The British are coming…
Actually, they arrived April 22 in Chester as part of a Twinning community event for 2014 to commemorate the Chesterfield County Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.
You may well say what’s twinning? No, no it’s not a get together of twins, though it is a get together of a community group that opens official relations with other communities around the world.
Officially, Chesterfield County Twinning Association (CCTA) established a relationship in 2005 with Gravesham Borough, England. The Gravesham Town Twinning Association (GTTA) in England has more than 200 members and has actively “twinning” for many years. They also have relationships in Paris and Germany.
CCTA was established to promote international friendship and understanding by strengthening relations formed by the two groups of Chesterfield County and the Gravesham Borough in England. So, the sisterhood was formed to promote international friendship and understanding by strengthening the links formed by the partnership.
“What we aim to do is build lasting relationships between Chesterfield and Gravesham residents while educating each other on local culture and customes,” said CCTA chairman Elliott Fausz. “It’s a personal experiece that can’t be had looking through the window of a tour bus, and the bonds will hopefully last a lifetime.”
Gravesham Borough and Chesterfield County have the link of Pocahontas. Her fame as a Virginia Indian who helped establish Jamestown and Henricus is legendary. She is buried in Gravesham Borough at Saint George’s Church, thus the tie for Chesterfield and Gravesham.
A delegation of about 18 English friends came to celebrate the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War. The GTTA has made a few trips previously to Chesterfield County to celebrate Jamestown’s 400th Anniversary in 2007 and Henricus Park’s 400th Anniversary in 2011. This visit was all about history.
The week that the group was in Chesterfield County was action packed and the agenda included a tour of Petersburg and Hopewell. There was musical entertainment from Hopewell students at the Beacon Theater, and a tour of the Blandford Church and Cemetery where many soldiers are buried. They had another day of tours in Washington, D.C. and visited Capitol Hill. They went to Berkeley Plantation and New Kent Winery.
The members who visited included: Chairman Christoph Bull, Brian and Ruth Portway, David Brammer, Lyn and Tony Byers, Jill and Ian Clucas, Brian and Sheila Hirst, Thomas O’Keeffe, Iris Smith, The Reverend Canon Chris and Carol Stone, and Heather Snelling, John and Lynn Hughes, and Julia Burgoyne.
The cooperative twinning agreement has members of the visiting party stay at CCTA members’ homes in the Chesterfield area. They get an opportunity to see the day-to-day life of Chesterfield residents.
“Welcoming people really makes town twinning work,” said Ruth Partway. “It’s lovely to stay in their homes and meet people again and again and the hospitality has been a non-stop delight.” Ruth has been here on two previous visits.
Her husband, Brian Portway, is the secretary for GTTA said he has thoroughly enjoyed every moment of his visit. “I enjoyed being hosted by the family,” he said. “I so enjoyed visiting Blandford Church and the Berkeley Plantation.” Brian’s role in the GTTA is to search for twinning groups to partner with and to help establish relationships. “We have created some lifelong links,” Brian added.
Christoph Bull is the chairman of the GTTA. He said he enjoyed “meeting real live people and staying with his host family.” He said one of the events he truly enjoyed included the historical adventures. “I personally enjoyed Petersburg and the tour of the renovated home there,” he shared. “It was jolly great fun.”
Everyone spoke highly of the up-close and personal Civil War re-anctment that they got to witness at the Bermuda Hundred Campaign. The re-enactment marked the 150th anniversary of the campaign. “Seeing the re-enactment up close and in detail, there was nothing like it,” said Brian.
David Brammer, another visitor, has visited several times and was charmed by his visit to Washington, D.C. “I had never been,” he said. “I was fascinated seeing the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, and Smithsonian Museum. Brammer said he’s “been thrilled by the community relationship we’ve established here.”
Lyn Byers said the whole experience had been fascinating. “You know I’ve seen battles on film,” she explained. “But to see the re-enactment for real, to smell the smoke and watch the soldiers planning their moves, and seeing people hit was so grisly but interesting.” She enjoyed going to Capitol Hill and seeing government in action.
The trip was rounded out by a visit to a local historical home of David and Una Harrison’s in Chester, Elmwood House, for a gathering and a Civil War concert at Bethia Methodist Church. “It’s a community relationship,” said Alena King. She and her husband, Dickie, hosted one of the couples that came.
Byers summed up the visit for all, “It was an action-packed time,” she summarized. “I had a time keeping up but it was really, really fun.”
If you’d like to join the Twinning group exchange program, call (804) 405-5443 or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org . They can also be found on Facebook at Chesterfield County Twinning Association. They are a part of the Chester Community Association.