A SHORT HISTORY OF VERNEUIL
Man has left traces of his settlement at Verneuil since prehistoric times. Large numbers of sharpened flints, tools used in the palaeolithic era, have been unearthed during sand and gravel diggings. There were several farms in gallo-roman times and two have been excavated: Bufosse, and Les Tronces where a bathroom belonging to this farm, and also some mural paintings, were uncovered.
The Middle Ages: The gallo-roman farms, victims of successive invasions, disappeared in the fifth century. Some skeletons (5th to 8th centuries) and traces of habitations from the 9th and 10th centuries discovered at Verneuil provide rare evidence of the High Middle Ages.
The church and the Priory: The oldest written document about Verneuil is an act of 1104 by which Anselme of Creil and his family gave the church of Verneuil and all its possessions for the purpose of founding a Priory.
The manors: Until the 14th century, the land at Verneuil belonged directly to the royal holdings. Several noblemen possessed fiefs or back-fiefs: some of them are known because of the acts on which they affixed their seals.In the 14th century, the Verneuil territory was divided between three lands of fiefs:
1) The royal domain constituted by the forest of Halatte.
2) The ecclesiastical holdings given by the King in the 13th century.
3) The manor at Verneuil, divided into two halves, each one of which contained several back-fiefs.
The Boulainvilliers were Lords of Verneuil from 1415 to 1575. They regrouped all the fiefs into a single manor.
The Renaissance: The period of the Renaissance (16th century) was marked in Verneuil by the presence of a family of architects, all protestants and ‘architects to the King’, and the construction of the chateau.
The castle: Towards the end of the year 1550 Phillip IV of Boulainvilliers commissioned Jacques I’Androuet du Cerceau to build a new castle. Twenty years later, the architect was to publish the plans in his work ‘The Finest Buildings in France’ (1576). In 1600, King Henri IV bought the manor and offered it, together with the title of Marchioness, to his mistress, Henriette d’Entragues: he hoped thereby to pacify her fury at the announcement of his marriage to Catherine de Medici. He commissioned Salomon de Brosse to finish the work. Henri IV often rode over from Paris to Verneuil to visit Henriette who gave him two children, Henri Gaston and Gabrielle Angelique, both of whom he legitimised. During the 17th century life at the castle was glittering; more than 200 people were employed there and the village profited by this prosperity. From 1734, the new owners, the Princes of Condé, undertook the demolition of the chateau, as its beauty put their own castle at Chantilly in the shade.
The revolution of 1789: The peasants were greatly discontented, above all because of the distribution of the expenses and privileges of hunting: it found expression in the ‘books of grievances’ – ‘the pigeons which the lord rears in large numbers do not allow seeds the time to germinate, game devours a part of that which escaped the pigeons and the hunter ruins the rest by riding over it’. However, with no castles to demolish (already done), no nobleman in the area, and a priest complying with republican laws, the revolutionary period passed without serious incident. The communal administration was put in place; it worked hard to respond to the needs of the population and the demands of the state at the same time, and it created the public school.
The 19th Century: In France the 19th century was marked by the instability of successive regimes: two monarchies, two empires. three republics, three Parisian revolts (1830, 1848 and 1871); the rapidity of scientific and technological advance, the revolution of transport and industry, the growing problem of social conflict, the slow evolution of daily life in the countryside.
At Verneuil: The communal administration which sprang from the Revolution was barely influenced by political changes. The same notable, or almost, elected municipal counsellors, swore fidelity to: King Charles X in 1826; the King of the French, Louis-Philippe, in 1830; the President of the Republic in 1852; the Emperor in 1853.
They were preoccupied quite enough by local problems: fires, epidemics, education …
In 1881-1882 the school became free, compulsory and non-denominational. Progress begun in the 19th century lasted until the middle of the 20th century, then accelerated fast. Until 1950 Verneuil remained a rural commune, dividing its energies between agriculture and work outside the village in the metallurgic or chemical factories of the Creillois basin. The population of about 1200 habitants remained stable. On 1 October 1933 the new school group was begun: there were two schools with three classes, one for boys, the other for girls. The old premises were abandoned, those of the boys’ school being, without modification or almost, converted into the town hall. Following the 1939-1945 war the ‘coalfields of France’ established their ‘Study and Research Centre’ at Verneuil. Soon some 700 people were working there, among whom were two hundred engineers living on site. The arrival of this new population, geographically and socially separated from the old, resulted as a happy consequence in the modernisation of the old village: running water, public lighting, public roads, wells, infants’ schools, library. This change gave Verneuil the character of a small town without destroying its rural character. Since then the population, suddenly increased from 1200 to 2200, has grown steadily.