Although the early history of habitation in the area is limited, the Romans called the settlement Caletum. Julius Caesar mustered 800 to 1,000 sailing boats, five legions and some 2,000 horses at Calais due to its strategic position to attack Britannia. At some time prior to the 10th century, it would have been a fishing village on a sandy beach backed by pebbles and a creek, with a natural harbour located at the western edge of the early medieval estuary of the River Aa. As the pebble and sand ridge extended eastward from Calais, the haven behind it developed into fen, as the estuary progressively filled with silt and peat. Subsequently, canals were cut between Saint-Omer, the trading centre formerly at the head of the estuary, and three places to the west, centre and east on the newly formed coast: respectively Calais, Gravelines and Dunkirk. Calais was improved by the Count of Flanders in 997 and fortified by the Count of Boulogne in 1224.
The first document mentioning the existence of this community is the town charter granted by Mathieu d'Alsace in 1181 to Gerard de Guelders, Count of Boulogne; Calais thus became part of the county of Boulogne. In 1189, Richard the Lionheart is documented to have landed at Calais on his journey to the Third Crusade.
Copyright 2016 by Jeremy Lavender Photography
Uploaded: Jul 31, 2016