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Annœullin (Municipality, Nord, France)


Last modified: 2021-01-11 by ivan sache
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Flag of Annœullin - Image by Pascal Vagnat, 6 May 2005

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Presentation of Annœullin

The municipality of Annœullin (9,735 inhabitants in 2009; 901 ha; municipal website) is located 18 km south of Lille, on the border between the pays blanc (white country, where sugarbeet is the main crop) and the pays noir (black country, where coal mining was the main activity).
The history of Annœullin was studied in great detail by André Coupey,who published in 1965 the book Annœullin au temps passé. The long history of the village and the neighbouring areas was shaped by the Great Marsh and water control and by the "border effect"; Annœullin was located on the border of the possessions of the abbeys of Arras and Tournai and on the border of Flanders and Artois.

Excavations made in Annœullin in 1998 have yielded remains of Neolithic and Gallo-Roman settlements. Such findings are very common in the north of France and neighbouring Belgium, but they are of particular interest in Annœullin: until the excavations, it was believed that the whole territory of the municipality was in the past a big marsh and that settlement took place only after a later, partial draining of the marsh. Therefore, early settlements seem to have existed on the edge of the marsh, which could have been used as a source of food (ancient crops and stuck animals) and peat as well as a natural protection against invaders and enemies. The findings could agree with the legend saying that the village was founded by a Roman soldier named Anolinus, but there is no historical evidence of that foundation. The unknown founder of the village could also have been a German named Annolenus.
Another local legend says that St. Martin, the preacher-soldier, evangelized the area c. 360. This is not true, even if the patron saint of the parish is St. Martin. The evangelization of Gaul was encouraged by the Merovingian kings, who used the fame of St. Martin to promote the new religion, but St. Martin himself could not have visited all the places where he was later said to have preached.
Yet another legend says that Charlemagne deported Saxon tribes c. 800 to Annœullin. The name of the village would have been derived from the low Germanic word all man, which gave later in French allemand (German). Here again, there is not the least evidence of that fact but a calvary called calvaire des Allemands.
The name of the village was written in the past Anolinum, Ennelin, Aneulyin, Anulin and Annelin. The written form Annœullin was fixed in 1733. The Flemish dialectal form is Ennelin.

The domain of Annœullin was granted in 673 to the Benedictine St. Vaast abbey. King Theuderic III of Neustria and Burgundy had to repent of the murder of St. Leodegar and granted a chart to the abbey founded by St. Aubert.
In 1165, the Bishop of Tournai ceded the church of Annœullin and its dependencies to the St. Martin's abbey in Tournai; Annœullin dependedon the Bishopric of Tournai until the French Revolution. In 1169, Pope Alexander III listed Annœullin as a possession of the St. Vaast abbeyin Arras. This is the oldest historical record in Annœullin of the rivalry between Flanders (Tournai) and Artois (Arras).
Roger IV, lord of Lille, set up in a chart dated 1220 the respective rights and duties of the lordship of Lille and the St. Vaast abbey on the villages of Annœullin, Bauvin and Mons-en-Pévèle.
The specific custom of Annœullin was in force from 1507 to the French Revolution, with some amendment in 1718; the custom prescribed the local system of tax, weights and measures and, most important, the rules of exploitation of the marsh. Until the end of the 18th century, the marsh was the main means of subsistance in Annœullin. Peat was extracted there and cattle grazed the marsh during the dry season. The marsh was also grown with oil plants such as oilseed rape and plants used in dyeing such as madder and woad (locally called wedde).
The exploitation of the marsh was a matter of conflict with the neighbouring villages of Carvin and Provin. It was forbidden to sell peat out of Annœullin; in the dry season, the marsh was dangerous and cattle often got stuck. A proyer was appointed to get cattle out of the marsh.
Protestants (gueux) were hunted and sunk into the marsh in 1506. Bands of rascals called morlots set up their headquarters there from 1724 to 1764.

Life in Annœullin was extermely harsh because of permanent border conflicts. Maintaining the custom was very important since Annœullin, as a border village, was often crossed and invaded by troops who ransomed the inhabitants. The name of the borough of Bouvaque recalls that Annœullin was a convenient place for bivouac, for instance during the siege of Lille by the French in 1668 and by the Dutch in 1708. The village church was partially burnt by the French troops in 1641. In 1660 and 1661, the French and Spanish authorities met to define the administrative status of the villages depending on St. Vaast abbey (then French) enclaved in the lordship of Lille (then Spanish). In 1668, the treaty of Aachen incorporated the Lordships of Lille, Douai and Orchies to France. A Royal Decree signed by Louis XIV on 18 April 1669 acknowledged a request made by the Baillif of Lille: the villages of Annœullin, Bauvin, Provin and Mons-en-Pévèle were incorporated into the Lordship of Lille, and therefore to Flanders. However, justice was still exercized in Arras, which caused many problems to the inhabitants of Annœullin.

At the end of the 18th century, the marsh was seen as a barrier to the agricultural development of the village. In 1777, Louis XVI released Letters Patented ordering the clearing of the marsh and its share among the Lordships of Lille, Douai and Orchies. A Decree of the Intendant of Flanders and Artois, dated 24 December 1777, awarded two-thirds of the marsh to the inhabitants and the remaining third to the lord, who rented it out. The marsh was completely drained at the end of the 18th century.
In 1790, Annœullin was incorporated into the canton of Seclin, in the department of Nord. The Municipal Council met for the first time on 15 February 1790. There were 2,494 inhabitants in the village in 1801. The limits of the municipality, disputed for three centuries with the neighbouring villages, were fixed in 1808.
Annœullin was then a very poor village, and the Napoleonic Wars increased even more its poverty. The village was occupied by Saxon hussars from 1815 to 1818.

