Picardie region, in the north of France. On the Somme River, 12 m. from its mouth in the English Channel, and 28 m. nothwest of Amiens. It is one of the three sous-préfectures of the Somme département.
The city was very picturesque until the early days of World War II, when it was bombed mostly to rubble in one night by the Germans. Several of the town's attractions (including its handsome St. Vulfran's church) remain, but the town overall is now mostly modern and rebuilt.
It was fairly important in the 18th century, when the Van Robais Royal Manufacture (one of the first major factories in France) brought great prosperity (but some class controversy) to the town. Voltaire, among others, wrote about it. He also wrote about a major incident of intolerance in which a young impoverished lord, the Chevalier de la Barre, was executed there for impiety (supposedly because he did not salute a procession for Corpus Christi, though the story is far more complex than that and revolves around a mutilated cross.)
From a turn of the century encyclopedia:
"Pop. (1901) 18,519; (1906) 18,971. It lies in a pleasant and fertile valley, and is built partly on an island and partly on both sides of the river, which is canalized from this point to the estuary. The streets are narrow, and the houses are mostly picturesque old structures, built of wood, with many quaint gables and dark archways. The most remarkable building is the church of St Vulfran, erected in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The original design was not completed. The nave has only two bays and the choir is insignificant. The facade is a magnificent specimen of the flamboyant Gothic style, flanked by two Gothic towers. Abbeville has several other old churches and an Hotel de Ville, with a belfry of the 13th century. Among the numerous old houses, that known as the Maison de Francois I, which is the most remarkable, dates from the 16th century. There is a statue of Admiral Courbet (d. 1885) in the chief square. The public institutions include tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, and a communal college. Abbeville is an important industrial centre; in addition to its old-established manufacture of cloth, hemp-spinning, sugar-making, ship-building and locksmithss' work are carried on; there is active commerce in grain, but the port has little trade.
Abbeville, the chief town of the district of Ponthieu, first appears in history during the 9th century. At that time belonging to the abbey of St Riquier, it was afterwards governed by the counts of Ponthieu. Together with that county, it came into the possession of the Alençon and other French families, and afterwards into that of the house of Castile, from whom by marriage it fell in 1272 to King Edward I of England. French and English were its masters by turns till 1435 when, by the treaty of Arras, it was ceded to the Duke of Burgundy. In 1477 it was annexed by King Louis XI of France, and was held by two illegitimate branches of the royal family in the 16th and 17th centuries, being in 1696 reunited to the crown."
Source for quoted material: An unnamed encyclopedia from a project that puts out-of-copyright texts into the public domain. This is from an old source, and reflects the thinking of the turn of the last century. Please update as needed, and incorporate into the first part of the article.