1979 – the year it all started

Full details of this milestone event can be found here.

And here’s a personal account of the visit:

I hope those who were fortunate to be in Villedômer for the weekend of 25th – 26th August will bear with me if I outline the events for those unable to attend.

The coach arrives at Villedômer at 9pm on the Saturday evening along with some true English weather. The weekend was the first wet fête weekend in Villedomer for 10 yearrs and the second coldest on record. The party was warmly welcomed by the people of Villedomer and after pushing the coach from the waterlogged field was given a marvellous dinner.

As part of the fête a singing contest was in progress and Messrs Holt, Edney and King entered and performed “The Bold Gendarmes”. The gentlemen of the party were revived from the fatigue of the journey by being introduced to Miss France.

On Sunday morning everyone gathered in the square with umbrellas raised for a tour of the village. During the tour Mr John King unveiled the nameplate on a new recreation area, now called “Square Stapleford”. The tour also included a visit to the local museum of M Beaufeu who had collected together local bygones including in particular those items used for making wine casks.

At 11am everyone returned to the square for the Twinning Ceremony. The local boys’ football team and the fire brigade formed a guard of honour. Short speeches were made by Mme Renée Poiget, the Mayor of Villedômer, Mr John King our Twinning Committee Chairman and M Barathan of l’Association franco-britannique. The charter of friendship was signed and presented to Mr King along with a beautiful glass chalice. Mr King presented the people of Villedômer with a seat which had been inscribed “STAPLEFORD 1979 VILLEDOMER” by Mr Douglas Phipps.  The band of the neighbouring village of Monthodon played both national anthems and the ceremony was concluded with a display by the Villedômer majorettes. Everybody then retired to the village hall to drink to the success of Twinning and to sign the “Book of Honour”. After a sumptuous lunch at the local restaurant, we returned to the square to follow the majorettes and the band to the fête, again with umbrellas raised.  The fête, unlike ours, had very few sideshows and the main attraction was the stage with its continuous variety of acts ranging from the local mahorettes to professional circus acts and singers.

Tea was provided at nearby la Besnardière which contains a magnificent organ, which was stolen by Napoleon from Spain. la Besnardière also houses each September the local equivalent of Aldeburgh Festival.

Tea was followed by a visit to the cellar of the village vineyard, and a church, after which we digressed for dinner with our hosts. After dinner we returned to the fête, which was again in full swing with further entertainment on the stage and a dance in an adjacent hall. The evening was concluded by a magnificent firework display.  All the entertainment and refreshment were provided free for the visitors from Stapleford and when the coach departed on the Monday morning everybody was overcome by the quality and the quantity of the hospitality. Those of us who were able to spend several days in Villedômer were able to see the village in the light of blue skies and a warm sun.  All will agree that we found it enchanting and the continuing hospitality unbelievable.

1979 inaugural visit to France: John King and Mme Poiget sitting on a bench in front of the Mairie; and waiting for the coach to arrive

Further details of the milestone event can be found here.