Marne-Yeuse is located at the entrance of Royan coming from the Saujon-Saintes axis. It borders the Royan 2 commercial area and the Pousseau marshes nature reserve. It houses housing estates and social housing. Today we are interested in its discreet and little-known history, which is nevertheless part of the urban and social heritage of Royan.

Marne-Yeuse, in the shadow of Royan's 50s architecture

"The district of Marne-Yeuse" is probably not the first answer you will get when you ask "what to visit in Royan?" ". In addition to its famous beaches, we will tell you about the districts of Pontaillac and Foncillon. Or some Belle Epoque villas and 50s architecture… This architecture is emblematic of Royan and its Reconstruction after the allied bombings of January and April 1945. But with 85% of its area destroyed, Royan, a disaster town, must be able to rehouse its inhabitants. It is on the outskirts of destroyed city centers that we establish of emergency housing, as in the Marne-Yeuse district in Royan.

Building in a hurry

In 1944, the provisional government of the French Republic created the Ministry of Reconstruction and Urbanism. For the reconstruction of Royan, this ministry thus entrusts the architects Claude Ferret, Louis Simon and André Morisseau with setting up the new urban plan and its architectural rules.

6000 inhabitants as well as the cleaning staff of the city are urgently relocated. And this is done in precarious conditions: canvas villages, barracks, temporary housing estates... Several districts of Royan are dedicated to this purpose, including Marne-Yeuse.

Marne-Yeuse, from the countryside to the city

Before becoming urbanized, the site belonged to the Royan countryside. Fields, pastures, marshes and also some farms make up its landscape. The name of the district brings together the two distinct parts that make it up. The first mention pays tribute to the combatants of the Battle of the Marne during the First World War. The second is a Saintonge term for holm oak, an endemic species in the region.

From 1946, the periphery of the Reconstruction zone accommodated the first temporary cities so as not to slow down the work. Several constructions of cities feed the district of Marne-Yeuse over the years. There thus coexists wooden huts, prefabricated pavilions, mixed constructions (solid foundations and recycled elements) and permanent pavilions (standardized construction elements).

Originally temporary constructions, some towns have now disappeared while others remain.

Marne-Yeuse and its permanent towns

The City Faupigné

house of the Faupigné housing estate - Marne-Yeuse district

Seen from the sky, with its crossroads, the city of Faupigné looks like a six-pointed star. Architects André Hoffelt and Maurice Legros are working on this project. The construction of these dwellings is rapid. It is done between January and September 1946. We use in part the stones of the ruins of the bombardments. Shopkeepers set up in two-storey buildings with the ground floor overlooking the street for the shop and the basement, the dwelling opening onto a garden at the back. Gradually, temporary and salvage materials are replaced with permanent materials. From 1962, the occupants of the small pavilions could become owners.

While the vast majority of dwellings are similar, we also note the presence of two Austrian chalets. Germany supplied this type of construction to France as reparations for war damage. Their architecture is inspired by the traditional chalet constructions of the Black Forest, Bavaria and Tyrol.

Austrian chalets in Royan

The oldest remember Madame Vachon and her fish cart. She roamed the streets of the city to sell her husband's catch.

The City of 24 Houses

It was between 1954 and 1955 that the project of the architect Henri-Pierre Maillard was born. He is also at the origin of the Botton gallery, current tourist information office of Royan. Cubic with one floor, each of the twelve buildings is divided into two and provides access to twenty-four apartments. They remind the industrialized buildings on a large scale in the United States at the end of World War II. This earned them the nickname "American Houses". Still in place, the City of 24 Houses runs along the Raymond Matet de la Triloterie stadium near the Cordouan high school.

the city of 24 houses in Royan

The City of Returnees

From 1963, France began to welcome “repatriates” from French Algeria. The city of Royan then fulfilled its part by receiving twelve families following the installation of metal prefabricated. The presence of the Pieds-Noirs thus gives the place a Mediterranean atmosphere. We still remember that here “it sang and it danced”. From 1975, families could buy back housing to become owners. Following the various renovations and developments, the Cité des Repatriés is now made up of landscaped pavilions.

House of the city of returnees of Marne-Yeuse

The disappeared cities of Marne-Yeuse

Made of workers' cantonments from 1949,  the black city owes its name to the wooden walls and frames coated with coal tar. The city had only one water point and poverty reigned there. Its other city name Cote xnumx comes from the battle of Verdun where French and Germans fought over an unnamed hill, identified by its altitude. Finally, she disappeared in 1956.

Built on old vines from 1950, the barracks of the Gray City first received the victims of the bombings and then those relocated from the Cité Noire. It is so called because of the materials used: aged and painted wood, cement plaster. The color of the shutters also earned it the name Cité Rouge. Various constructions replaced it until its disappearance in 1970. Today, we find in particular the Marne l'Yeuse school in the same place.

It is the color of the materials that give its name to the white city : white-rendered bricks and rubble. Born following the call of winter 54, it also bears the name of Cité de l'Abbé Pierre. It was replaced in 2008 by the Pierre Lis residence, former mayor of Royan from 1979 to 1983 and father of Michel Lis, the famous gardening journalist.

A book to remember and testify

This article is largely based on the book “Royan – emergency construction – Marne-Yeuse district 1945-1970”. It was produced in collaboration with the socio-cultural center of Royan and the Artichem association. It compiles historical facts, architectural research, anecdotes and testimonies.

To quote the back cover, “this book also testifies to the fabulous human commitment to the daily life of a neighborhood at the start of the postwar boom”.

chapel of the Marne-Yeuse district

Nowadays, HLM buildings dominate this popular district. There remains an authentic neighborhood life, on a human and family scale. The small and modest Saint-Jean chapel still hosts mass. This book is proof that the Marne-Yeuse district is as much a part of the history of the city of Royan as other more established districts.

Learn more

“Royan – building in a hurry – Marne-Yeuse district 1945-1970”:
on sale at the Royan Tourist Information Office.

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