Have you visited any of these Suffolk twin towns?

Arras in France

Arras in France - Credit: Alan Piper

A number of towns and villages across Suffolk have formed partnerships with settlements across the globe – here's just a handful of those twinnings. 

Ipswich, twinned with Arras, France 

Suffolk’s county town of Ipswich has been twinned with the city of Arras since September 1993. To commemorate the occasion, Arras Square in the Buttermarket was named after the city to celebrate the partnership. 

Established by the Gauls in the Iron Age, Arras was originally known as Nemetocenna, which is thought to originate from the Celtic word ‘nemeton’, which means ‘sacred space’. The first mention of the name Arras however came about in the 12th century, and its name has been the subject of speculation for many years. Some believe the name stems from Atrebates, a former tribe that used to live in the area, while others think it’s derived from the Celtic word for running water, ‘Ar’, in reference to the river Scarpe which through the city.  

Similar to Ipswich, Arras also played a prominent role in the wool trade during the Middle Ages, and became so well known for its tapestries that the word for tapestry in Italian, ‘arazzi’, is in reference to the settlement.  


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More recently, Arras is known for its role in both the First and Second World War due to its close proximity to the frontline. A number of battles took place in and around the city, including the Battle of Arras in both 1914 and 1917, and the Second Battle of Arras in 1918. 

For anyone who plans to visit Arras in a post-lockdown world, it should be noted there are a number of sights that are definitely worth checking out, including the Belfry of Arras, Arras Cathedral and The Boves – a preserved underground tunnel network open to tourists. Constructed in the 10th century, it was used as a bunker during both world wars.  

Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky - Credit: Rich Bowen

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Newmarket, twinned with Lexington, United States 

Unsurprisingly, Newmarket became sister cities with Lexington, Kentucky in 2003, due to the two settlements sharing a longstanding association with horseracing.  

Lexington is nicknamed the ‘Horse Capital of the World’, while Newmarket is considered to be both the birthplace and global centre of thoroughbred horse racing. The two places annually host a number of prestigious racing events, and also lay claim to a thriving equine industry. 

Newmarket’s history with the sport can be dated as far back as the 12th century, with various royals including King James I and King Charles I both taking a keen interest in the sport in the town. Across the Atlantic, Lexington is where you will find the Keeneland and The Red Mile racecourses – the former of which is the second-oldest horseracing track in the United States.  

Both settlements have benefited greatly from this town twinning, as pupils from schools in Newmarket and Lexington regularly embark upon exchanges, in order to learn about the other’s culture and experience what life is like in the opposite settlement. 

Verneuil-sur-Avre

Verneuil-sur-Avre - Credit: Vpagnouf

Stowmarket, twinned with Verneuil-sur-Avre, France  

Proudly stood in the north of France is the medieval town of Verneuil-sur-Avre, a popular tourist destination that has been twinned with Stowmarket since 1979.   

Founded in the 12th century by Henri I Beauclerc, son of William the Conqueror, many of Verneuil’s ancient buildings still stand today, making it a popular tourist destination. Some of its most famous works of architecture include the Tour Grise, a 13th century tower erected by King Philip Augustus; Abbaye Saint-Nicolas, a 17th century abbey; and an array of quaint, traditional half-timbered Norman houses. 

In a pre-pandemic world, Stowmarket and Verneuil would host annual Easter weekend exchange visits, with groups from both settlements visiting the opposing towns in order to spend time with local host families, see attractions and learn more about the sister settlements.  

Kevelaer

Kevelaer - Credit: Heribert Bechen

Bury St Edmunds, twinned with Kevelaer, Germany 

Since 1981, Bury St Edmunds has been twinned with the German town of Kevelaer. Located in North Rhine-Westphalia, it has strong ties to religion – much like Bury St Edmunds.  

While Bury is home to a number of historical churches, and most famously St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Kevelaer is the largest Catholic pilgrimage site in north-western Europe. Every year, over one million people visit the town’s Gnadenkapelle - which translates to ‘Chapel of Grace’ - to honour the Virgin Mary. 

Felixstowe, twinned with Wesel in Germany 

The north-western German city of Wesel has been twinned with Felixstowe since 1974, and to commemorate the twinning’s 40th anniversary, the two towns celebrated by embarking upon an exchange visit in September 2014.  

The two towns also created a unique digital record to mark the milestone, containing almost 250 photographs of significant events and people during that time. This was alongside a book that was produced by the Wesel Felixstowe Association, which was written in both German and English.  

Famous faces who hail from Wesel include Johann Lippershey, a spectacle-maker who is often associated with the invention of the telescope; co-discoverer of chemical elements rhenium and technetium Ida Tacke; and Peter Minuit, founder of New Amsterdam, a 17th-century Dutch settlement which later became what is now New York City's downtown. 

Have you visited any of these twinned towns? Get in touch with danielle.lett@archant.co.uk to share your pictures and stories.  

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