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The city hall
The city hall
Coat of arms of Roubaix
Coat of arms
Motto: Probitas et Industria
Roubaix is located in France
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Country France
Region Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardy
Department Nord
Arrondissement Lille
Intercommunality European Metropole of Lille
Cantons 2 (Roubaix-1, Roubaix-2)
 • Mayor (2014–2020) Guillaume Delbar
Area1 13.23 km2 (5.11 sq mi)
Population (2012)2 94,536
 • Density 7,100/km2 (19,000/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Roubaisian (en)
Roubaisien(ne) (fr)
Time zone CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
INSEE/Postal code 59512 / 59100
Elevation 17–52 m (56–171 ft)
(avg. 32 m or 105 ft)
Website (French)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries. 2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Roubaix (French pronunciation: ​[ʁu.bɛ]) is an old mono-industrial and working-class commune[1] in northern France, in the department of Nord, which grew rapidly in the 19th century from its textile industries. This former new town[2] is the second largest city in the French region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais ranked by population with about 95,000 inhabitants. Located between the cities of Lille and Tourcoing, Roubaix is the chef-lieu of two cantons.

Together with Lille, Tourcoing, Villeneuve-d'Ascq and eighty-one other communes, Roubaix gives structure to a four-centred metropolitan area inhabited by around 1.1 million people: the European Metropole of Lille.[3][4] To a greater extent, Roubaix belongs to a vast conurbation formed with the Belgian cities of Menen, Mouscron, Kortrijk and Tournai, which gave birth to the first European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation in January 2008, Lille–Kortrijk–Tournai with an aggregate over 2 million inhabitants.[5]



Roubaix occupies a central position on the north-east slope of the European Metropole of Lille: it is set on the eastern side of Lille and the southern side of Tourcoing, close to the Belgian border. As regards towns' boundaries, Roubaix is encompassed by seven cities which constitute its immediate neighbouring environment. These municipalities are namely: Tourcoing to the north and the northwest, Wattrelos to the northeast, Leers to the east, Lys-lez-Lannoy to the southeast, Hem to the south and Croix to the southwest and the west. Roubaix, alongside those municipalities and twenty-one other communes, belongs to the land of Ferrain, a little district of the former Castellany of Lille between the Lys and Escaut rivers.[6]

As the crow flies, the distance between Roubaix and the following cities is some odd: 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) to Tournai, 18 kilometres (11 mi) to Kortrijk, 84 kilometres (52 mi) to Brussels and 213 kilometres (132 mi) to Paris.[7]


The soft hollow plain upon which Roubaix lies, stretches on the axis of an east-west oriented syncline which rises to the south and the southeast towards the Paleozoic limestone[8] of the Mélantois-Tournaisis faulted anticline.[9] This area consists predominantly of Holocene deposits of alluvial origin. It is flat and low, with an elevation drop of only 35 m (114 ft 10 in) over its 13.23 square kilometres (5.11 sq mi). The lowest altitude of this area stands at 17 m (55 ft 9 in), while its highest altitude is 52 m (170 ft 7 in) meters above the sea level.[10]


The Trichon stream fed by waters of the Espierre stream used to flow through the rural landscape of Roubaix before the industrialisation process began to alter this area in the middle of the 19th century.[11] From that century on, the ensuing industries, with their increasing needs for reliable supplies of goods and water, led to the building of an inland waterway connected upstream from the Deûle and downstream to the Marque and Espierre toward the Escaut, which linked directly Roubaix to Lille.[12][13]

Opened in 1877,[14] the Canal de Roubaix crosses the town from its northern neighbourhoods to its eastern neighbourhoods and flows along the city's boundaries. The Canal de Roubaix closed in 1985, after more than a century in use.[15] Thank to the European funded project Blue Links, the waterway has been reopened to navigation since 2011.[16]


Despite some American statements that weather conditions in Roubaix were bad during the 19th century,[17][18] the area of the city is not known for undergoing unusual weather events. In regard to the town's geographical location[19] and the results of the Météo-France's weather station of Lille-Lesquin,[20][21] Roubaix is a temperate oceanic climate: while summer experiences mild temperatures, winter's temperatures may fall to below zero. Precipitation is infrequently intense.


