The story about Villeneuve-sur-Yonne

Villeneuve-sur-Yonne is ideally located on the banks of the River Yonne and set amidst rolling hills covered alternately by woods and fields. The town’s houses are nestled together around the Bell Tower of Notre-Dame Church. Over the centuries, the town has grown harmoniously, the old centre still retaining its myriad dark red, flat tiled roofs. The town is circled by shady promenades which follow the traces of  former mediaeval walls that protected the ancient city. Town houses dating back to the 17th and 18th century only add to the charm.

Numerous sites of archaeological interest in the surrounding hillsides and valleys show that the area was inhabited as early as the Palaeolithic period. People came from fare and wide, to buy and repair their flint tools. The first farmers of the Neolithic period, followed by the Gallo-Romans established their farms in the Valley without creating a settlement as such.

It was in 1163 that King Louis VII founded the town on the East bank of the River Yonne.  He did so in order to extend his royal domain and strategically strengthen his position against any possible attack from the Champagne area, which was then virtually an independent state. The establishment of this new town was also part of the great development of the French regions during the 12th century. Within fifty years, Villeneuve saw its population, benefiting from a very advantageous juridical statute «the Law of Lorris», soar and its boundaries expand beyond its 2 km long defensive walls with glacis, broad moat and towered walls opened by five monumental gates. Two of the original gates still survive today.

During the l3th century, Villeneuve, now officially one of the strongholds of the French  monarchy welcomed Philippe Auguste. In 1204, he held his parliament here. Saint Louis also visited the town on several occasions.

Villeneuve-Le-Roi, as the town was then known, was to keep its name until 1792.  The name changed during the French Revolution, it was restored during the Restoration period and once again during the July Monarchy. The town remained the seat of a Royal bailiwick of some thirty parishes until the French Revolution.

Between 1421 and 1430, during the Hundred Years War, Villeneuve was occupied by the Anglo-Burgundian faction.

Despite being besieged several times during the religious wars of the Protestant Reformation, the town remained faithful to the «Ligue» against Henri IV and in April 1594 was finally overwhelmed and burnt to the ground.

Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the prosperity of Villeneuve was due to its location on the river, as well as its surrounding forests and vineyards. Its harbour was used for storing woods and coal to supply Paris. Wine and leather trading were an additional source of wealth for the town. As a result, rich traders built elegant houses in the town centre between the “rues basses” and the «rues hautes».

As well as rural depopulation, the economy of the town suffered badly when an attack of Phylloxera destroyed its vineyards.

Nowadays, Villeneuve-sur-Yonne has approximately 5400 inhabitants (a number only exceeded back in 1842). Since W.W.II, the creation of an industrial estate situated on the left bank of the River Yonne has brought 800 new jobs and opportunities for local business. A variety of cultural and sports associations make a positive contribution to the life of this

attractive town.


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