Visiting Tourcoing and its City Hall: outstanding civic architecture in northern France
Stylistic memories of a gracious age
Visitors to Tourcoing in northern France may be impressed by the architecture of its City Hall (Hôtel de ville ). This fine 19th century structure has survived wars and invasions and economic depressions, but still manages to effuse an air of local prosperity which characterized the area, when local textile industries were at their height.
The style of the City Hall is described as that of Napoleon III; indeed, when this monarch was still reigning in 1866, building commenced according to the plans of local architect Charles Maillard. (Maillard was also responsible for the Gothic-style enlargement work on Tourcoing's nearby St. Christophe church.) However, work on the structure of the City Hall was not completed until 1885. Material employed in its construction included Belgian Soignies stone.
Tourcoing, in France's Nord department, is close to the frontier with Belgium. Indeed, Tourcoing forms a conurbation with the Belgian town of Mouscron. This urban situation is not unusual in northern France (for example, Halluin/Menen, Quiévrain/Quiévrechain, Jeumont/Erquelinnes, and other towns also, all form cross-border conurbations.) Indeed, regarding Tourcoing, historically the prosperity of the city and its economy were to some extent bound up with economic activity north of the nearby Belgian border; the use of Belgian stone in the building of the City Hall is an example of this.
People from Tourcoing
The composer Albert Roussel (1869-1937) was born in Tourcoing.
Traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefèbvre (1905-1991) was also born in Tourcoing.
The writer and journalist Jules Watteeuw (1849-1947) was born, and died, in Tourcoing; he often wrote in the local Picard dialect.
A linguistic note
Tourcoing and the adjoining Belgian town of Mouscron have Dutch equivalents for their names. In Dutch, Tourcoing is 'Toerkonje', while Mouscron is 'Moeskroen'. However, while Mouscron is recognized as bilingual, i.e., with Dutch having official status, Tourcoing, being in France, where the tradition of the one and indivisible Republic (la République une et indivisible ) is strong, French only is recognized officially.
Tourcoing also has an equivalent name in the local Picard dialect: 'Tourtchuin'.
Also worth seeing
In Tourcoing itself, the former chamber of commerce has an interesting belfy. St. Christophe church is partly Medieval, with 19th century neo-Gothic adaptations and has an 80-metre tower. The Havre hospice dates from the 12th century. The railroad station is in a striking design, dating from 1905.
Mouscron / Moeskroen, Belgium (distance: 6.3 kilometres); has a striking neo-Gothic City Hall and a castle dating from the 14th and 15th centuries.
Roncq, France (distance: 6.8 kilometres); its Saint-Piat church is interesting; the town possesses some architecturally distinguished municipal buildings.
Menen, Belgium (distance: 12 kilometres), is located in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders; it has a noted octagonal tower, dating from the 17th century, attached to its Town Hall.
Roubaix (distance: 4.6 kilometres) has some distinguished architecture, including a 1911 City Hall and the Medieval church of St. Martin.
Lille, France (distance: 16 kilometres), has visitor attractions too numerous to list here, but these include the place du Général de Gaulle , with its Old Stock Exchange (la vieille Bourse ) and the Chamber of Commerce belfry; and the birthplace museum of General Charles de Gaulle.
Comines, France (distance: 16 kilometres), which is separated by the Lys River from the Belgian part of its conurbation, itsTown Hall belfry is noteworthy; there is a bust of the Medieval chronicler Philippe de Commynes in the grounds of St. Chrysole church.
Mont de l'Enclus/Kluisberg, Belgium (distance: 31 kilometres) is a scenic, wooded hill through which runs the French/Dutch linguistic boundary.
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Tourcoing (distance: 117 kilometres). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada
Other of my hubpages may be of interest
- Visiting Roubaix, France: architectural magnificence, polarities and apparent contradictions
- Visiting Lille, France: birthplace museum of General Charles de Gaulle
- Visiting France's Bousbecque: striking ecclesiastical architecture and memories of a 16th century he
- Visiting Comines, France: recurring, late Medieval cadences of Philippe de Commynes
- Visiting Menen, Belgium: part of a cross-border conurbation, where everything suddenly changes