Wetherby twinned with Privas

Wetherby first began looking for a partner in France in the late 1980’s. The main criteria were that the twin town had to have a river, a bridge and a market and be of a similar size to Wetherby.

Privas was, at that time, looking for a UK partner and amply fulfilled our criteria. They had already established a link with Weilburg in Germany in 1958, with Tortona in Italy in 1964 and Zevenaar in Holland in 1966. The official twinning document was signed in 1992.

Official visits take place every 2 years (although many private informal visits happen on a more frequent basis.

Picture of a french building

Following a hugely successful visit to Wetherby for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations (and also the 20th anniversary of our twinning link), a group of 20 of our Privas friends returned here in June 2016.

Wetherby Twinning Association have received no external funding for the events or visits, unlike the French counterparts.

A nice view of the town

Early in 2009, a local firm of solicitors, Hartlaw, suggested that it might be a good idea for them to become a Community Interest Company, the main advantage being that in the event of litigation, members of the Association are protected financially. Many had not realised that if the Association was sued by, for example, a member of the public following an accident at one of their events, they would all be personally financially liable.

They held an EGM in February where members voted unanimously for incorporation. This was approved at our AGM and things were put in motion. Hartlaw was extremely generous in offering to do the work on a pro bono basis for which we are very grateful

Fountain

They decided on 4 Directors – the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer – who all duly filled in a variety of forms. The application went off in April and was approved in May.

Now that they have an official status as a Community Interest Company, they hope that we will be in a better position to access outside funding. Over the years, many long-standing friendships have been forged, but like many Twinning Associations, the membership is getting older.

They are trying to encourage younger people to join them by linking two of our local junior schools who teach French with schools in Privas.

To find out more about what is happening with the Wetherby Twinning Association please follow the link

Map of France showing Privas

The History of Privas

In the 10th century, Privas was owned by the counts of Toulouse who subsequently sold it to the counts of Poitiers.  The town received its own charter in the 13th century. In 1566, the baronetcy of Privas was split between the two daughters of Diane de Poitiers, the legendary mistress of Henri II.  There still exists in Privas a 15th century tower called the Diane de Poitiers tower. In the 16th century, the protestant movement spread from Geneva to France and the new religious ideas took hold in the Ardèche.  Privas became the centre of the protestant movement in the east of the country and a symbol of resistance to the Catholic monarchy.  The town became known as ‘le Rempart de la Réforme’.

In spite of severe and merciless repression by the authorities, encouraged by both the Spanish and the Pope, the protestant movement prospered and for over 70 years, no catholic mass was said in Privas – in 1570 the inhabitants even destroyed the catholic church.

Church

In 1629, following a protestant uprising, the town was besieged by the royal army and was eventually taken and razed to the ground.  The bridge over the river was rebuilt by Louis XIII in case he needed to send more troops to Privas to quell another uprising.  Privas has a motto – celle que la violence a détruite, sa propre énergie l’a ressuscitée – which is highly appropriate. 

It was the silk industry  which restored the fortunes of Privas and the Ardèche.  Silkworms feed on mulberry leaves and the mulberry bush grows well in rocky soil.  Chomerac, near Privas, was the site of the first silk factory and it was quickly followed by others.

Bridge

In the 19th century, Privas became known as the capital of the marron glacé.  Chestnut trees grow everywhere in the Ardèche and peasants living on isolated farms used the chestnut as their staple food – in fact, the tree was known as ‘l’arbre à pain’.  In 1882, Clément Faugier invented the marron glacé and from a tiny factory in Privas, the brand is now internationally renowned.  Half of all the chestnuts produced in France come from the Ardèche.