The current city's name is most likely derived from two Frankish words: "raus" meaning reed and "baki" meaning brook.[22][23][24] Thence the sense of Roubaix can probably find its origin in the brook's banks of Espierre, Trichon or Favreuil.[25] The place was mentioned for the first time in a Latinised form in the 9th century: Villa Rusbaci.[23][24][26] Thereafter, the following names were in use: 1047 and 1106 Rubais, 1122 Rosbays, 1166 Rusbais, 1156 and 1202 Robais, 1223 Roubais.[23][27]

Parallel to the official and usual name Roubaix, some translations are worth a mention. Firstly, though the city has never belonged to the Flemish-speaking area,[28] the seldom-heard renderings Robeke[29][30] and Roodebeeke[31] are documented for Roubaix. Furthermore, the Dutch Language Union established Robaais as the city's proper Dutch name.[32] Lastly, one can cite Rosbacum as the definite Latin transcription of Roubaix which has been in use since the 19th century, as recorded on dedication statements sealed in the first stones of the foundations of the City Hall laid in 1840 and the Church of Notre Dame laid in 1842.[33]


Drawing of the city of the year 1699. On the left, surrounded by a moat, the castle can be seen. To its right appears the hospital Sainte-Elisabeth and in the centre of the image the church Saint-Martin marks the towns centre.


Arms of Roubaix
The arms of Roubaix are blazoned :
Party per pale ermine a chief gules and azure, thereon between two bobbins argent a five-pointed star or in chief, a wool-cards at its centre and a shuttle fesswise in base or, all within a bordure indented of the same.


Inhabitants of Roubaix are known in English as "Roubaisians" and in French as Roubaisiens (pronounced: [ʁu.bɛ.zjɛ̃ ]) or in the feminine form Roubaisiennes (pronounced: [ʁu.bɛ.zjɛn]), also natively called Roubaignos (pronounced: [ʁu.bɛ.njo]) or in the feminine form Roubaignoses (pronounced: [ʁu.bɛ.njoz]).[34][35][36]


Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
1716 4,715 —    
1789 8,559 +0.82%
1793 9,120 +1.60%
1800 8,091 −1.70%
1801 8,151 +0.74%
1805 8,703 +1.65%
1806 8,724 +0.24%
1817 8,724 +0.00%
1821 12,170 +8.68%
1830 13,132 +0.85%
1831 18,187 +38.49%
1836 19,455 +1.36%
1841 24,802 +4.98%
1842 24,892 +0.36%
1846 31,039 +5.67%
1851 34,698 +2.25%
1856 39,445 +2.60%
1861 49,274 +4.55%
1866 65,091 +5.73%
1872 75,987 +2.61%
1876 83,661 +2.43%
1881 91,757 +1.86%
1886 100,299 +1.80%
1891 114,917 +2.76%
1896 124,661 +1.64%
1901 124,365 −0.05%
1906 121,017 −0.54%
1911 122,723 +0.28%
1921 113,265 −0.80%
1926 117,209 +0.69%
1931 117,190 −0.00%
1936 107,105 −1.78%
1946 100,978 −0.59%
1954 110,067 +1.08%
1962 112,856 +0.31%
1968 114,547 +0.25%
1975 109,553 −0.63%
1982 101,602 −1.07%
1990 97,746 −0.48%
1999 96,984 −0.09%
2006 97,952 +0.14%
2011 94,186 −0.78%
2012 94,536 +0.37%
From 1962 to 1999: population without double counting
Source: L.E. Marissal for 1716, 1789, 1801, 1805, 1817, 1830 and 1842,[37] Ldh/EHESS/Cassini until 1999[10] and INSEE from 2004[38]

The evolution of the number of inhabitants is known through the population censuses carried out in the town since 1793 and the research study of Louis-Edmond Marissal, Clerk of the Peace of the city, published in 1844.[37] From the 21st century, communes with more than 10,000 population have sample surveys held every year, unlike other municipalities that have a real census every five years.[note 1][note 2]

Evolution of the Roubaisian population in the 19th century

Source: Ldh/EHESS/Cassini until 1999[10]

Roubaix evolved into a provincial market town until the end of the Early modern period with a census population of 4,715 inhabitants in 1716.[37] By the late 18th century, the city began to emerge as regional textile manufacturing centre and its population increased, reaching a level of 8,091 in 1800. As a result of the industrialisation process of the 19th century, the need of workers was supplied by rural flight as well as immigration. Belgian settlement was a feature of the Roubaisian life at that time.[39][40]

During the first-half period of the 19th century, Roubaix ranked the first French town in terms of population growth rate with a five times increase,[41] whereas in the remaining period of this century its population doubled. Within this last time framework, Belgian immigration appeared to be one of the major factor to explain the significantly high population growth, with 30,465 Belgian inhabitants counted in 1866 and 42,103 in 1872.[42] Nonetheless, the rate of natural increase shew to be a more important component of the population growth in that period.[43]

At the 20th century threshold, the Roubaisian population reached a peak of 124,661, from which it progressively declined over the successive decades.

