Charles Roussel (1861-1936) : "Retour
de Pêche au manquereau" - in Berck Municipal
Fishermen and artists
19th century Berck was a fishing village which
attracted artists to come to live and work here, inspired by
the special quality of the light along the Côte
d'Opale,and by the colour and vitality of the local fishing
community and life by the seaside.
Sea-air as a health cure
In the mid-19th century Cholera epidemics which
afflicted the speading cities of Europe, Berck gained a
reputation for the healthy benefits of exposure to sea air
and sea-bathing from its wide sandy beaches, facing the
bracing Channel breezes.
fishing boats anchored on the open sandy beach at low tide.
Berck has no harbour.
Fresh fish market with rows of fishermen's
In the 1850's a grieving widow offered sick children
a chance of a seaside cure in Berck. Her husband, a local
doctor, and 4 children had died in a cholera epedemic. The
children were recommended by a doctor in Montreuil, and it
was noticed that children sent to Berck recovered more
quickly - especially those with bone diseases like
Soon other invalids were being sent to benefit from the sea
air and sea-bathing as a cure. In 1869, Napoleon III's wife,
Empress Eugénie, opened the big Maritime Hospital
which still overlooks the sea like a huge barracks with iron
balconies. Other "medical" institutes followed. The town
mushroomed from 2,000 to11,600 inhabitants by 1911. It has
trams, a theatre, running water, electricity, telephones -
all the facilities of a thriving seaside resort.
Miners enjoyed seaside holidays in huts on the wild dunes at
Miners' Holiday Resort
After the First World War, when poor miners began to
have holidays, many came to Berck. They poured down by train
(for a day-trip or a week's stay) from the black mining
towns of the north, and stayed in cheap accommodation near
the sand-dunes. Berck's image changed. It became like
Blackpool - a brash, fun resort for working families, very
different to posh Le Touquet just up the coast.
Annual international kite-flying
festival: see spectaclar kites flying on the
Fun seaside resort
Today there are no miners, but Berck has the largest
amusement park, "Bagatelle"
(just outside the town), and a seafront along which they
sell the French equivalent of candy-floss, icecream,
buckets-and-spades, bingo, and beer....
It's a family seaside resort south of Boulogne, with a
good clean beach and excellent children's facilities -
an all-weather water leisure centre. The wide flat sandy
beaches provide an excellent space for flying kites and
You can visit "Berck Success" and see sweets and lollies
being hand-made using traditional recipes - and buy as many
as you like in the factory shop!
AGORA swimming pool & leisure centre.
"Berck Success" - small sweet factory