The modern development of Annœullin started around 1840. Roads were built to Allennes, Gondecourt and Seclin. The Municipal Council ordered the lining up of the streets in 1853. The first train came into the station of Annœullin on 10 January 1894. The population of the village progressed regularly: 3,200 in 1855, 4,000 in 1898, and 5,100 in 1900. In 1857, the Société Houillière de Don prospected in Annœullin for coal. A first shaft, set up in 1860, was closed in 1864 because the coal was of low quality and the shaft often flooded. The Compagnie Houillière d'Annœullin-Divion attempted to resume coal-mining on 1877 but stopped the next year because of the floods and the competition with the mines of the pays noir. Around 1900, Annœullin was still a rural village, with 45 farms, four breweries and two tanneries, but textile industry started. Shops and pubs (estaminets) flourished, where the 500-600 coal miners working in the collieries of the pays noir (Carvin, Lens and Meurchin) and more than 100 labourers met.
Hawking was a traditional activity in Annœullin; a legend says that the Spanish troops defeated in Lens in 1648 abandoned a lot of blankets near Annœullin. However, there is no evidence of hawkers in the village before the middle of the 19th century. The marchands d'couvertures (blanket merchants) of Annœullin sold household linen all over the north of France and even in Brittany. There were 267 registered hawkers in 1851; hawking survived for one century but dramatically decreased when the coal mines of the pays noir were set up. The hawkers of Annœullin are recalled by the song La chanson de Baptist, written in the local chtimi dialect.

Social conflicts broke out in the beginning of the 20th century because a few rich farmers had confiscated most of the land shared after the draining of the marsh. Moreover, the increase of the workers' movement split the small town into two politically opposed boroughs, separated by the railway, the "white" borough (donato) and the "red" borough (antonneu). After the tragedy of the mine of Courrières (1906, 1,200 dead), the split increased and the local brassband split into the new Harmonie Syndicale et Ouvrière and the old Philarmonie, founded in 1823 and nicknamed la bourgeoise. A Socialist Mayor was elected in 1912.
Annœullin was occupied by the German troops from October 1914 to October 1918; in September 1918, the whole population of the village was evacuated to Belgium. The newly built home was used by the Germans as a war hospital; 1,200 Germans are buried in the neighbouring cemetery. The fields bordering the road to Provin were transformed into an airfield. On 7 May 1917, the famous British pilot Albert Ball crashed down close to the wood of Carnin, and was buried into the war cemetery. A record of Ball career is available on The Aerodrome website, as well as a list of his 42 victories:

Ball was the first British ace idolized by the public. An engineering student when the war began, he joined the Sherwood Foresters before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in 1915. Described as an "introspective little chap", Ball was a loner with strong religious convictions who soon established a reputation as a fearless pilot and excellent marksman. On 22 August 1916, he scored his 11th victory when he shot down Wilhelm Cymera's two-seater. In just three months over the Somme, he scored his first 30 victories. With the introduction of the S.E.5, he reluctantly gave up his Nieuport 17. Flying the new scout, Ball's flight encountered Jasta 11 on the evening of 7 May 1917 and Ball was last seen by Cyril Crowe entering an extremely dark thundercloud. In the confusion that followed, Ball and Lothar von Richthofen both crashed. Ball was killed but the German ace survived. Officially listed as missing in action, it was several years before the details of Albert Ball's death were known. Although Germany officially credited Lothar von Richthofen with downing Britain's leading ace, there was little or no evidence to substantiate the claim. Moments before he crashed, Leutnant Hailer, a German officer on the ground, witnessed Ball's undamaged aircraft emerge alone from the clouds, 200 feet above the ground in an inverted position with a dead prop. Ball's death greatly disheartened the entire Royal Flying Corps. Today, many of Ball's personal possessions can be viewed at the Albert Ball Memorial on the grounds of the Nottingham Castle Museum in England.

Ball was awarded the Military Cross, the Distinguished Service Order (First and Second Bars) and the Victoria Cross, with the following citation:

For most conspicuous and consistent bravery from the 25th of April to the 6th of May, 1917, during which period Capt. Ball took part in twenty-six combats in the air and destroyed eleven hostile aeroplanes, drove down two out of control, and forced several others to land.
In these combats Capt. Ball, flying alone, on one occasion fought six hostile machines, twice he fought five and once four. When leading two other British aeroplanes he attacked an enemy formation of eight. On each of these occasions he brought down at least one enemy.
Several times his aeroplane was badly damaged, once so seriously that but for the most delicate handling his machine would have collapsed, as nearly all the control wires had been shot away. On returning with a damaged machine he had always to be restrained from immediately going out on another.
In all, Capt. Ball has destroyed forty-three German aeroplanes and one balloon, and has always displayed most exceptional courage, determination and skill.
VC citation, Supplement to the London Gazette, 8 June 1917

Ball is honoured in Annœullin as a messenger of freedom and has been celebrated every 11 November, even during the German occupation. The secondary school of Annœullin bears his name.

The local brewery Brasserie d'Annœullin, founded in 1905 by Auguste Maille, is the last active of the more than 100 traditional breweries that existed in the arrondissement of Lille. The brewery produces beers with nice names (and taste, for sure) such as L'Angélus, La Rince-cochon (Pig's whistle wetting) and Pastor Ale.

Ivan Sache, 6 May 2005

Flag of Annœullin

The flag of Annœullin, as shown on the municipal website, is yellow with a red anchor crossed. It is a banner of the municipal arms, "Or a cross moline gules".
The arms belonged to the St. Vaast abbey in Arras, once owner of Annœullin. The municipality of Bauvin, yet another possession of the St. Vaast abbey, uses the same arms.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 6 May 2005