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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 bridge
16th- 19th century

The bridge used to rest on 35 arches (each of them, 10 or 12 metre wide) but the stone arches were gradually replaced by a superstructure made of wood resting on the piers. In 1830, there remained only eight stone arches (the ones supporting the mills).

Indeed, for centuries neither royal nor local authorities were able to maintain large civil engineering works such as this bridge properly. They were used until they were on the verge of collapsing, when intense repair work was then necessary. And off they were again for another century or so... Most of the piers, lacking maintenance, were often swept away by floods and the bridge was thus useless for several years. For instance  the 1658 flood , mentioned on an engraved stone on the front of the Collegiate church :" The last day of February in the year 1658, the water in Vernon swept away the bridge and came to the foot of this pillar."

The bridges aabout 1890.
Behind the stone bridge (Napoleon Bridge) one can see the remnants of the medieval one that was not pulled down between Talus island end the Vernonnet bank. The superstructure of the bridge, made of wood, is still visible, resting on the  stone piers. 

in 1651, after two arches had collapsed, the authorities decided to abandon the bridge and set up a ferry, which, at least apparently, was thought to be far cheaper than repairing the bridge. Very well… but the vicar of Vernonnet wrote on October 10, 1653: "On Friday, St Luke's day, 200 persons of all sexes and ages coming from Vernon got accidentally drowned when the ferry sank down."

When thinking about sailing on the Seine formerly, one must not visualize the large expanse of water we can see today. Before gigantic
embanking and  dredging works were undertaken about 1850, the Seine  was like the Loire river today, a wild river, the bed of which was full of islands, shallows and mud bank that made sailing  difficult and dangerous.  The miracle wrought by saint Adjutor - even if it is perhaps only a legend - is telltale. ( See the page devoted tp saint Adjutor.) Floods were a major problems for boats and sailing  came to a stop almost every winter. For instance in January 1756, a month of "high waters" only seven boats went under the Vernon bridge. Inversely, there was little water in summer and in some places the water was only 0.6m deep !  In the archives of  Mr Planter's flour mill, there is a letter in which he informs his correspondant  that the boat full of flour due for Le Havre has been stuck at Pont de l'Arche for a month as the water level is too low.

Crossing the bridge
The bridge was an obstacle  for boats : it was very low and the space under the arches was taken by the mill wheels and the fisheries. Only one arch, called the "sailing arch" - located on the Vernon side- was large enough to allow boats to sail under. Passing even this arch proved difficult. A civil engineer wrote in a report in 1812:" The current under the arch is so fast that this is where the utmost effort must be made in order to get through the cataract [!] while ensuring that every care is taken for the boat to keep exactly in the centre of the archway."

It used to take  three or four fours to sail under the bridge. First the mast was lowered so that the boat could pass under the bridge. Then ropes were fixed up in the front, in the back, on the right and on the left of the boat. On the bank,  winches, powered by horses, towed the boat in a co-ordinated way so as to maintain it exactly in the middle of the archway. Depending on the  current  force and how the boat was advancing, ropes were untied, then made fast somewhere else on the bank , a process to be repeated several times  that required a large number of people.- Finally the mast was  raised again. It was necessary to maintain about thirty tow horses and a hundred persons solely to enable the passage of the boats under the bridge. (Municipal directives in 1794). 

Steamboats, which developped  before the middle of the 19th century, could not  pass under the medieval bridge,  with  its low and narrow arches.  A new one, called Napoleon bridge, was built in 1860,  somewhat upstream, where today's bridge stands. The old bridge was destroyed between Talus island and Vernon (left bank); it was abandoned and left to fall into ruins  bertween the island and the right bank.

For other information about the bridges in Vernon between the 12th century and today, please refer to this page :
The river bridges in Vernon, 1194 - 1954

  Page 1 The fortified bridge
  Page 2 An industrial flour mill
  Page 3  The Old Mill