Evolution of the Roubaisian population in the 20th century

Source: Ldh/EHESS/Cassini until 1999[10]

Occupied by German troops from October 1914 to October 1918, Roubaix belonged to the combat zone of the Western Front during the First World War.[44] Over this occupation period, Roubaisians suffered from dearth, deportation for compulsory labour and unusual casualties[45] with a rather slight population drop from 122,723 to 113,265 between the 1911 and 1921 censuses.[46]

The population of the city was 94,536 at the January 2012 census.[38] This enables Roubaix to remain the second largest municipality in the region Nord-Pas de Calais.


Although the region of Roubaix was subjected many times to the domination of Flanders' rulers throughout its history, Roubaisians have used a local Picard variant as the language of everyday life for centuries. This spoken vernacular is locally known as "Roubaignot".[47][48] Until the early 20th century this patois prevailed.[49] Therefore, French language progressive penetration into local culture should not only be analysed as a result of the industrialisation and urbanisation of the area but should also be considered in terms of public education policies.[35][50]

International communities




In the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War and the German annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, many Jews left their homes and emigrated.[51][52] Jewish arrival in Roubaix derives from that bitter period of history.[53] At the time, the new immigrant community, even though its small size, dedicated a building to Jewish faith and liturgical practises.[53][54][55] The newly opened synagogue, located in a house at number 51 on the narrow rue des Champs,[53][55] operated more than 60 years, from 1877 to 1939 when it closed under imprecise local circumstances, while Nazi era arose in Europe.[55][56] Despite the closure of the synagogue, the occupation and police raids,[note 3][58] the local practise of Judaism saw an humble revival after the war which lasted until the start of the Nineties when the modest Jewry of Roubaix handed over its Sefer Torah to the care of the one of Lille.[56] Roubaix has no longer been home to a Jewish place of worship since that event.[59] The house inside which the first one was created 123 years ago, has been demolished since an urban renewal project occurred in 2000.[53] On September 10, 2015, Guillaume Delbar, mayor of Roubaix, unveiled a commemorative plaque on the rue des Champs in memory of the religious purpose of this former building and the Roubaisian Jewry.[56]


As of August 2013 there were six mosques in the town, including one under construction. Three areas of the cemetery were designated for muslims.

According to estimates by the mayor's office, around 20,000 people, or about 20 percent of the population were muslims.[60]



Urban geography

During the Middle Age, the city grew in a northward-facing semicircle around its primitive core, beyond the area spread out between the church Saint Martin and the former fortified castle. The existence of this south boundary remained until the 18th century and marked an urban expansion which mainly occurred on the western and northern sides of the town.[61] Increasing industrialisation, land transport improvement, continued population growth and the resulting need for suitable low cost lands for housing and manufacturing plants, all of which finally led to expand the city southward from the centre, in the 19th century.[62]

Administrative and political affairs

Constituencies and cantons

Roubaix grouped four cantons from 1988 to 2012. Since then, this number has fell to two with Roubaix 1 and Roubaix 2. After the last redistricting of French legislative constituencies in 2010, the city is now divided into two constituencies : Nord's 7th constituency which include the former canton of Roubaix-Ouest and Nord's 8th constituency formed by the following former cantons: Roubaix-Centre, Roubaix-Nord and Roubaix-Est.

Administrative zoning

Eastern district neighbourhoods

  • Fraternité
  • Pile
  • Sainte-Elisabeth
  • Sartel-Carihem
  • Trois Ponts

Western district neighbourhoods

  • Epeule
  • Fresnoy-Mackellerie
  • Trichon

Central district neighbourhoods

  • Anseelme Motte-Bossut
  • Barbieux
  • Centre-ville
  • Crouy
  • Espérance
  • Nations-Unies
  • Vauban

Northern district neighbourhoods

  • Alma-Gare
  • Armentières
  • Cul de Four
  • Entrepont
  • Fosses aux Chênes
  • Hommelet
  • Hutin-Oran-Cartigny

Southern district neighbourhoods

  • Chemin Neuf
  • Edouard Vaillant
  • Hauts-Champs
  • Justice
  • Linné-Boulevards
  • Moulin
  • Nouveau Roubaix
  • Petites-Haies
  • Potennerie

