Nord - Encyclopedia

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NORD, the most northern of the departments of France, formed chiefly out of Flanders, French Hainault and the district of Cambrai (Cambresis). Area 2229 sq. m. Its population (1,895,861 in 1906), which includes a large proportion of Belgians, ranks next to that of Seine among French departments. Its length from south-east to north-west is 112 m.; its breadth nowhere exceeds 40 m., and contracts to 4 where it is crossed by the Lys. Bounded N.W. and N. for 21 m. by the North Sea, it has Belgian territory on the N.E. and E., the departments of Aisne and Somme on the S. and Pas-de-Calais on the W. The Flanders portion west of the Scheldt is very flat, the isolated hill at Cassel, only 535 ft. high, looking north towards Dunkirk over a stretch of fertile lowlands, the Wateringues and the Mares, separated by a line of sand-dunes from the sea, by which about a thousand years ago they were still covered. The reclamation of this district, now covered by a network of canals, was begun as early as the 12th century. South-east of the Scheldt the country resembles the neighbouring Ardennes, is better wooded, and contains, the highest point in the department (873 ft.). The greater part of Nord is in the Scheldt basin, but certain portions belong to those of the Sambre (Meuse), the Oise (Seine) and the little coast-streams the Aa and the Yser. The Scheldt, flowing by Cambrai, Bouchain, Valenciennes and Conde, receives the Scarpe, which touches Douai, Marchiennes and St Amand. The Lys, which does not join the Scheldt till it has entered Belgium, passes Armentieres, and receives the Deule, on which Lille, the capital, is situated. The Sambre passes Landrecies and Maubeuge. The Aa falls into the port at Gravelines. The climate of Nord is colder than that of France in general, the mean temperature being 49° or 50° F. The average annual rainfall is about 28 in.

In agricultural and industrial importance Nord is the first of French departments. In the hilly region of the south-east stockraising flourishes; in the central zone beetroot is the characteristic crop, while mixed farming prevails in the north-west. Cereals (especially wheat and oats) and potatoes are grown in abundance. Among minor crops, flax, tobacco, chicory and hops may be mentioned. Market-gardening and horticulture are practised on a considerable scale in some localities. The mineral wealth of the department lies principally in its coal mines forming part of the Valenciennes basin, the most important in France, which extends into Belgium and Pas-de-Calais. The textile industry is particularly active around Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing which spin and weave cotton and wool, as also around Fourmies which is especially a weaving town. Other important centres are Armentieres (cloth-weaving), Dunkirk (flax, jute and hemp-spinning), Cambrai (batiste and other delicate fabrics), Douai, Avesnes, le Cateau and Caudry. Other great industries are brewing, flour-milling, glass, brick, pottery and sugar manufacture, alcohol-distilling, dyeing, iron-founding and steel production and other branches of the metallurgical industry carried on at Denain, Hautmont, Maubeuge, Valenciennes, Douai, Raismes, &c. Dunkirk and Gravelines equip fleets for the cod and herring fisheries. Dunkirk is the chief port of the department, which is served by the Northern railway. Its system of inland navigation is highly developed and attains a length of 320 m., comprising a line of waterways from the Scheldt to the North Sea at Dunkirk, with which the coal basin of Valenciennes is linked up by way of the canalized Scheldt and the textile region of Lille by means of the Defile canal and the canalized Lys. To these must be added the canalized Sambre and other less important waterways.

The department is divided into seven arrondissements (Avesnes, Cambrai, Douai, Dunkirk, Hazebrouck, Lille, Valenciennes) with 67 cantons and 667 communes. It forms the archiepiscopal diocese of Cambrai and part of the region of the I. army corps (headquarters at Lille) and of the educational division of Lille. Its court of appeal is at Douai. The most noteworthy places are Lille, Cambrai, Douai, Dunkirk, Valenciennes and Anzin, Tourcoing, Roubaix, Avesnes, Halluin, Armentieres, Maubeuge, Conde-sur-Escaut, Fourmies, Hazebrouck, Gravelines, St Amandles-Eaux, Bergues, Le Cateau, Comines, Denain, Cassel and Bavai, which are separately noticed. Other populous industrial towns not mentioned above are Loos (pop. 9294) and Haubourdin (7897) near Lille, Caudry (10,947), near Cambrai, and Aniche (78J5), a coal mining centre, near Douai. Other places of interest are Bailleul (pop. in 1906, 7128), Bavai and Bergues, which have fine belfries of the 16th century, structures characteristic of the architecture of the department; Hondschoote, scene of a victory of the French over the allies in 1793, which has a church of the 15th and 16th centuries with a fine tower and spire; and Famars which preserves a curious ruined stronghold of the period of the Roman occupation.

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