History of the Robertsbridge Twinning Association
By David Claydon (co-founder and first Chairman of the association)
Although previous attempts had been made to set up a Twinning for Robertsbridge it all started to take place in 1996 when the late David Harbour, a long term resident of Robertsbridge, called a series of village meetings to establish the Association.
The first priority was to establish whether there was sufficient interest in the village and, if so, where we should be twinned with. With a good attendance at the first meeting, a second meeting was held to have a vote on which country the majority would like to be twinned with. France was by far the first choice followed by Germany. Several other locations were suggested such as Japan but obviously exchanged visits and language problems made these a non-starter. Having agreed that France was the favourite, it was then decided that it would be better to go deeper into France rather than stay close to the Ports and, following further group discussions it was agreed that the Champagne region would be ideal. Far enough to feel that you were in a traditional part of France but also near enough to visit. (3 hours from the Port)
At this stage it was also agreed that the purpose of the Twinning was to be based on friendship and educational and cultural exchanges and was not to have any political agenda.
The first committee was formed which included myself and Rosemary Robbins, the landlady at the Ostrich. We started the search for a suitable partner and initially Rosemary and I made an appointment with the International Twinning Bureau in Westminster. This proved to be extremely useful as they gave us so much help, support and advice. We had to put together a very detailed profile of Robertsbridge which the bureau then used to find a potential partner. After several months we were given three alternatives: St Brice Courcelles, Dizy and Magenta.
In May 1998, we visited all three villages and, although Dizy was by far the most attractive, the welcome and warmth that we felt in St. Brice was exceptional. After extensive discussions, it was agreed that St. Brice was to be our favoured choice. A series of exchanges followed with visits taking place both in Robertsbridge and St. Brice and also a meeting in the village which included showing a film that the St. Brice committee had put together for us.
It wasn’t an obvious choice as there are several differences between our communities. Although St. Brice has many good qualities it is very different from Robertsbridge. St. Brice was a small village, but, although it kept its own identity, it was very much a suburb of Reims and this has increased since our first visit as the village has grown considerably over the past ten years. However, despite the differences, time has proved that the right decision was made.
The formal Twinning Agreement was made in 2000 – ironically the year that Robertsbridge was flooded. At that time, the community in St. Brice, raised a considerable amount for the victims of the flood and this was sent to us in Robertsbridge.