BOULOGNE-SUR-MER, a fortified seaport of northern France and chief town of an arrondissement in Pas-de-Calais, situated on the shore of the English Channel at the mouth of the river Liane, 157 m. N.N.W. of Paris on the Northern railway, and 28 m. by sea S.E. of Folkestone, Kent. Pop. (1906) 49,636. Boulogne occupies the summit and slopes of a ridge of hills skirting the right bank of the Liane; the industrial quarter of Capécure extends along the opposite bank, and is reached by two bridges, while the river is also crossed by a double railway viaduct. The town consists of two parts, the Haute Ville and the Basse Ville. The former, situated on the top of the hill, is of comparatively small extent, and forms almost a parallelogram, surrounded by ramparts of the 13th century, and, outside them, by boulevards, and entered by ancient gateways. In this part are the law court, the château and the hotel de ville (built in the 18th century), and a belfry tower of the 13th and 17th centuries is in the immediate neighbourhood. In the château (13th century) now used as barracks, the emperor Napoleon III was confined after the abortive insurrection of 1840. At some distance north-west stands the church of Notre-Dame, a well-known place of pilgrimage, erected (1827-1866) on the site of an old building destroyed in the Revolution, of which the extensive crypt still remains. The modern town stretches from the foot of the hill to the harbour, along which it extends, terminating in an expanse of sandy beach frequented by bathers, and provided with a bathing establishment and casino. It contains several good streets, some of which are, however, very steep. A main street, named successively rue de la Lampe, St Nicolas and Grande rue, extends from the bridge across the Liane to the promenade by the side of the ramparts. This is intersected first by the Quai Gambetta, and farther back by the rue Victor Hugo and the rue Nationale, which contain the principal shops. The public buildings include several modern churches, two hospitals and a museum with collections of antiquities, natural history, porcelain, etc. Connected with the museum is a public library with 75,000 volumes and a number of valuable manuscripts, many of them richly illuminated. There are English churches in the town, and numerous boarding-schools intended for English pupils. Boulogne is the seat of a sub-prefect, and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France. There are also communal colleges, a national school of music, and schools of hydrography, commerce and industry. Boulogne has for a long time been one of the most anglicized of French cities; and in the tourist season a continuous stream of English travellers reach the continent at this point.
The harbour is formed by the mouth of the Liane. Two jetties enclose a channel leading into the river, which forms a tidal basin with a depth at neap-tides of 24 ft. Alongside this is an extensive dock, and behind it an inner port. There is also a tidal basin opening off the entrance channel. The depth of water in the river-harbour is 33 ft. at spring-tide and 24 ft. at neap-tide; in the sluice of the dock the numbers are 29 and 23 respectively. The commerce of Boulogne consists chiefly in the importation of jute, wool, woven goods of silk and wool skins, threads, coal, timber, and iron and steel, and the exportation of wine, woven goods, table fruit, potatoes and other vegetables, skins, motor-cars, forage and cement. The average annual value of the exports in the five years 1901-1905 was £10,953,000 (£11,704,000 in the years 1896-1900), and of the imports £6,064,000 (£7,003,000 in the years 1896-1900). From 1901 to 1905 the annual average of vessels entered, exclusive of fishing-smacks, was 2735, tonnage 1,747,699; and cleared 2750, tonnage 1,748,297. The total number of passengers between Folkestone and Boulogne in 1906 was 295,000 or 49% above the average for the years 1901-1905. These travelled by the steamers of the South-Eastern & Chatham railway company. The liners of the Dutch-American, Hamburg-American and other companies also call at the port. In the extent and value of its fisheries Boulogne is exceeded by no seaport in France. The most important branch is the herring-fishery; next in value is the mackerel. Large quantities of fresh fish are transmitted to Paris by railway, but an abundant supply is reserved to the town itself. The fishermen live for the most part in a separate quarter called La Beurrière, situated in the upper part of the town. In 1905 the fisheries of Boulogne and the neighbouring village of Etaples employed over 400 boats and 4500 men, the value of the fish taken being estimated at £1,025,000. Among the numerous industrial establishments in Boulogne and its environs may be mentioned foundries, cement-factories, important steel-pen manufactories, oil-works, dye-works, fish-curing works, flax-mills, saw-mills, and manufactories of cloth, fireproof ware, chocolate, boots and shoes, and soap. Shipbuilding is also carried on.
Among the objects of interest in the neighbourhood the most remarkable is the Colonne de la Grande Armée, erected on the high ground above the town, in honour of Napoleon I., on occasion of the projected invasion of England, for which he here made great preparations. The pillar, which is of the Doric order, 166 ft. high, is surmounted by a statue of the emperor by A.S. Bosio. Though begun in 1804, the monument was not completed till 1841. On the edge of the cliff to the east of the port are some rude brick remains of an old building called Tour d'Ordre, said to be the ruins of a tower built by Caligula at the time of his intended invasion of Britain.
Boulogne is identified with the Gessoriacum of the Romans, under whom it was an important harbour. It is suggested that it was the Portus Itius where Julius Caesar assembled his fleet (see Itius Portus). At an early period it began to be known as Bononia, a name which has been gradually modified into the present form. The town was destroyed by the Normans in 882, but restored about 912. During the Carolingian period Boulogne was the chief town of a countship that was for long the subject of dispute between Flanders and Ponthieu. From the year 965 it belonged to the house of Ponthieu, of which Godfrey of Bouillon, the first king of Jerusalem, was a scion. Stephen of Blois, who became king of England in 1135, had married Mahaut, daughter and heiress of Eustace, count of Boulogne. Their daughter Mary married Matthew of Alsace (d. 1173), and her daughter Ida (d. 1216) married Renaud of Dammartin. Of this last marriage was issue Mahaut, countess of Boulogne, wife of Philip Hurepel (d. 1234), a son of King Philip Augustus. To her succeeded the house of Brabant, issue of Mahaut of Boulogne, sister of Ida, and wife of Henry I. of Brabant; and then the house of Auvergne, issue of Alice, daughter of Henry I. of Brabant, inherited the Boulonnais. It remained in the possession of descendants of these families until Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, seized upon it in 1419. In 147 7 Louis XI. of France reconquered it, and reunited it to the French crown, giving Lauraguais as compensation to Bertrand IV. de la Tour, count of Auvergne, heir of the house of Auvergne. To avoid doing homage to Mary of Burgundy, suzerain of the Boulonnais and countess of Artois, Louis XI declared the countship of Boulogne to be held in fee of Our Lady of Boulogne. In 1544 Henry VIII. - more successful in this than Henry III. had been in 1347 - took the town by siege; but it was restored to France in 1550. From 1566 to the end of the 18th century it was the seat of a bishopric.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)