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Our Lady Collegiate church in Vernon
A whole site dedicated to this monumeent (in English)
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Vernon half-timbered houses
A whole site about our numerous old houses (In French only, sorry !)
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Vernon Giverny Website auf deutsch

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The Old Mill in Vernon
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Monet's house and garden at Giverny
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The XIIth c. castle keep in Vernon
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Visits, indeed, but there are so many other things to do in Vernon
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Walking and cycling around Vernon
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Museums in Vernon (paintings by Monet) and Giverny
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A walk in the streets of Giverny
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The water lily pond at Giverny
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Tourelles castle in Vernon
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The right bank:  Tourelles Castle, the Old Mill and the medieval bridge


This well-known place, set in a wooded environment is Vernon "post card", a pictoesque place wiht its castle,  the ruins of a medieval bridge and and old mill perched on the piers of  this bridge.

  The right bank : the wetlands around Vernonnet

The place  where these buildings are standing didn't look  as it does today. For centuries the banks of the river were swampy land from Giverny ( upstream) down to Ma Campagne  and farther (downstream). Until the 18th century, the river bed was  less deep than today but also far wider,  extending   to the present Giverny road. (The path to Giverny ran somewhat higher, where Touflet footpath now is.)

Here Tourelles Castle was in the middle of the water, the bank used to be where the main road now is, i.e. 50 / 80 m away. Behind, towards the centre of Vernonnet, there were swamps and wetlands extending as far as  the foot of the hill (i..e. as far as today's Rue du Docteur Chanoine). In 1885, there were still drainage ditches along the main road. One also notices that the nearby little shopping centre and its car park  are situated  lower, almost at the former ground level. When Napoleon bridge was built in 1860 (replaced with  the present bridge in i955) ; it was necessary to build a long access ramp across the wetlands, beginning near Vernonnet church, so as to reach up to the bridge.
  



The bridge and Tourelles castle (left).
Note hos the river is cluttered wiht islands.

Trudaine Atlas (1759)
The largest part of the area in darker green had just been reclaimed from the river and swamps. 


The presence of a bridge was an economic asset for Vernonnet . The village (on the right bank, opposite Vernon), whose original name is Vernoinel, was not part  of Vernon, but an autonomous parish, depending from the bishopric of Beauvais, whereas Vernon depended from that of Evreux.  It became part of Vernon only around 1805.

Vernon was the "royal" town. Hidden behind  its walls along the river, the town always turned away from the Seine ( and it still does a lot today) while Vernonnet, a small industrial and busy place, drew its posperity from the river. The right bank economy was directed to  the rich agricultural Vexin plain and  and had numerous  industrial activities such as stone quarries, lime kilns, etc. whose products were shipped on the river. The place was fairly rich : for instance, in the 18thcentury, Vernonnet inhabitants paid on average twice as much tax as those of Vernon.

Decline began when Vernonnet was merged with Vernon and further accelerated by  the arrival of the train in 1847: the economic priority no longer rested on the river but now on the railway. Nothing more than a declining outlying part of the town, very few buildings were erected on the banks, that have remained a beautiful wooded area around an old castle until today.
emain  were lnver built



Vernonnet around 1900. The bridge is the 1860 one and the houses on its right  are built on the access ramp. Further behind, Tourelles Castle, in the middle of trees.





The fortified bridge

A first bridge - a wooden one - may have existed here  since the mid-12th century as well as a small fortress to protect it. A few archaeologists  tentatively suggest that  the central square body of today's castle might date from the time of Henry II of England, i.e; around 1150.  The four little towers in the corners would have been added by Philippe II ( Philippe Auguste) fifty years later. One thing is sure, it is Philippe Auguste who dastically altered the place : after conquering Vernon  in 1194, he had a major fortified complex built on both sides of the river Seine, which was meant to be the  bridgehead from which  he would attack and conquer the rest of Normandy. The walls around the town were rebuild; a castle bult ( or rebuilt) ( this is today Jardin des Arts and Archive tower in the centre of Vernon); a stone  bridge spanned the river; on this bank, various towers, walls  and gates forbade acess to the bridge. If a small fortress already existed, which is not sure, il was totally rebuilt and  enlarged by Philippe Auguste.

Starting from the village of Vernonnet, there were :
a stone causeway, the ramp to the bridge, built over marshland. Tody, this is rue de la Chaussée (Causeway street). it used to be a very busy shopping street since everyone using the bridge had to follow this street until 1861;
  a several metre-long woodden bridge, somewhere near today's main road would link the ramp to the stone bridge. Drawings show thet it still existed  in 1610. The first stone arches of the bridge are sunk at the base of the  little wall with the railings. Betwen this  end of the bridge and the island (Ile du talus) there were  ten arches;
a fortified gate closed the bridge by the north corner tower of Tourelles castle; another tower (the exact outlook of which we don't know) straddled the bridge approxilately where you can see the gate  closing access to the Old Mill. It was called Drawbridge Tower since this were the  drawbridge from the castle  woiuld be lowered;
onTalus island, another 20-metre high tower straddled the bridge and 25 arches farther there were the city walls and gates.

The whole construction, castle, towers etc was built in the middle of the river and not in a moat. The towers and gates disappeared in the early 18th century and around 1750 the river bed was filled in up to the present day level.





The tower on Talus island
(Modern drawing made after old documents)




Le château des Tourelles - Tourelles castle

There remains only the keep but it was also surrounded by walls. Built on an artificial mound, about 50 metres from the bank, the keep rose 25 m above the river. It is indeed 24 - 25 m high, not 20 as it looks today as the lower part is now buried under the 4 or 5 m thick embankments of the mid 18th c. As  a proof, just consider how the loopholes (arrow slits) are now on ground level whereas they were always higher. The  cone-shaped roofs were added in the 18th c  to take the place of the crenellated parapets that  can still be seen on a 1638 print.



A gate located  on the side of the bridge enabled to enter the castle. To do so, a drawbridge was lowered onto the the stone bridge next to Drawbridge tower (see above). The keep was entered from the back ( southeast side) on the first floor - which today is hardly above modern ground level. the walls are 1.80m thick on the village side and only 1.10 on the river side, which was less dangerously exposed.




Engraving by Pérelle (1638):  Saint Adjutor. The drawing shows Vernont at the time.


One clearly sees Tourelles castle on the right (still roofless), then a tower  (Drawing bridge Tower) - and another tower on the island in the middle of the river. Note the mills built on the bridge piers.

The castle remainecd a military place for about 450  years. At the end of the 15th century a small platform for artillery was built on the river side.
 
One might imagine that the medieval castle  no longer had any military use in the 17th century. But the Spanish Low Countries  threatened  northern France and invasion  was more than a possibility, for instance when Corbie was captured in 1636, which was a direct threat to Paris. In order to protect themselves, the French had created two lines of defence using various strongholds,  fortified towns, castles and even small isolated fortified places. Tourelles castle played a minor part in the second line of defence. Once the danger of Spanish invasion was averted, the lesser fortifications like ours were  decommissioned after 1640 -50.
 


After 1640, the Spanish danger decreased slowly, for instance after the victory of Rocroi in 1643. The treaty of the Pyrenees (1659) restored peace between the two countries.
 
    Page 2 (continued) An industrial flour mill : Planter enterprise
    Page 3 The Old Mill
   Page 4 The bridge (16th - 19thc.)