The commune of Dainville is five kilometres from the centre of the city of Arras in northern France. The name came from a Roman temple dedicated to Diana that was situated in the vicinity of the church of St. Martin, which dates from the 13th century. ‘Ville’ meant farm.
With the arrival of the railway, Arras became industrialised, providing more employment for the people of Dainville who had mainly worked in farming. Then a brick factory, sugar mill and oil mill were built locally, resulting in the population being doubled. None of those industries has survived.
Today the population is just over five thousand.
The cemetery contains the graves of thirty eight Commonwealth casualties of the First World War.
In the 18th century a large number of people from Dainville were employed in the Arras market, which at the time was one of the most prosperous in the whole of France. In 1788 Arthur Young wrote in his journal: “…on market day as I was leaving town I came across hundreds of donkeys laden with bags and sacks…men and women were swarming all over the road. It’s certainly a plentifully stocked market”.
According to G. Lefebvre, between 5,000 and 7,000 hectolitres of grain were carried each week. When it was re-organised in 1722, the grain market employed a huge number of workers. There were about one hundred porters who took the grain from the sellers’ carts to the square, then on to local businesses and as far as the ports. The Mayor appointed the employees but an ancient custom allowed the measurers and porters to propose their successors. It was such a rigid selection process that you were lucky to obtain such a lucrative position. After the Revolution, some of them even acquired national properties. Messrs. Dourdain, Boubert, Guyot and Caron, all porters, “bought back” the church in Dainville for the token sum of two hundred francs.
Les Portefaix, which is held every other year, came about when the Mayor and Councillors decided to celebrate the Millenium with a great festival of music and dance, also stalls with food and wine. The costume for the occasion was reminiscent of the porters of the Arras market and the men of Dainville today still wear the costume for the fair.