Mayors of the city

Mayor Term start Term end Party[note 4]
Henri Carette Mai 1892 Decembre 1901 POF
Edouard Roussel Decembre 1901 January 1902 UDR
Eugène Motte January 1902 May 1912 FR
Jean-Baptiste Lebas[note 5] May 1912 March 1915 SFIO
Henri Thérin[note 6] March 1915 October 1918 SFIO
Jean-Baptiste Lebas October 1918 June 1940 SFIO
Fleuris Vanherpe[note 7] June 1940 August 1941
Marcel Guislain August 1941 December 1941
Alphonse Verbeurgt January 1942 May 1942
Charles Bauduin May 1942 July 1942
Victor Provo[note 8] July 1942 March 1977 SFIO then PS
Pierre Prouvost March 1977 March 1983 PS
André Diligent March 1983 May 1994 UDF-CDS
René Vandierendonck May 1994 March 2012 UDF-CDS then DVG and finally PS
Pierre Dubois March 2012 March 2014 PS
Guillaume Delbar April 2014 UMP then LR

International relations

Roubaix is twinned with:[69]


Historic monuments and buildings

Remarkable buildings, old brick factories and warehouses abound in this once renowned city which was esteemed to be the worldwide textile capital in the early years of the 20th century.[77] Thus, the city inherited one of the most architectural works in the French history and culture of the 19th century Industrial Revolution and was designated Town of Art and History on Decembre 13, 2000.[78]

Ever since the Ministry of Culture endowed Roubaix with this label, the city has entered the 21st century by promoting its cultural standing as the inheritance of its industrial and social history.[79]

Several profane or sacral buildings of Roubaix are registered as historic monuments.

Profane buildings

Sacral buildings

Painting and sculpture

The most prestigious names of painters, who made their reputation in Roubaix from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century are Jean-Joseph Weerts[80] and Rémy Cogghe.[81]

From the end of the Second World War to the beginning of the seventies, a casual group of young artists from Roubaix and the surrounding region was formed and given the name fr (Groupe de Roubaix).[82] Two painters commonly associated with the group are fr (Arthur Van Hecke) and fr (Eugène Leroy).[83][84]


Roubaix has been home to two major museums of the region Nord-Pas de Calais since the beginning of the 21st century: La Piscine – André Diligent Museum of Art and Industry and La Manufacture – Museum-Workshop; inheriting both of the local socioeconomic history.

Theatre and performing arts centres

  • Centre chorégraphique national Roubaix – Nord-Pas-de-Calais
  • Colisée
  • Condition publique
  • Théâtre de l'Oiseau-Mouche "Le Garage”
  • Théâtre Louis Richard
  • Théâtre Pierre de Roubaix


The city of Roubaix was the filming location (mostly or partly) of the following films:




Primary and secondary education




Roubaix has an old sporting heritage[117] and is home to the finishing of one of the world's oldest races of professional road cycling at its velodrome: Paris–Roubaix known as the Hell of the North. While Roubaix is famous for its velodrome, there is more to this city than the cycling sports facilities.

The building of indoor and outdoor sports amenities in the city should be associated with its era of economic rise during the industrial revolution, in addition to the development of local sporting clubs and associations.[118]


During the 19th century, Roubaix acquired an international reputation for textile industry and wool production. In the Seventies and Eighties, international competition and automation caused an industrial decline and resulted in the closure of many factories. From that moment on and since the implementation of the French urban policy in the early Eighties, around three-fourth of the town's territory has been regularly assigned specific zoning designations as well as health and welfare plans.[119]

Successive local governments have tried to address difficulties associated with deindustrialisation by attracting new industries, making the most of the town's cultural credentials[79] and organising a strong student presence on different campuses. Nevertheless, Roubaix's high level of unemployment remains and the town is listed first among France's poorest cities.[79][120]

Textile industry

Commerce and services

Mail order companies of international renown such as La Redoute,[121] Damart[122][123] and 3 Suisses,[124][125] stemmed from textile industries which were founded in Roubaix.

Information technology and e-business

OVH has established its head office in Roubaix since 1999.[126]

Ankama Games has established its head office in Roubaix since 2007.[127]



Roubaix's position in the motorway roads network

A22 autoroute, a French part of the European route E17 from Burgundy to Antwerp, is the only motorway, within a motorway roads network of the highest density in France after Paris, which passes by Roubaix.

The Gare de Roubaix railway station offers connections to Antwerp, Lille, Ostend, Paris and Tourcoing.

The city is also served by the Lille Metro.

