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Duclair (Municipality, Seine-Maritime, France)

Last modified: 2021-06-25 by ivan sache
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Flag of Duclair - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 20 February 2021

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Presentation of Duclair

The municipality of Duclair (4,136 inhabitants in 2018; 1,002 ha; municipal website) is located 20 km west of Rouen.

Duclair was known to the Romans as Duroclarum (Beautiful Town). The St. Denis abbey in Ducler, the town's medieval name, is mentioned on a share made in 671 by St. Ouen, bishop of Rouen, between the powerful abbeys of St. Philibert and St. Wandrille. Allegedly destroyed by the Vikings in the 9th century, the St. Denis abbey, not cited in any other source, was most probably a big parish church. The Gallo-Roman columns reused in the St. Denis church (11th-14th century) are said to have been taken from the ruined abbey, without any further evidence.
Duke of Normandy William Long-Sword offered Duclair to the abbey of Jumièges in the 10th century. Duclair was the seat of a barony established in the Cour du Mont Manor, where the monks exerted justice. Richard Lionheart allowed in 7 June 1198 the monks to manage a Tuesday's market in the town.

Until the inauguration of the Tancarville bridge in 1959, the Seine downstream of Rouen could be crossed only by six river ferries and another two, bigger maritime ferries, operated in Quillebœuf and Duclair, respectively. The ferries constituted a vital link between the municipalities located "on the other side of the water", that is, on the left bank, which felt discriminated, and the bigger municipalities located on the right bank, where all administrations and markets were concentrated. Between 1910 and 1930, industrialization of the lower valley of the Seine was mostly established on the right bank, leaving the right bank rural.
In Duclair, the Seine was originally crossed only by fishers and watermen, who used small wooden boats called "bachots". A first ferry, established in 1860, was replaced in 1868 by a steamboat, equipped in 1872 with a 30 hp steam engine that powered a paddle. In 1940, the ferry was used by refugees from Belgium and Northern France repelled by the German advance; after the 6 June 1944, German troops evacuating Normandy used the Duclair ferry to move northwards; in August, some 5,000 soldiers used the ferry. When the allied troops reached the left bank, the Germans destroyed the ferry on the right bank.
In 1970, a brand new ferry built at the Dubigeon shipyard in Le Petit-Quevilly, was inaugurated; powered by four diesel engines (1,000 hp) each commanding a rotatable screw, the ferry, of 55.30 m in length, could accommodate 150 passengers, 15 cars, 4 trailer trucks and a six-wheeled truck. The ferry in current use, inaugurated in 1999, is 56 m in length and 19.50 m in width; powered by electricity, it can accommodate 42 cars on four rows.

Ivan Sache, 25 June 2021

Flag of Duclair

The flag of Duclair (photo, photo), in use since c. 2018, is white with the municipal logo. The three disks feature an apple, a duck and a fish, respectively.

Apple-trees were planted in the region of Duclair in the 17th century by the monks of the abbey of Jumièges to replace grapevine. The area is suitable for fruit growing because of the white chalk cliffs that reflect the heat and protect the orchards from wind.
[La Route des Fruits]

The Duclair duck has been known at least since the 18th century; in 1733, Voltaire mentioned in a letter to his Rouen-based friend Cideville duck farming in Duclair. At the end of the 19th century, Voitelier presented the Duclair duck as "the other autochthonous Normand duck", as opposed to the Rouen duck. The legal standard for the Duclair duck was issued on 11 November 1923. Also known as "Normandy dabbler", the Duclair duck differs from the Rouen duck by its white bib, therefore its nickname of "barrister", and by its less fat flesh.
Most duck farms were located on the left bank of the Seine; farmers brought the ducks to the Duclair market using the ferry, the living ducks being locked in wooden cages called "mues". The density was sometimes so high that some duck died from suffocation; the farmers used to drop them at the Hôtel de la Poste where father Denise invented his famous recipe of "canard au sang", where the the duck pieces are cooked in the animal blood, which is made possible only when animals are not slit.

Lime most local breeds, the Duclair duck was progressively superseded by more productive hybrids more "suitable" for industrial farming. No longer reared by professional farmers, the Duclair duck was preserved from extinction by some 20 amateur breeders members of the Club pour la Sauvegarde des Races avicoles Normandes (CSRAN). In partnership with the Parc naturel régional des Boucles de la Seine Normande, the CSRAN has established a conservation farm in Notre-Dame-de-Bliquetuit.
In 2012, the region's last traditional slaughterhouse was closed. A company based in Ouainville established a new slaughterhouse to produce Rouen ducks, and planned to produce also Duclair ducks.
[Le canard de Duclair, une espèce patrimoniale à préserver]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 25 June 2021