Cheltenham Spa has had a long rich history as a highly influential spa town in Britain. It’s home to a wide range of festivals that bring together thousands of people from across the globe, as well as being the location of the (in)famous GCHQ.
During the years since it’s creation in 1716, Cheltenham has gone on to inspire and twin with towns from across the globe, making it one of the most widely connected towns in the UK. And while all of these towns stand on their own, it’s fascinating to see just how similar some of these towns are.
But first, what is a twin town?
A twin town (also known as sister cities) are a form of legal or social agreement between towns that allow the promotion of culture, commercial and economic ties, as well as encourage trade and tourism. In short, it’s like they’re officially best mates.
Founded in the southern park of lower Saxony, Göttingen was the first town Cheltenham ever twinned with, forging a relationship in 1951!
Göttingen has been one of Cheltenham’s biggest contributors for exchange students and work placements, and with the introduction of “The Big Party” in 1976, more than 100 people from either side go to either Göttingen or Cheltenham each year to fully experience what life is like in the other town.
2016 marked Cheltenham’s 65th anniversary of being twinned with Göttingen, so a very happy anniversary to both of them.
Caledon, Ontario – Toronto
Established in the centre of Ontario back in 1974, Caledon is home to over 55,000 people and was voted the safest town in Canada for two years running by Maclean magazine.
Caledon is lucky enough to have a location with the coolest Cheltenham related name, a formation called the “CheltenhamBadlands”! The badlands’ main attraction is the giant collection of red clay hills (pictured below).
(Fun fact: Clay is a key component in soap, and soap is used in spa’s, and Cheltenham is a spa town!)
Caledon is also home to a small community called Cheltenham, and is even signposted in a different Cheltenham based in Pennsylvania
Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County – Pennsylvania
Established in 1682 and bordering North Philadelphia in Montgomery County, Cheltenham Township is home over 36,000 people and is nicknamed by many in the area as the “Cheltenhood”.
Cheltenham (The UK one) and the Cheltenham Township became twinned towns in 2003, and since then the township has welcomed many travelers from Cheltenham and hosts many visits.
The township also adopted the UK Cheltenham’s love of competition and festivities by hosting a ‘Keep Cheltenham Tidy Group’ and a ‘ Cheltenham in Bloom’ competition each year.
While the township was once originally part of Philadelphia, after much deliberation, it was changed to be officially part of Montgomery in 1784.
Twinned with Cheltenham in 1959, Sochi is most likely best known for hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics as well as being incredibly well developed in the food industry.
The twinning with Sochi is a strange one. Due to events following World War 2, the Soviet Embassy wanted to strengthen links with the allied countries and so decided that linking towns would be the best option. Both England and Russia agreed to a partnership but only for these two spa towns.
The population of over 400,000 are lucky enough to live in possibly one of the warmest areas of Russia, with an almost sub-tropical climate that fits perfectly alongside the famous Black Sea. Lot’s of swimming to be done!
Sochi clearly shares Cheltenham’s love of cleanliness, as it’s also a spa town! It’s become a famous health resort in recent years and provides services for more than 3 million people a year.
Weihai is a coastal city on the north eastern side of China and home to more than 2,000,000 people.
Much like Cheltenham, Weihai is also a spa location. But while Cheltenham has lost all spa’s bar it’s name, Weihai is booming! There are health spas and mineral hot springs everywhere and thanks to it’s wonderful mountain scenery it’s become a tourist hotspot for millions every year.
Cheltenham begin the twinning process with Weihai in 1985 and an official Protocol Agreement for the promotion of understanding and friendship between the people of Cheltenham and Weihai was signed by the Mayors of the towns in July 1987. The Council granted full twinning status to the link in 1998.
The link is overseen by the locally run society ‘The Weihai Link‘. The department aims to promote cultural, economic, educational and friendship links between the people of the two towns. Multiple exchange trips have taken place and hundreds of chinese students come to study at the University of Gloucestershire every year.
That was a quick glimpse into only a few of the towns that Cheltenham is lucky enough to be twinned with. It’s fascinating to see how diverse our connections and ties can be, and how many of these places are connected to our little Cheltenham. It goes to show just how welcoming and adaptable Cheltenham really is.
If you’d like to know more, make sure to check out Cheltenham Twinning Association for all information about Cheltenham and its twinned towns.