Celebrating 60 years of Spalding’s first links with German town of Speyer

The first official twinning visit from Spalding to Speyer in 1956.

The first official twinning visit from Spalding to Speyer in 1956.

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In 1956 a party of Spalding Urban District Councillors left Spalding station to travel on the Harwich boat train to catch the night ferry to the Hoek of Holland.

They then took other continental trains (via Cologne) to Speyer, to inaugurate the civic and cultural twinning of both towns.

This initiative was taken as part of a national policy to encourage post war friendship and reconciliation between the nations, whereby United Kingdom and German towns were encouraged to twin in partnership with each other.

The civic link was cemented the following year when a party of Speyer dignitaries, lead by their Oberbergermeister, came to Spalding and were hosted in the homes of the Spalding councillors who had visited Speyer in 1956.

This initial exchange spawned further links between students at Spalding Grammar and Spalding High Schools with their counterpart gymnasium in Speyer.

Reciprocal school visits over the years have encouraged the learning of the respective languages and “pen friendships” usually developed between Spalding and Speyer students, usually after they had been hosted in each other’s homes during their respective stays.

The biennial civic exchanges in either direction continued for 50 years until South Holland District Council resolved to terminate the civic connection on the grounds of costs and (presumably) a view that over the years the link had lost its relevance.

However, Speyer has remained proud of its connection with Spalding and still exhibits a South Holland memorial stone prominently outside its ‘dom’ (cathedral).

Because of the partnership, other Spalding organisations and societies have formed their own, now, long-standing specialised twinning arrangements with their Speyer counterparts; notably South Holland Singers’, Spalding Round Table and Spalding United Reformed Church.

When the council decided to sever the civic link many people, who were not councillors but who had been on previous council-organised visits, had formed strong friendships with families in Speyer which they mutually wished to retain.

To keep these contacts, in Spalding the Friends of Speyer group was formed and with the Friends of Spalding in Speyer, biennial visits have continued on a self-help basis.

Because the 60th anniversary of the formation of the partnership between Spalding and Speyer occurs this year, when the Spalding Friends of Speyer are due to visit, the civic authority in Speyer and the Friends of Spalding, wish to mark and celebrate this anniversary in style.

They are hoping as many people as possible from Spalding and district who have had past or who have current connections with Speyer, in whatever form, will renew their acquaintance with past or current friends and families in Speyer, this July.

The period of the celebration, in Speyer starts at 6pm on Thursday, July 7 and follows through the period of the annual Speyer Bretzel fest, ending on the night of Sunday, July 10.

Representatives of the Friends of Speyer will be attending the long weekend and invite any other people who are interested in joining the 60th anniversary celebration of the twinning to travel with them, and to participate in the programme of hospitality which will be on offer in Speyer.

• Expressions of interest can be notified to the secretary of the Friends of Speyer, Peter Start, 29 Stonegate Cowbit PE12 6AH, telephone 01406 380599 who will be pleased to provide further details upon request. Or you can email peter.start@btinternet.com