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La Tremblade (Municipality, Charente-Maritime, France)

Last modified: 2024-03-16 by olivier touzeau
Keywords: charente-maritime | tremblade (la) | lighthouse |
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Flag of La Tremblade - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 7 March 2022

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Presentation of La Tremblade

La Tremblade (4,436 inhabitants in 2021; 6,913 ha) is a commune in the department of Charente-Maritime.

The site of La Tremblade has been occupied since prehistoric times. This part of the peninsula of Arvert was at that time very different from today, forming a rocky promontory beaten by the waves of the ocean (Pointe de Brau). Over the centuries, river and marine alluvium accumulated to the point of forming new lands, vast desert expanses covered with shifting dunes, inhospitable forests or unhealthy swamps.
In 1189, this wild region was ceded to the monks of the order of Grandmont by Gombeau, lord of Mornac. Five monks are sent by the motherhouse to found a small monastery, it is up to them to clear and develop the site, but also to monitor the coasts and rescue any shipwrecked people. The cleared forest gradually gives way to vegetable gardens, salt marshes, mills and fishponds. A population of craftsmen and peasants gathered around this monastery called “Notre-Dame de La Garde”. A second monastic community settled in the vicinity shortly afterwards, founding a priory called “Notre-Dame de La Couronne” Finally, to the south-west of the Arvert peninsula, was the village de Buze, on land granted to the Cluniacs by Aléard de Mornac in 1166. Its location in the heart of constantly shifting dune massifs exposed this community to many dangers. At the whim of the storms, the dunes cover the houses, the fields... The church itself was not spared and in the 16th century, this ultimate testimony of the village of Buze was definitively buried in turn. The meager vestiges of the church are, even today, occasionally discovered by the wind and the elements. Around the monastery of La Garde, less exposed, the habitat becomes denser and, in the 13th century, a charter mentions for the first time the hamlet of "Trembledam", probably so named because of the aspens (in French: trembles) which were to constitute the essence dominant of the surrounding forests.

In the sixteenth century, Protestantism took hold in the provinces of Aunis and Saintonge. The authorities reacted inconsistently. There were periods of relative tolerance and successive waves of persecution. Philibert Hamelin, founder of the Reformed Churches in the municipalities of Arvert and Oléron was arrested in 1557, strangled and burned. During the religious wars, the monasteries of La Garde and La Couronne were ransacked, the monks dispersed and monastic lands leased. These fratricidal wars ended with the enactment of the Edict of Nantes. After the series of conflicts, village populations were almost entirely Protestant.
In the seventeenth century and eighteenth century, the Port of La Tremblade was a hub for the provisioning of ships bound for New France. It was also the base for ships fishing the Newfoundland banks. Several shipyards were located there, including those of the French Royal Navy. Louis XIV wanted to establish an arsenal in the area, but dangerous currents at Oléron caused Colbert to choose another site: a small village in the middle of the marsh, about twenty kilometres to the north, which ultimately became the city of Rochefort.

Oyster farming was established in 1650 by Charles and Blanche Chapeleine. Green oysters from the Isles of Arvert became a delicacy. Eaten raw or marinated, they were prized by King Louis XIV and the French nobility. This activity remains restricted to the port and salt marshes.

An order in 1681 to close Protestant temples opened the way for further persecution of Protestants. The authorities sent dragoons (Dragonnades) to harass and intimidate Protestants into converting to Catholicism or leaving France. In the eighteenth century, due to a reversal of the demographic trend, the village, which was not even a full-fledged parish, had a larger population than the capital of the Barony on which it depended, Arvert. The village was emancipated in 1749 by becoming an independent parish, and in 1758, Jean Charles de Saint-Nectaire, Baron of Arvert, transferred his stately home to La Tremblade. The way was paved for the village, which has about 2000 inhabitants at the eve of the Revolution, to become capital of the newly created district in 1790.

During the nineteenth century, the city gained a church, temple, covered market and railway, and became an important economic centre of the department. The oyster revolutionised the local economy based on fishing, agriculture (production of wheat, maize and rye), wine (white wine production, brandy and vinegar) and it was also turning more and more towards tourism. In 1876, La Tremblade was classified as the fifth-largest port in France after La Rochelle, with an estimated traffic of 8300 tonnes (oysters, salt, fish products).

Many villas were built on the edge of the ocean, west of the town, in a grid pattern established by Joseph Edward Perraudeau of Beaufief, one of the first being the Villa "Stork", built in 1860, the genesis of the future seaside district of Ronce-les-Bains.In 1862, a Parisian physician, Dr. Brochard, publishes a brochure entitled The sea baths in La Tremblade contributing to the development of the resort.
In 1940, the city was occupied by German troops. During their withdrawal in February 1945, they burned the city centre, before retreating to a redoubt in the forest of Coubre. The Allies (158th Infantry Regiment) landed at the Mus-de-loup on 14 April 1945 and liberated the city.

Olivier Touzeau, 7 March 2022

Flag of La Tremblade

The flag of La Tremblade is white with logo (photo, photo). The logo is modified on the flag, with the word "Ronce-les-Bains" more visible in red letters instead of grey.

Olivier Touzeau, 7 March 2022

The adoption of the logo in 2015 stirred up a local controversy, because the name of Ronce-les-Bains was omitted. Two inhabitants of Ronce-les-Bains petitioned for the re-establishment of "Ronce-les-Bains" (source: Sud Ouest, 3 September 2015).

The petition shows the two previous municipal logos. The appellants claimed that Ronce-les-Bains was a genuine community with permanent and summer inhabitants, shops, activities and history. It was also required to abolish the new logo, deemed "really distressing", and to propose a new logo to be democratically submitted to assessment by the inhabitants of the municipality of La Tremblade - Ronce-les-Bains. Finally, the distressing logo was maintained, but with the addition of "Ronce les Bains" below La Tremblade, replacing the baseline used in the first version of the logo.

The logo is based on the geographic, triangular map of the municipality. The blue side represents the Atlantic coast; the yellow side represents sand beaches; the green side represents the forest of La Coubre.
The red dot represents the lighthouse of La Coubre.

The lighthouse, 64 m in height, is located at Pointe de la Coubre, the northern end of the estuary of Gironde. Violent currents and sandbanks have caused several wrecks, for instance "Germany" (1872) and "Volga" (1916). A beacon topped by a fire was recorded in 1690 in La Coubre. Suppressed in 1785 by a storm, the beacon was replaced by a wooden lighthouse, of 30 m in height, inaugurated on 1860. A stone lighthouse was erected in 1895, 1.5 km from the coast line. Threatened by sea erosion, the lighthouse was rebuilt in 1904 1.8 km from the new shore and inaugurated on 1 October 1905. It now stands only 150m from the coastline.
Automated since 2000, the lighthouse of La Coubre has a range of 52 km (28 miles) [official website].

The Extreme300 pedestrian race is ran every Ascension's Day. In 2017, Firmin Dintrat needed only 1 minute and 2 seconds to climb the 300 steps, and still holds the record (source: France 3 Nouvelle-Aquitaine, 11 May 2018).

Ivan Sache, 11 March 2022

Former flag of La Tremblade


Former flag of La Tremblade - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 15 March 2024

The former flag of La Tremblade  was white with the previous logo (photo). The logo, in use before 2015, included the drawing of the La Coubre lighthouse.

Olivier Touzeau, 15 March 2024