Environmental perspectives

Notable people


Politicians and professionals




Notes and references


  1. At the beginning of the 21st century, the terms of census have been amended by Act No. 2002-276 of 27 February 2002, called "grassroots democracy law" on the democracy of proximity and in particular Title V "of census operations", in order, after a power transition period from 2004 to 2008, the annual publication of the legal population of the different French administrative districts. For municipalities with populations greater than 10,000 inhabitants, a sample survey is carried out annually, the entire territory of these municipalities is included at the end of the same period of five years. The first post-legal population from 1999, and fitting in the new system which came into force on January 1, 2009, is the census of 2006.
  2. In the census table, by Wikipedia convention, the principle was retained for subsequent legal populations since 1999 not to display the census populations in the table corresponding to the year 2006, the first published legal population calculated according to the concepts defined in Decree No. 2003-485 of June 5, 2003, and the years corresponding to an exhaustive census survey for municipalities with less than 10,000 inhabitants, and the years 2006, 2011, 2016, etc.… for municipalities with more than 10,000. The latest legal population is published by INSEE for all municipalities.
  3. The Jewish population of Roubaix dropped from 160 members[56] in the beginning of its settlement to 68 in 1942.[57]
  4. Under French State's dictatorship from 1940 to 1944, mayors of communes over 2,000 inhabitants were not elected democratically. The mayor was nominated by the government of Marshal Philippe Pétain in communes of over 10,000 inhabitants and the prefet in communes less than 10,000 inhabitants and more than 2,000. The mayor in communes less than 2,000 inhabitants was elected by the city council. Mayors of communes of the Zone interdite were nominated by prefects in agreement with the German authorities. Therefore, mayors are not affiliated to a political party for this period of time.[63][64]
  5. Jean-Baptiste Lebas's mandate was interrupted when he was arrested on March 7, 1915 by German authorities to be imprisoned in the fortress of Rastatt.
  6. Henri Thérin, the first deputy mayor, stood in for Jean-Baptiste Lebas during his imprisonment time.
  7. Fleuris Vanherpe, the eldest deputy mayor of the city council, supplanted Jean-Baptiste Lebas after his forfeiture in June 1940, and was entrusted functions of mayor on December 18, 1940.[65] His death, on August 17, 1941, put an early end to his mandate.
  8. Victor Provo accepted the mandate in 1942.[66] He was maintained by resistance committees in 1944 then elected in April 1945.[67][68]
  9. A local association (as per the 1901 law about association) called "Comité de quartier de l'Hommelet
  10. "Roubaix has its martyrs of the Resistance" and "They broke the chains of oppression"
  11. "Roubaix to his children died in defense of the country and for peace"
  12. "Friend of the gardens, music and books"


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  2. Clark, Peter (January 29, 2009). European Cities and Towns: 400–2000. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-199-56273-2. Retrieved 2015-10-01. Roubaix was another new town, originally a craft village, whose many textile mills attracted a population of 100,000 and generated massive social and environmental problems.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Ezelin, Perrine (April 2, 2015). "European Metropole of Lille Local Action Plan" (PDF). Edinburgh, UK: CSI Europe URBACT. p. 3. Retrieved 2015-07-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  6. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
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  9. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Claude Motte and Marie-Christine Vouloir, Laboratoire de Démographie historique, EHESS/CNRS; Aleksandra Sarrabezolles, BNF (2007). "Notice communale Ldh/EHESS/Cassini Roubaix". Des villages Cassini aux communes d'aujourd'hui (in French). Paris, F. Retrieved 2015-07-13. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  13. Nothomb, M. (1838). Canal de Bossuyt à Courtray & projets, annexes, enquêtes, etc … [Bossuit-Kortrijk Canal & projects, appendix, surveys, etc…] (in French). Brussels, B: H. Rémy, imprimeur du roi. p. 17. Retrieved 2015-09-21. Le but primitif du canal était de fournir à la ville de Roubaix les eaux dont elle manquait, et de la mettre en communication avec le système de canaux du Nord et du Pas-de-Calais. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  40. Guerin-Gonzales, Camille; Carl, Strikwerda (1998). The Politics of Immigrant Workers: Labor Activism and Migration in the World Economy Since 1830 (2 revised ed.). New York (New York), USA: Holmes & Meier. pp. 115–133. ISBN 978-0-841-91298-4. Retrieved 2015-07-15. All Merrheim's years living in a French city that was over a third Belgian never made him question the ability of workers of different nationalities to unite.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  54. Cahen, Isidore; Prague, Hippolyte (1894). Archives israélites – Recueil politique et religieux [Israelite Archive – Political and religious reports] (in French). Tome LV. Paris, F: Bureau des Archives Israelites. p. 23. Retrieved 2015-09-27. M. Maurice Marx, fils du ministre-officiant de la Synagogue de Roubaix, a été nommé dans le courant de novembre au commandement de la canonnière l'Onyx. Ce jeune officier est un ancien élève de l'École polytechnique. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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See also

External links