Alençon is a town and commune in Normandy, France, préfecture (capital) of the Orne department. It is situated 105 miles west of Paris, and the town has a population of 30,380 (in 1999). Alençon belongs to the Communauté urbaine d'Alençon (with 52,000 people).
It was probably during the 4th century, while the area was being Christianised, that the city of Alençon was founded. The name is first seen in a document dated in the 7th century. During the 10th century, Alençon was a buffer state between Normandy and the Maine regions. In 1047, William Duke of Normandy, later known as William the Conqueror and king of England, laid siege to the town. The citizens insulted William by hanging animal skins from the walls, in reference to his ancestry as the illegitimate son of Duke Robert and a tanner's daughter. On capturing the town, William had the citizens' hands cut off in revenge. Alençon was occupied by the English during the Anglo-Norman wars of 1113 to 1203.
The city became the seat of a dukedom in 1415, belonging to the sons of the King of France until the French Revolution, and some of them played important roles in French history: see Duke of Alençon. The French Revolution caused relatively little disorder in this area although there were some royalist uprisings nearby.
The fabric industry gave birth to the famous point d'Alençon lace. The economic development of the 19th century and the industrial boom was generated by several factories (mills), and transport networks (roads and railways) developed. In the first half of the 20th century the city developed a flourishing printing industry.
On June 17 1940 the German army occupied Alençon. On August 12 1944 Alençon was the first French city to be liberated by the French army under General Leclerc, after minor bomb damage.
After the war the population sharply increased and new industries settled. Many of these are related to plastics and Moulinex was a major employer until the closure of the Moulinex factories throughout France in 2001.
Today, Alençon is home to a prosperous plastics industry, and, since 1993, to a plastics engineering school.
They also have available from the hours of 07:00 to 19:00 an inter city bus system. A range of different tickets and rates are available; but it is possible to ride the bus for a 1.05€ ticket.