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Le Conquet (Municipality, Finistère, France)

Last modified: 2005-03-05 by ivan sache
Keywords: finistere | conquet (le) | tower (white) | anchors: 2 (red) | birds: 3 (white) | fishes: 2 (blue) | lion (white) | ship (white) | ermines: 2 (black) |
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[Flag of Le Conquet]by Arnaud Leroy

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Presentation of Le Conquet

The small port of Le Conquet (2,441 inhabitants; 845 hectares; coasts, 16 km) is located 25 km west of Brest, at the far end of Brittany. Le Conquet has proclaimed itself port du bout du monde (port at the end of the world). It fully deserves its nickname, since it is the westernmost municipality of continental France.

The village of Le Conquet (known in 1341 as Le Conquest) was built between the Atlantic Ocean and the left bank of Aber Conq. The official limit between the Atlantic Ocean and the Channel is the pointe de Corsen, located c. 10 km north of Le Conquet; in Brittany, an aber, aka ria or simply rivière, is a large and often indented estuary, made of a former river valley flooded by the sea after the last glaciation. Such estuaries were often colonized by early settlers, who built there villages and ports. The paeninsula of Kermorvan is located on the right bank of Aber Conq and is linked to the center of the village by a footbridge.

Le Conquet was probably founded in the Xth century and has a long maritime history. Due to its strategical location near the entrance of the goulet (bottleneck) of Brest, the city was often besieged and trashed by the Norsemen and later the English.
In 1370, the shipowners from Le Conquet operated their own ships. They shipped local food products, grains and salt meat, and shipped back to Le Conquet wine and salt.

On 30 July 1558, the landing of the Anglo-Dutch fleet (130 vessels; 12,000 men) brought ruin upon the wealthy shipowners of Le Conquet. The village never recovered from that event, and trade was relocated to other ports. However, the historical center of the city was rebuilt and preserved; the Maison des Seigneurs, the so-called houses à l'anglaise, and the quays of the ancient port of Drellac'h still recall the wealthy history of Le Conquet.

In 1829, a iodine extraction plant was opened in Le Conquet. Around 1850, spiny lobster fishers from Paimpol (Northern Brittany) settled in Le Conquet and the fishing port started to increase. Today, Le Conquet is one of the main fishing ports of Brittany, with a permanent fleet of 40 ships, specialized in inshore fishing of seafish and noble fish (bass, turbot, etc.).

Several coastal fortifications were built around Le Conquet in order to protect the military port of Brest. After the French Revolution, big forts and batteries were built on the pointes of Kermorvan and Saint-Matthieu and near the cove of Blancs Sablons. During the Second World War, several blockhouses were added, as parts of the Atlantic Wall.

Le Conquet is one of the ports serving the islands of Molène and Ouessant (Ushant). Until recently, it also had a well-known radionavigation center.
Tourism developed very slowly in Le Conquet, which explains why the city has remained so nice and its natural environment so well preserved. On 12 July 1903, an electric streetcar line, linking Brest to Le Conquet via Plouzané, was inaugurated. It replaced the Hirondelle (Swallow), an omnibus coach drawn by three horses. The streetcar line was very successful: 13,000 passengers took the streetcar during the first 20 days of the service. The line had three main goals: access to the beaches of Sainte-Anne, located south of Plouzané, which were served by a specific branch line from 1908 to 1918; Trégana, Porsmilin and Trez Hir, located near Plougonvelin; and Blancs Sablons, located in Le Conquet; transportation of food products to Brest, the dedicated trains being nicknamed trains patates; and a quick shipping of supply and soldiers to the forts of Le Conquet in case of English attack. The line was operated by the Société Anonyme des Tramways du Finistère and later by the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer Départementaux du Finistère. There were at least six round trips scheduled per day and the speed was limited to 20 km/h. The main duration of the trip from Brest to Le Conquet was 1 h 30. The line was suppressed on 5 October 1932 and replaced by a bus line.


Ivan Sache, 30 October 2004

Municipal flag of Le Conquet

The flag of Le Conquet, as photographied there by Hervé Prat, is white with the municipal shield in the middle.

The shield is quartered, first or a tower argent masoned and opened sable flanked by two anchors gules and surmonting a scallop argent, second gules three seabirds argent, third argent a bar azure two fishes of the same, fourth gules a lion argent, escutcheon vert a sailing ship argent with sails ermine.
The name of the municipality is written in black Capital letters in a red rectangle placed over the shield.

The municipal coat of arms given in Forger and Pressensé's Armorial of Finistère (2002) is slightly different. The fishes are there dolphins and the ship is sailing on a green sea surmonted by blue sky.

I have not found any explanation of these arms; they seem to recall some of the local features (fishing, fortifications, Breton ermine).

Ivan Sache, 30 October 2004