Located in the fertile plain of Flanders in Northern France, Tourcoing lies next to the Belgian border and is very close to Ypres, Arras and Dunkirk and, like Rochdale, also traces its heritage back to Roman times. The link between Rochdale and Tourcoing is a natural one, sharing a history of textile industries; their decline and resulting problems.
From a rural cottage industry in weaving, the economic importance of Tourcoing town grew and was acknowledged in the 1300s with the granting of a Free Fair. By the end of the 19th Century, Tourcoing was one of the most important centres for wool in the world.
As in Britain, the Nord's textile mills suffered in the world depression of the 1930s, and boomed in the reconstruction after World War 2. But in the late fifties, the relentless flood of cheap imports drove most of them out of business. Just like the textile mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire, they could not stand the competition.
Situated close to Lille, Tourcoing is similar to Rochdale in many ways, from the beautiful Town Hall in the heart of the town and the Church of Saint-Christophe with its magnificent organ and bell tower which has a peal of 49 bells. Tourcoing has an open air market and large supermarkets. In fact if it was not for the difference in style of the architecture and the fact that all the people speak French, you could be in any northern town in England.
The centre of the town consists mainly of old type streets, some are still cobbled, but now in the outlying area of Roubaix, Wattrelos, Mouscron and Neuville en-Ferrain there are many new houses springing up. There are many beautiful parks and like Rochdale they have the Metro link. Tourcoing has a population of approx 92,118 (2007 census), Rochdale: 211,700 (2011).
A Friendship between Nations
From an idea that European twinning could help to heal the wounds of war, the official ceremony to twin Rochdale with Tourcoing took place in 1956.
The Friends of Tourcoing set out to broaden the link between the two towns to include any and every citizen of Rochdale working with its sister association Les Amis de Rochdale in Tourcoing. Their aim was "that the more peoples of the world who came to know and understand each other in friendship, culture and way of living, must surely be a small contribution towards a lasting world peace."
The Friends of Tourcoing remain true to this aim providing an opportunity to meet and form friendships at a family level regardless of politics, background, age, or beliefs. We receive French families into our homes and are similarly welcomed in Tourcoing.
We have a great relationship with those we host on alternate years and vice versa. We have a lot of fun as well as learning about each others culture and lifestyle. We often have civic receptions on our arrival and visit many places of interest together. On both sides there are a number of young members who enjoy the experiences shared.
Our Coat of Arms includes an illustration of a "Brouette" which is a kind of wheelbarrow on which the factories transported their bales of raw wool & cloth, which are signified by the golden circles. The red roses signify the six old boroughs; Rochdale, Heywood, Middleton, Littleborough, Milnrow and Wardle. The fish is a roach signifying the River Roch which runs through Rochdale.