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History of our Twinned City

by Maddie Newlands

Written by Maddie Newlands, Placement student at The Novium Museum.

Photo by William Pope

Twinning has been a part of Chichester's history since the 1950s and is not only a feature of our own city's history but also the history of numeroustowns and cities across Europe.

'Twin towns' were formed after the Second World War, when several mayors and councils backed the idea of towns within Europe being twinned together. The concept of 'twin towns' began after Europe had been divided by the conflicts of war, and aimed to unite and bring countries together. The twinning of towns and cities had the intention of building a stronger Europe, in which the citizens of different countries understood one another as well as respecting their diverse cultures.

The concept of twinning had been widely used by the countries within the European Union but the invitation to form twinning associations was not limited to members of the EU. Britain did not join the European Union until 1973, however in 1959 Chichester joined other towns and cities across the United Kingdom by twinning with the city of Chartres in France. The 1950s saw high records of towns and cities being twinned across Europe.

On 28th February 1959, the mayors of Chichester and Chartres met and signed the 'Deed of Jumelage' at Chichester City Council Chamber. The 'Deed of Jumelage', although it is not a legal contract between the two cities, forms a partnership to work together and to co-operate with each other. The contract signed is always known as the 'Twinning Oath'. Chartres is not the only city with which Chichester is twinned. In December 1996, Chichester paired with the city of Ravenna in Italy, their most recent twin to date. In 2010 the City Council signed the friendship link with Valletta, Malta, and Chichester, which, like twinning links, aims to promote good relations and visits between the two cities. Friendship links had previously been made between Chichester and other towns in Germany and Russia.

Since relationships between Chartres and Ravenna were formalised in 1959 and 1996 respectively, associations were formed to keep the relationship alive and connected. There are now three associations: Friends of Chartres, Friends of Ravenna, and Friends of Valletta which organise activities and events to enrich the understanding of each other's culture, to work on collaborative projects and to hold exchange visits. In recognition of their work in twinning with cities in Europe, in 2000 Chichester City Council was awarded the 'Plaque of Honour' by the Council of Europe.

The three Associations have collaborated in each of the past six years to stage an event during the Festival of Chichester to celebrate twinning. This year the event is on 26 June.

For further information about the three associations see www.chi-ravenna.org.uk or http://friendsofvalletta.weebly.com/ or www.friendsofchartres.org.uk