Hastings - Oudenaarde Twinning Association

Oudenaarde lies in the Belgian province of East Flanders 25 kilometres south of Ghent, on the banks of the river Scheldt. It is believed to originate from a Roman outpost dating from 441AD. In the 10th century a fortified castle was located there and the town developed around it where the Scheldt was utilised for commercial purposes.

By the 15th century the town's success and wealth, due to the tapestry industry, was such that the council of Flanders held its meetings in Oudenaarde.

At the end of the 17th century French troops annexed Oudenaarde as Louis 14th demanded that the Flemish weavers went to France to save their dying tapestry industry. In July 1708 allied forces under the English Duke of Marlborough defeated the French forces leading to the expulsion of the French from Ghent and Bruges.

More recently Oudenaarde was occupied by German forces during the Second World War and saw action involving British and American troops.

Today the town has a population of 30,000 and the primary industry is still textiles, although a number of multinational companies have opened production units in the area. It still is home to a few breweries, for which Belgium is well known, although a number of these are being absorbed by the international brewery conglomerates. Local speciality brews include fruit beers which, along with hundreds of other Belgian varieties, can be enjoyed at the many cafés and bars in and around the main square overlooked by the town hall. Other local produce includes cheese and chocolates.

Oudenaarde has some historically important monuments not the least of which is the magnificent gothic town hall which houses possibly the world's finest tapestry collection, and an extensive collection of silver tableware and church silver.

On the outskirts of Oudenaarde is the village of Ename where the Provincial Archaeological Museum is located close to the ruins of a Byzantine Abbey. Also nearby is an early Romanesque church dating back to the 10th century, and where an 11th century Byzantine mural was recently uncovered.

Twinning with Hastings

The roots of the twin town link between Hastings and Oudenaarde lie with the arrival in Oudenaarde of British troops during WW2.

Amongst these troops was a soldier named Smith. He met a Belgian girl and subsequently married her and settled in Oudenaarde. As more and more European towns entered into twinning arrangements Mr Smith became very keen to twin Oudenaarde with Hastings and asked his son to try and achieve this. This son, Edmund, worked hard for several years making many visits to Hastings in his efforts to fulfil his late father's wishes. Initially groups of athletes came from Belgium to take part in the Hastings half marathon where they were hosted by local runners, links and exchanges also took place between the police and fire services. Eventually in 1991 a formal twinning between Hastings and Oudenaarde was signed. The occasion was marked by a relay run from Hastings town hall to Oudenaarde town hall carrying a message of goodwill from the people of Hastings to the people of Oudenaarde. English runners were accompanied by Belgian runners for the complete distance.

Since 1991 many links have been forged between organisations, clubs, and individuals. These include musical groups, athletes and football teams, chess club, Sub Aqua club, military cadets, and schools. We also have a link with a retirement home in Oudenaarde where the "Hastings" wing is decorated with pictures of Hastings and a scaled down mock-up of a netshop. Most of these groups now organise their own visits and a general group visit takes place every year, usually in May, and these trips are open to all interested in joining in. The May trip is timed to coincide with the VE commemoration weekend, but the visits may be scheduled to take place when other special events are taking place such as the Flower carpet, every 5 years, or the Sneukeltocht cycling event. The Sneukeltocht involves a cycle ride of about 30 miles with regular refreshment stops organised by each of Oudenaarde's twin towns.

Many participants in twinning stay with local families; alternatively there are a number of reasonably priced hotels which can be booked.

The group visits often incorporate visits to other locations such as Ypres, Poperinge, Bruges or Ghent.

The twinning activities between Hasting and Oudenaarde are coordinated by a committee in both towns. These committees meet together at least once per year in order to arrange visit programmes.

Please Email the Oudenaarde Secretary from the contact page if further information is required.