Thu, 03 Dec 2015
Thatcham has had links with Nideggen in Germany for over 40 years
In 1973, Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath took the country into the Common Market, by becoming a fully-fledged member of the European Economic Community (a decision which was confirmed by a referendum in 1975).
This may have been the catalyst for a whole lot of European town-twinning which went on throughout the 1970s and beyond.
The town of Thatcham took the decision to twin with Nideggen in the Eiffel region of (West) Germany. Nideggen was selected from a list of 14 towns offered, following a recommendation from the British Council for Twinning. German towns had been chosen because it was felt that other places had arranged more successful links with them, than with towns in other EEC countries.
Thatcham Twin Town Association launched officially in style, with a dance for hundreds of guests on 13 April 1973. There was music supplied by an English and a “continental” band, but the food and drink was traditionally English. It was the 1970s, after all.
Thatcham played host to a party of 15 young people from Nideggen for ten days the following October, with a full programme of activities arranged, including visits to Windsor and Stonehenge, Reeds Paper Mill, and a disco.
The first official party of Thatcham residents to visit Nideggen included David Wootton, the chairman of the parish Council, and his wife Barbara; and Nick Carter, the chairman of the Town Twinning Association, and his wife Jean, in February 1974. The visit was a great success, with the Thatcham contingent taking part in the traditional carnival procession through the streets of Nideggen, dressed in old English costumes. The following August, a party of 19 German teenagers and adults visited Thatcham, where they were treated to a tour of Englefield House and Highclere Castle, as well as a London day-trip. The scheduled five-mile country walk around Cold Ash was abandoned mid-route due to torrential rain.
Over the next twenty years there were many such trips and exchange, funded in part by fund-raising and social events held throughout the year.
In 1988 a new residential area in Thatcham was named “Nideggen Close” in tribute to the twin town.
However, interest began to wane in the 1990s, and appeals were made for new members.
In 2000 a plan to establish a twinning link with the French town of Cormeilles-en-Paris on the outskirts of the capital, did not go ahead.
It was said at a February 2000 meeting of Thatcham Town council that the twinning association was “in a period of suspension, due to lack of interest.”
Nonetheless, many friendships formed over the years that the association was active continue to the present day, and Thatcham is still twinned with Nideggen.