Visiting Escoville, France

While traveling from Strasbourg to Paris in September of 2002, my wife and I decided to take a Schoville shortcut to Escoville, theorized source of the name Scoville. After seven hours on the expensive tollways of France, we exited near Troarn and saw the first signs for Escoville. It sent a chill down my spine, a feeling that was repeated as we came over the hill and saw our first glimpse of the village.

Welcome to Escoville

As we entered, I stopped the car, got out, and took some pictures of the signs. We then drove through the town, which only took about two minutes, since there are only two stop signs. The village has a church, a mairie (town hall), and consists mostly of old farm buildings and houses. There seemed to be only one business in town, Escobar, and we stopped for a drink. It was about four thirty on a Wednesday, and there were several locals in the bar. My wife and I ordered a couple of beers and started talking with the locals, who were extremely nice and friendly. When they heard that we were interested in the history of Escoville, they recommended we go to the mairie, so we finished our beers and went.

The mairie is a new building located in the middle of town. The woman who worked there was a seventh generation resident of the village and was extremely helpful. She photocopied two pieces of paper that gave a very brief history of the town. The main points of the paper are:

A l'Escobar

  • Baptisms and burials have been conducted here since 1602.
  • Marriages have been conducted in Escoville since 1645.
  • The chateau d’Escoville was located here, having over 200 hectacres on 506 acres which formed the community lands, and was ruined in the first French revolution, rebuilt in the Renaissance style, ruined again in the Débarquement, and then completely torn down in the seventies, the stone used for buildings in town.
  • The family Vallois were the lords of Escoville.
  • The population in 1800 was only 35!
  • The village used to be named Saint Samson, and it wasn’t until after the Revolution, when Saint Sampson was destroyed and rebuilt closer to the chateau, that it was named Escoville.

This raised several questions:

  • Is the chateau and the surrounding land the origin of the name Scoville?
  • How old is the chateau, and has it and the land been called Escoville since the Norman times or was the land named after the Vallois family who brought the name Escoville with them?
  • Is this Escoville not the one which Scoville is based on, and is it based on a different village, either in Normandy or perhaps the village named Scoville in Belgium?

I proposed these questions to the kind lady at the mairie, and unfortunaely she did not know the answers, but promised to ask and get back to me. She also recommended we try the mairie and the Hotel d’Escoville in Caen.

Le Clos Normand

Somewhat bewildered, confused and doubting whether this Escoville really is the original source of Scoville, we retired for the night to the Le Clos Normand in Treaorn where we passed a nice evening talking with the owner, whose mother and grandmother happened to be from Escoville. When posed with the questions from earlier in the day, he could provide no answers, but did say that he was always told that Escoville derives from the French word for school, école.

The next day, we travelled to Caen in search of answers. I thought that starting at the tourist office would be the best bet, since I had no idea as to where the Hotel d’Escoville nor the mairie were located. Much to our surpise we found that the tourist office is located in the Hotel d’Escoville!

The Hotel d’Escoville is the oldest existing residence in Caen, and, according to a pamphlet, it was built by a Nicholas Le Valois d’Escoville, who was described as a rich merchant from 1535 through 1538. Was this Nicolas de Valois d’Escoville a relative of the Vallois at the Chateau d’Escoville? Of course I asked all of these questions to the person working at the tourist office, only to receive a stupified glare in return. He nor his coworker even knew that Escoville had a chateau at one time. He did tell me that he thought there was no relation between the Nicolas de Valois d’Escoville and the village of the same name, which I find hard to believe. He referred me to the local genealogy club, and I proceeded there directly only to find them closed except Mondays, but I did get their contact information and will try to find answers to the questions I have raised here.