of The Apothecary’s Mansion in the heart of Montreuil-Sur-Mer
Otherwise known as L'Hotel Dupuis Pecquet, the house was built before the Revolution. A town map was produced in which it figures. (Noºs 48 and 52). In 1785 Rue Pierre Ledent was known as the Rue Saint Firmin, and after the Revolution as the Rue des Procureurs, saints’ names having fallen from grace. The builder, Monsieur Casper Joseph Dominique Dupuis, was a local councillor and Knight of Megent.
Montreuil featured a number of Hotels Particuliers, each of which had a small service road where carriages could pull up to the side porch, always to the right of the front door. Number 76 was no exception. Later on, a shop front was added and the space behind utilised as commercial space, and is now the front hall.
In 1751 Monsieur Dupuis had married Marie-Catherine Antionette but by 1785, she was a widow and subsequently emigrated during the revolution, as did her neighbour Madame Delaporte, a common thing amongst aristocrats at that time.
The Dupuis family owned another house on the Place Darnetal (today the Pharmacy Legendre) and a smaller property on the Rue des Cordonniers (the road of the cobblers) complete with extensive stables.
During the Roman era, Montreuil was connected to the sea by the Canache river.
Ramparts were built in the 9th Century, and by the 10th Century Montreuil was main sea port of the Capétiens.
As the estuary silted up, the port fell into disuse. During the Hundred Years' War, the town suffered badly and was largely ruined. Over the centuries, Montreuil was in the sights of conquering armies, but always the Ramparts offered considerable protection, something the British Army had uppermost in their minds when they chose the town to be their command centre during the First World War.
On 5 pluviose, year 2 of the revolution (or 25 January 1793) the house was sold for 7,200 livres to Louis-Marie Lagache, who was an apothecary. The building remained a chemist's shop between this date and 1976, some one hundred and ninety-three years. Ironically, at that date, the new proprietor of the pharmacy, Madame Legendre, transferred the business to the second of the Dupuis houses, thereby continuing the Dupuis connection with the chemist's trade.
Over the years, the house changed hands a number of times.
By 1850, a Monsieur Delannoy was the resident chemist, then Monsieur Carrez in 1899. The Maillart family owned the house for 15 years from 1921 until 1936, at which point the Sarazin family took over for the following 40 years.
In 2007, they sold this magnificent property to the current owners who have sympathetically restored this magnificent maison du charme to its original function, reflecting its unique heritage.
Montreuil is the setting for part of Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables, where it is identified only as M....sur-M... in past translations. The protagonist, Jean Valjean (going by the name Father Madeleine), is for a few years the mayor of Montreuil, as well as owner of the local factory, and it is where the character Fantine lives, works, and later becomes a prostitute before dying in a local hospital. Hugo had spent several vacations in Montreuil.
Drawing Room Frescos
Of particular note is the drawing room, decorated with four Watteau-style frescoes. This elegant room, complete with original period panelling, parquet floor and fireplace remains virtually undisturbed.
Montreuil was the headquarters of the British Army in France during the First World War.
General Haig was quartered in the nearby Château de Beaurepaire. A statue commemorating his stay can be seen outside the theatre on the Place Charles de Gaulle.
Staff of the Quartermaster General's Branch, General Headquarters (GHQ) British Expeditionary Force, Montreuil-sur-Mer, November 1918. (Imperial War Museum)
During the German occupation of the town during the Second World War, the statue was taken down. It was never found and is thought to have been melted down. It was rebuilt in the 1950s, using the sculptor's original mould.