Leeds – Dortmund twinning

The roots of the twinning relationship between Dortmund and Leeds go back to the end of 1949 and have been official twin-town since 2nd June 1969. They became twins-towns to embed the leading thought of understanding among nations and the European friendship in the population.

“From now on Dortmund and Leeds will be twin cities. Both cities have a common desire to keep alive the feeling of togetherness and to strengthen the personal ties between them. The City of Dortmund’s Council commits itself on this ceremonial occasion to support the citizens of Leeds. It reinforces its intention to cooperate with the City of Leeds to ensure a happy future for the people of both cities, a peaceful world and a united Europe”
/Dortmund’s Lord Mayor Sondermann/

The Control Commission of Germany made the proposal to initiate a relationship between West Riding of Yorkshire and the administrative district of Arnsberg, as these were areas that resembled each other in terms of their geographical and population size, landscape and economic structure. In response to this proposal, pupil exchanges were organised, followed by teachers’ encounters.

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The decisive impulse for accepting the twinning relationship between Dortmund and Leeds came in 1957. Then the Lord Mayor of Dortmund, Dietrich Keuning, and the Lord Mayoress of Essen were invited as guests of the Foreign Office to embark on a trip to England. During their stay in Leeds, the largest city in Yorkshire, a twinning relationship between Dortmund and Leeds was considered by the two heads of city.

In 1959, exchange programmes were published by the youth welfare offices of both cities. 1961 was dedicated to England: Dortmunders were able to get an insight into the lives of British people, to deepen their knowledge of the country and to eliminate prejudices. Their own desire to learn more about the partner city became the driving force behind the growing number of personal ties, which developed alongside the official visits between both cities.

A small village at the location of Dortmund was mentioned in official documents from 880 to 885 as Throtmanni. After being destroyed by a fire the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick I (Barbarossa), rebuilt the town in 1152 and resided there for two years. It became an Imperial Free City in 1220 and during that century, was the “chief city” of the Rhine.

After 1320, the city appeared in writing as “Dorpmunde”, and the 1661 earthquake collapsed the Reinoldikirche. Within the Prussian Province of Westphalia, Dortmund was a district seat within Regierungsbezirk Arnsberg until 1875, after which it was an urban district within the region. During the industrialization of Prussia, Dortmund became a major centre for coal and steel.

Under Nazi Germany, the synagogue was destroyed in 1938. Also, the Aplerbeck Hospital in Dortmund transferred mentally and/or physically disabled patients for euthanasia at the Hadamar mental hospital as part of the Action T4 (an additional 229 children were killed in the “Children’s Specialist Department”, which was transferred from Marburg. The code word Dortmund was radioed to initiate the 1941 Operation Barbarossa campaign against the Soviet Union.

Coal, steel and beer guaranteed economic prosperity beyond the middle of the past century. In the course of structural change, however, new branches like IT, micro systems technology, logistics, communications- and media technology have re-shaped Dortmund’s corporate landscape.

Population:  600,000.

The Borough of Leeds was created in 1207, when Maurice Paynel, lord of the manor, granted a charter covering a small area adjacent to a crossing of the River Aire, between the old settlement centred on Leeds Parish Church to the east and the manor house and mills to the west. In 1626 a charter was granted by Charles I, incorporating the entire parish as the Borough of Leeds; it was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. The parish and borough included the chapelries of Chapel Allerton, Armley, Beeston, Bramley, Farnley, Headingley cum Burley, Holbeck, Hunslet, Leeds, Potternewton and Wortley. The borough was located in the West Riding of Yorkshire and gained city status in 1893.

A review of local government arrangements completed in 1969 proposed the creation of a new large district centered on Leeds, occupying 317,000 acres and including 840,000 people. The proposed area was significantly reduced in a 1971 white paper; and within a year every local authority to be incorporated into it protested or demonstrated. The final proposal reduced the area further and following the enactment of the Local Government Act 1972, the county borough was abolished on 1 April 1974 and its former area was combined with that of the municipal boroughs of Morley and Pudsey; the urban districts of Aireborough, Horsforth, Otley, Garforth and Rothwell; and parts of the rural districts of Tadcaster, Wetherby and Wharfedale. The new district gained both borough and city status, as had been held by the county borough; and forms part of the county of West Yorkshire.

By the end of the Great War, the industrial and social structure of Leeds had already begun to change. Such a vital and thriving city had to become a centre of study and teaching. The Yorkshire College of Science and the Medical School were merged to form the University in 1904. The corporation established Colleges of Technology, Art, Commerce and Education, which were later to be fused into the Polytechnic, which in 1992 became Leeds Metropolitan University.

Since the Second World War and more particularly since the fifties, another transformation occurred, namely the rebuilding of the city. Tens of thousands of slum dwellings were replaced by modern housing estates which have now earned Leeds the accolade of Environment City of the UK and Leeds pioneered the Buchan principles of planning for the motor car and pedestrian.

Leeds stands today as a city of regional, national and international importance. With its rich history, diverse economy, enterprising people and cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Population: 715,000

2 Responses to Leeds – Dortmund twinning

  1. I met the widow of the man who negotiated the twinning arrangement when I was conducting research for my Superimposed Cities project in 2002. Spent a pleasant afternoon discussing it over tea and cake at her home. She explained that her husband was also involved in twinning Bolton with Paderborn, and he occasionally flew dignitaries from Leeds to Dortmund in his private plane.

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