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Marcq-en-Barœul (Municipality, Nord, France)

Last modified: 2019-01-27 by ivan sache
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Municipal flag of Marcq-en-Barœul - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 23 September 2005

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Presentation of Marcq-en-Barœul

The municipality of Marcq-en-Barœul (37,679 inhabitants; 1,404 ha; municipal website) is located in the north of France, a few kms north of Lille.

Marcq is named after river Marque, whose name is related to marshes (Germanius, marko) and/or borders (Germanic, marka; see German Markt and the ancient French word marche). The Marque (50 km) has its source in Mons-en-Pévèle, waters Marcq-en-Barœul and flows into the Deûle in Marquette. While not a mighty river, the Marque was in the past surrounded by marshy and muddy areas, which made its crossing hazardous and its bridges very strategic in wartime.

In the Roman times, the area was inhabited by tribes called Atrebates (living in fortified cities) and Menapians (living in scattered villages) by Julius Caesar. Remains of Gallo-Roman settlements have been found in Marcq; the wide use of rouge (red) in the local toponymy (Pont Rouge, Château Rouge, Rouge-Barres) is probably related to the use of bricks by the Roman colonists.
In the beginning of the 9th century, Marcq belonged to the imperial fisc (estate) of Annapes, directly owned by Charlemagne. The domain probably included the forest of Barœul. The fisc was incorporated in the chastelleny of Lille, and at least four castra (forts) were built in Marcq. The administrative and religious structure of the domain was extremely complex. The parish of Marcq was much bigger than the current municipality, including for instance Marquette and Wasquehal. The small feudal domains were purchased one by one by the rich clothmakers of Lille.
There were enclaves inside the village of Marcq. The northern part of the village, known as Ghesles, remained part of the Empire after the incorporation of Lille to France. The most famous enclave, however, was the main square of the village, with the church and the pubs. Until 1796, this was a tax-free enclave depending on Tournai, where tobacco and beverages were there much cheaper than in Lille. A treaty between France and Austria suppressed this tax haven.

In the Middle Ages, Marcq, located in a flat, unprotected area (le Plat Pays, the Flat Land), was often looted during wars; the medieval wars were not really deadly compared to the modern ones, but their "collateral damages" were sacks, crop destruction for feeding the troops, threats to the civil population and escape. Marcq more or less met the same fate as Lille. In 1213, King of France Philip II Augustus seized Lille; Count of Flanders Ferdinand left Bruges, took the road of Menen, looted the countryside and entered back Lille. He was eventually defeated in Bouvines in 1214. In 1257, Philip the Handsome besieged Lille and the war between the king of France and the Flemish towns resumed until 1304, with the battles of Kortrijk and Mons-en-Pévèle. War resumed again in 1313-1314; Louis X le Hutin's cavalry got bogged down into the plain between Marcq and Bondues, and was nicknamed l'ost boueux (the muddy army). In the 1330s, bands of rascals scoured the region. In the beginning of the Hundred Years' War, the English burned down the plains around Lille, especially in 1340.

The Burgundian rule was a peaceful period, which ended with the death of Charles the Bold in 1477. The French garrison stationed in Tournai looted the Flat Land and all kinds of troops scouted it until 1491. Under Maximilian and Charles V, peace resumed, which ended in 1566 with the religious troubles. The fanatic Protestants (iconoclasts) looted all the villages. The St. Vincent's church in Marcq was partially burned when a fighting broke out between iconoclasts and the garrison of Lille in the parish cemetery.
The peaceful period of the Archduke's rule (the first third of the 17th century), when Marcq was known as "the Garden of Lille", ended when the French attempted to move the border northwards. Lille was taken over by the French on 27 August 1667. It is said that Louis XIV spent one night in the Tower Manor in Marcq short after the signing of the capitulation treaty in Fives. Marcq lost 180 men during the siege of Lille. Duke of Malborough set up his camp in Pont de Marcq when he besieged Lille in August 1708; after the surrender of the town on 25 October, the Dutch troops settled in Marcq. Except sporadic fightings around Menen in 1744, the region remained peaceful until the French Revolution. Population of Marcq was then 2,700.

Industrialization, which started around 1825, dramatically increased during the Second Empire. From 1851 to 1872, the population of Marcq increased from 3,700 to 7,500. The local industriels, for instance the Scrive family, organized the immigration of Flemish workers, mostly from the region of Lokeren; these workers represented then 37% of the population of Marcq. Most of them lived in the borough of Pont (the bridge). All the workers were housed in very bad conditions, and several deadly epidemics developed in the town (cholera, 1806, killing 106; typhoid, 1880; measles, 1889; smallpox, 1892). The use of the contaminated water from the Marque favoured the spread of the epidemics.
There were 10,792 inhabitants in Marcq in 1901. Of the thousand of them who fought during the First World War, 342 never came back. Because of the war and its side effects, population stagnated (12,000 in 1921). Growth resumed with a new wave of industrialization (opening of the cotton factory in Fives in 1923) so that population was 19,000 in 1931. Most immigrant workers came from Poland and Italy. The wealth of Marcq ended on 1 June 1940 when the Germans entered the town.
The growth of Marcq resumed after the Liberation and new boroughs were created. The population reached 35,000 at the end of the 1960s and has not significantly increased since then.

The symbol of Marcq-en-Barœul is the Carambar, a very popular candy invented in 1954 by the local chocolate factory Delespaul-Havez. The director Fauchille and the technical responsible of manufacturing Gallois decided to mix the cocoa surplus with caramel to make a long candy called Caram'bar (for caramel and barre, a bar) and wrapped into a red and yellow paper. Each paper included a D.H. (for Delespaul-Havez) point; the children could exchange the points they had collected against little gifts. The Caram'bar was very successful because it was cheap, and is still so; the increase of the price of the candy since 1954 has been of only 1 centime per year. In the beginning of the 1960s, the yearly production of Caram'bars was 300 millions. In 1969, jokes, word puzzles and rebus printed on the wrapping paper replaced the D.H. points.
In 1972, Caram'bar merged with La Pie qui Chante (the Swinging Magpie), another popular candy manufacturer from the north of France. The candy was renamed Super Carambar(without the apostroph) in 1977 and eventually Carambar in 1990. In 1998, Carambar and the other brands of the group were purchased by Cadbury-Schweppes. The Marcq factory still produces Carambar and La Pie qui Chante candies.
In 2000, the production of Carambars was 1.2 billion pieces, that is, end to end, more than the circumference of the Earth. Some 85% of the production is sold in France; Carambars are also sold in Belgium, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, for the pleasure of the local children and dentists (the Carambar is very very sticky).

Ivan Sache, 23 September 2005

Flag of Marcq-en-Barœul

The flag of Marcq-en-Baroeul, as communicated by Frédéric Bayard, from the municipal administration, is a white square flag with a thick blue cross. It is a banner of the municipal arms, "Argent a cross azure".
The greater arms of Marcq are surmounted with a golden four-tower mural crown and surrounded by two wreaths tied together below the shield.
The very same shield of arms is used by the municipality of Croix, neighbouring Marcq in the east. These arms are probably the canting arms of the feudal family of Croix (in French, "a cross").

Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 23 September 2005