [*] I want you to know that we have asked him for help and we have had neither help nor relief from him. Here are the keys of the castle, I am giving them to you, do as you want. Take them, I hand them over to you". The king was happy to accept these keys and he entered the city where he garrisoned his men and everything that was necessary."

[*] Writing almost 70 years after the facts, the author muddles up the reigns: in 1194 the king of England is Richard I (Richard Lionhearted). While crusading (i.e. away from his territories, among which was the Duchy of Normandy) he had entrusted his brother John with the government. John was to become king when Richard died in 1199, but at the time of the siege of Vernon he was still only Prince John, the 'wicked one' in Robin Hood stories…

Coronation de Philip II (1180)

King Philippe crossing the Loire river. It might have been the Seine when attacking Vernon.


The " widow " of Vernon

On September 1981, the French Parliament voted a bill abolishing death penalty. France, together with Turkey, was still the only country in Western Europe to enforce capital punishment. Everyone knows that, in France, this meant beheading by means of a machine called the guillotine. The machine -officially named "les bois de justice " (the woodwork of justice) - was discarded as soon as the law was passed. The Minister of Justice ordered that the two machines ( familiarly nicknamed the "widow") that existed in France should be removed . Unknown to most local residents, one of them had been housed in Vernon in a military equipment storage installation but since no museum wanted to have the machines, they ended their career in a disused military fortress.

Beheading of Prévost in Paris - 1857

Claude Monet's burial

Monet died on December 5, 1926 from what is delicately named 'a long disease', but do not forget that he had reached the age of 86. Several years ago, an old Vernon taxi driver, who was a young boy when Monet died, still remembered that Monet had wanted to be treated like one of the villagers. There was no official ceremony, only his family and his friends were attending the funeral. The coffin was carried to the graveyard on the old wooden cart of the village pulled by two local men, like everyone else. His friend, Clemenceau ( a former leading journalist and later on Prime Minister during World War I) too old to be in the funeral procession , was waiting in the churchyard, in front of the tomb. And as he was advised to take some rest, he replied : "I am staying here, I want to see him go down."

Monet's tomb in Giverny churchyard [10]

It was the same man who, a few minutes earlier, had taken away the black cloth that is traditionally placed on coffins. Remember that Monet did not like black and never used this colour in his paintings. As an example, look how he painted shadows: whereas before him artists painted them black or grey , Monet used dark blue, dark green or dark purple, etc but never black. Clemenceau, before the procession left the dead man's home, is said to have cried out: "No! No black for Monet. Black is no colour." And he had taken down a flowered curtain from a window and placed it on the coffin instead of the black cloth.


" Monsieur Monet was one of us " added the old taxi driver. What tribute to his humble genius !

In Vernon, we are working on tomorrow's car

The cost of fuel is soaring and what will it be like in twenty years or more? Everyone now talks about cars running on hydrogen: a fuel cell would produce electricity from hydrogen and oxygen - with no pollution, which is very positive .

Needless to say, it is not all that easy ! To begin with, hydrogen must be stored at a temperature of -250°C. The problem of reliability and durability must also be solved, not to mention that of becoming cost-competitive.
The SNECMA - SAFRAN plant in Vernon, where the engines of the Ariane rocket are designed, knows everything about these problems and many others since " we have been improving our expertise in using hydrogen in various states for fifty years" declared Mr Muszynski, , in charge of Exterior relations. ( See 60 years of space research in Vernon.)
This is why the Vernon site has become the partner of Renault (a major French car manufacturer) and Total (a leader in the petroleum industry) in order to develop a car engine that would use the same fuel as the Ariane rocket, namely liquid hydrogen. A test stand for fuel cells is being installed in Vernon (September 2005).

Tomorrow's car will therefore be clean and environmentally-friendly since its fuel will come from a renewable source of energy.
An ideal solution might be to fill up the tank with hydrogen in a service station as easily as to day with petrol but this will not be possible before long. A transitional stage is therefore considered , on which Renault is now working with the RESPIRE project. (Réduction des Emissions par Système PIle et Reformeur Essence - emission reducing with a fuel cell and a petrol reforming unit)
The main feature of RESPIRE is a petrol reformer which produces hydrogen for the fuel cell aboard the car.

What a modest advance and dubious progress , you will say since petroleum is still required. . Not at all, because the efficiency will be far better than with today's internal combustion engine and consumption will be greatly reduced. .Moreover, the system will lead to an important reduction of NO/NO2, CO/CO2 pollution and will also use the existing network of petrol filling stations, making the development of such cars easier before hydrogen service stations exist in a more distant future. "In thirty years there will be hydrogen refuelling stations. The petroleum industry has plans concerning this" Mr Garceau, head of the RESPIRE project in Vernon says.

Pierre Beuzit,VP Research Renault, has this automotive roadmap : research until 2008, niche applications and limited fleets 2008 - 2015 and start of mass production in 2015.

Bibliography, webography:

* Le Démocrate, ( local newspaper) Wednesday, Septembre 14th, 2005
* Automobile industry and Hydrogen economy The Renault Nissan approach par Pierre Beuzit (28 janvier 2005)


An unusual museum in Giverny : the museum of natural mechanical engineering.

One tends to think that the word 'Giverny' only means Claude Monet and painting. Indeed the village can boast of several places reminding visitors of the great impressionist Master and also of the hundreds of artists who flocked there between 1890 and 1910.

However, there is also a very unexpected museum - one that hardly anyone has ever heard of - the museum of natural mechanical engineering which displays old machines that have been restored to perfection . For instance this 4-stroke diesel engine operating on insufflation - a rare, early 20th century technique, but also a beautiful machine with its brass parts and its soft purring noise. The star of the exhibition? A 1824 veneering saw which, as the man in charge explains, "does better work than modern machines".

The museum is in fact the private collection of the Guillemard brothers who enthusiastically welcome visitors. (Open most afternoons in seson and also by appointment - Phone : 02 32 21 26 33 - The museum lies just in front of the Village Hall, 50 m off rue Claude Monet.)

While you are in Giverny, do spare an an hour to go there, you will be welcome and the unusual exhibition is really worth a visit. (See also this page.)