La Tranche (then La Tranche-sur-Mer since 1938) owes its name to a natural phenomenon: the invasion of the sea causing a cut in the coast, a trench, which finally gave the name La Tranche.



The Landscape is made up of a national forest to the West (forest planted in the 19th century), marshes (part of the Poitevin marshes) to the North and East, and old soil covered with sand. Opposite La Tranche, extends the Ile de Ré which represents a natural protection of the coast. We are separated from it by 12 to 15km of sea. In good weather, we can see the La Pallice bridge very well, and at the other end: the Baleines lighthouse. Between our two shores, the depths are generally 5m. Near the Baleines lighthouse stretches the Chevarache pit, well known to professional fishermen and boaters. There are actually 2 pits, one 62m deep and the other 24m.


Until 1974, it was said of the town that it was of recent foundation, some pranksters even going so far as to affirm that the first inhabitants were descended from convicts escaped from the prison of Saint-Martin-de-Ré.
In 1974, we had the chance to discover by chance, at the Pointe du Grouin-du-Cou, that is to say at the entrance to the Pertuis, opposite the Baleines lighthouse, under the sand of the beach, in the ground temporarily unearthed by the sea, prehistoric remains (pottery, flint, charcoal, bone material). Prehistorians were keenly interested in our discoveries, which testified to human settlement in the Early Neolithic, between
Loire and Gironde at the end of the 6th millennium BC.

The first inhabitants were therefore settlers from Asia Minor and the Balkans. Bypassing the Iberian Peninsula, after skirting the Mediterranean coasts, they arrived here, while others reached it after setting foot in the south. Continuing our surveys, we listed sites from the Middle Neolithic, the Late Neolithic, the Copper Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age.

The vestiges of the first centuries of our era, then those of the Middle Ages are probably lying under our feet, in the sand. At La Tranche, we consider the Rétais (inhabitants of the Ile de Ré) as cousins, as the relationship is so old. The most illustrious person who crossed the island at La Tranche was a noble lady: Amable du Bois. She married Savary de Mauléon in our parish in 1226 (Savary de Mauléon, let us remember, Lord of Châtelaillon, of the island of Ré, of Angoulins, of Benon, of Mauléon, of Fontenay, of Marans, of Tallemont.. .). All historians do not agree to place this marriage in La Tranche, some sorrowful spirits dispute the authenticity of a charter of the time. We will not enter into their futile quarrel. Let's just say that we are grateful to this powerful Lord who brought the name of our commune into history. Under Louis XI, La Tranche was one of the ports and harbors on the Vendée coast. We embarked there the bleds and wines of Bas Poitou. Opposite the village, at the Pointe du Chiquet, stood before the Revolution (the Cassini map reveals it to us) the Auberge de la Côte, a probable high place of commercial transactions at the time. Other constructions were offered to the view of visitors: a church, a cemetery, a wharf. The wharf, a sort of groyne made of ballast stones, fell into ruins during the Revolution due to lack of maintenance. The people of Tranchais sent a plea to Louis XVIII for financial aid to rebuild it, but they were not heard. As for the church of the twelfth century, the sea ended up prevailing and the cemetery was definitively submerged (marine erosion does not date from today).



With regard to economic life, we can say that the inhabitants of La Tranche have been helped by "providence" from the 17th century to the present day: For example, it was a notary, Nicolas Herpin, who came in the 18th century century, establish salt marshes in our country. The production of salt was abandoned as a result of competition and because of the work of draining the marsh in the following century. Nothing was lost, however, since the Tranchais had prime soils for the cultivation of garlic, shallots, beans and later potatoes... They exported large quantities of these vegetables in the 18th century. , XIX th and XX th centuries. But to achieve this miracle, it took courage, because all the plowing was done with a shovel, by the force of the wrist as they say. We still use this shovel called fraiIle. Around 1830, the first bathers arrived. This fashion was timely; it was going to open up new perspectives, give new strings to the bows of the natives. It was necessary to rebuild the church (1868), to open new roads. The village, essentially agricultural, changed orientation: a seaside resort had just been born. Its beginnings were very slow because of the difficulties of access. The railway was built out of the country, serving villages some 10 km from the coast. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the transformation, we would say the metamorphosis, was spectacular.
We remember the time when we counted on the fingers of first two hands, then on one hand, the last cultivators.
We heard less and less the resonance of horse hooves or the creaking of cart wheels. The voices of the farmers died out one after another. However, we had seen tulips, hyacinths, daffodils bloom in the spring, where a few years earlier, garlic, shallots, potatoes…



The floral epic, at La Tranche Sur Mer, began in 1952 with a Dutch agronomist named Johannes Matthysse who decided to prospect the French coast in the hope of finding soils there sufficiently resembling the polders of Holland to lend themselves to the cultivation of flowering onions. After fruitless searches from Normandy to the Basque country, it was by chance that he landed at La Tranche sur mer. As soon as he arrived, he proceeded without firing a shot at the first samples. The result of the analyzes fills him with joy: what he discovers is a marvelously suitable soil; not only sandy and calcareous according to the standards required for the flowering of the bulbs, but also irrigated by infiltration from the neighboring marshes, which very regularly maintain the ideal water level: at 70 centimeters, well counted, from the surface. Finally, a charming site: in this cut-out Vendée, so aptly named "LA TRANCHE" for its promontory profile, yes, here it is indeed the advantageous plot, promised to floral enchantments! The same evening his comrade who had remained in Holland received a telegram as brief as it was promising: “Eureka” signed Matthysse. But the human framework, for the moment, is much less accommodating and it will take courageous patience for the two Nordic pioneers to overcome all misunderstandings. Our two foreigners were able to rent a modest quadrangle of ten meters on each side. Comments were rife throughout the La Tranche region. People began to talk about the charms of gladioli and narcissus, then of hyacinths, crocuses and amaryllis. And the day came when it was created, in 1955, with eight founding members, the “flowering onion cooperative of the Côte de Lumière”.

Twelve years later this company already had more than 120 producer members… Then the Parc Floral (floral shows) and the Flower Festival (flower parade) were created. But the decline of agriculture was inevitable. The flowering onion cooperative closed its doors in 1990. With 120 members in 1955, it had only 43 in 1988 and the average age was 55 to 60 years old. The random profits drawn from agricultural activities, the pressure exerted by the promoters in search of building land, added to the "lack of arms" were the reasons for this decline. Today, La Tranche has kept part of its floral park. 2800 people live there all year round. There are in the town nearly 7,000 secondary residences, 306 hotel rooms, 4,224 camping pitches… let us add that La Tranche has just been classified in the category of tourist towns with 40,000 to 80,000 inhabitants due to the influx summer months (about 140,000 tourists). La Tranche is the 4th seaside resort in Vendée; it represents 10% of the capacity of the department.

Excerpt from the presentation by Michel BOIRAL
of the Ethnological Society
June 4, 2000, La Tranche sur mer

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