You will often see signs that mention Essex’s twin towns as you explore the county.
Towns are regularly twinned with other places across the world in order to develop connections, friendships and broaden understanding of culture.
The modern idea of a twin town – or sister cities – came to fruition after World War II. That was a direct result of the world’s attempts to improve relationships as well as promote trade and tourism following so many tumultuous years.
Here in Essex many areas are twinned with foreign towns and cities, particularly in nearby European countries France and Germany.
Some also have connections with places in Poland, Italy and the United States of America.
Here are all of Essex’s twin towns and how they compare to the places we know and love:
Barking and Dagenham
Barking and Dagenham are twinned with two towns – Tczew in Poland, and Witten in Germany.
On the London border, Barking and Dagenham are very busy areas in the south-west of Essex.
With a population of more than 200,000, the area is well connected to the city.
However, it is a controversial area when it comes to debate on whether it falls under Essex or London.
Tczew is a town on the on the Vistula Riverto in the North of Poland.
Just over 60,000 people live there, so it is significantly smaller than its Essex counterpart.
Each year it hosts a famous English language camp where students have the opportunity to spend time with Americans to improve their English skills.
Witten is a university city in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany.
It has a population of just under 100,000 and is home to the first private university in the country.
Witten has a long history, with it first being mentioned in official records in 1214.
Basildon has two twin towns, one in Germany and one in France.
Found to the south of the county, Basildon has a population of 107,123.
Its proximity to London and vast housing estates, as well as its road connections, make Basildon one of Essex’s busiest towns.
Possibly the most famous sight in recent years is the mini Hollywood-style sign as you enter the town.
The first of Basildon’s twin towns is Heiligenhaus in Germany.
Heiligenhaus is far smaller than its Essex twin, with just over 26,000 people living there.
It can be found between Düsseldorf and Essen in the North Rhine-Westphalia.
Basildon’s second twin town is Meaux in France.
Meaux is a commune (town) in France’s capital city, Paris.
The town is best know for a variety of Brie that it produces as well as a local mustard that is made there.
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Billericay is twinned with three other towns across the world.
Billericay has a long history and is believed to have been occupied for as far back as the Bronze Age.
Now largely a commuter town, Billericay also has some stunning areas of beauty including Mill Meadows.
The town is best known for being the home of Gavin in hit TV show Gavin and Stacey.
The first of Billericay’s twins is a city in the US called Fishers.
Fishers is in Indiana and became a city in 2012.
Its plotted history is nowhere near as illustrious as Billericay’s, with its earliest mention in records in 1802.
Billericay has another twin town in America, and it has a very similar name.
Billerica actually takes its name from the Essex town as some of the original settlers moved from there.
It has a reasonably long history, with the town originally native American settlement.
Billericay has been twinned with Chauvigny in France since 2005.
Chauvigny is a town in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in western France.
It is only a small town, with a population of just over 7000 in 2017.
Brentwood has two twin towns, one in Germany and one in France.
This Essex town is probably most famous as being the home of TOWIE, and is the place most outsiders think of in relation to Essex.
Brentwood is an expanding town and in 2017 had a population of around 55,000.
Despite its recent developments, Brentwood also has rural areas, with lots of open spaces.
Brentwood is twinned with Roth in Bavaria, Germany.
Roth has a long recorded history with documents dating it back to 1060.
The main tourist attraction in Roth is its castle, the Schloss Ratibor.
Brentwood’s second twin town is Montbazon in central France.
This town also has a long history, dating back to 991 when a fortress was built there.
Montbazon is a very small town – in 2017 its population was 4,313.
Chelmsford is Essex’s only city and is in the heart of the county.
It’s best know for being the birthplace of radio.
It has its own cathedral as well as being home to Anglia Ruskin University.
Chelmsford has a number of open spaces, including Hylands Park, home to the famous V Festival.
Annonay, in France, is the first of Chelmsford’s twins.
The first written record of Annonay is from 403 and it has a detailed history, including having been devastated by the Black Death in the 1300s.
Annonay hosts several festivals each year, including The Premier International Festival of Film.
Backnang, in Germany, is also twinned with Chelmsford.
It can be found in the Bundesland of Baden-Württemberg.
The town hosts a street festival each year called Strassenfest which attracts around 100,000 visitors.
Colchester is one of Essex’s biggest towns, with a population close to 200,000.
It is Britain’s oldest recorded town, and was the capital city in Roman times.
Colchester is know for its long, detailed history, with many famous sites, including Colchester Castle.
It is also home to the University of Essex.
The first of Colchester’s four twin towns in Avignon in France.
Avignon is also very well know for its history and has a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Its large number of historic remains have helped it become a major tourist town, like Colchester.
Imola is a city in Bologna, Italy.
It is a famous city, mainly as it was once the host of the Formula One San Marino Grand Prix.
Imola is also home to a castle called Rocca Sforzesca.
Another of Colchester’s twins is Wetzlar in Germany.
This city is know for its importance in the Roman empire as it was the seat of the Imperial Supreme Court.
Wetzlar has a long, detailed history just like Colchester, including a number of Roman remains.
Colchester’s final twin is Yangzhou in China.
This is a very large city, with millions of residents.
Historically Yangzhou is one of China’s richest cities and is known for its famous poets, scholars and artists.
Yangzhou has an incredibly long history with the first recorded settlements dating back to 485 BC.
Harlow, a town in the West of Essex, has three twin towns.
Bordering Hertfordshire and London, Harlow is popular with commuters and is one of Essex’s newest settlements.
Parts of Harlow are packed with history, with the town mentioned in the Doomsday Book.
Other areas are very modern, with some areas being built after WW2 and the town centre has recently been regenerated.
Harlow is twinned with Havířov, a city in the Czech Republic.
Havířov was built after WW2 as a coal mining city, and is the youngest city in the country.
Harlow is also twinned with Tingalpa, a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Tingalpa has seen a lot of development in recent years, just like Harlow.
The first proper settlement in this town was in the 1860s, but it is still a very small town in terms of population.
Vélizy-Villacoublay, in central France, is another of Harlow’s twins.
Found in the suburbs of Paris, Vélizy-Villacoublay didn’t get its name until 1938.
It’s a relatively modern town.
Maldon has two twin towns, both in Europe.
Maldon is on the Blackwater Estuary and is known globally for its production of Maldon Sea Salt.
This town has a very long history and was one of only two towns in Essex during the rule of the Anglo-Saxons.
Today, Maldon is best known for Promenade Park.
The first of Maldon’s twin towns is Cuijk in The Netherlands.
Cuijk is a commuter town close to the German border.
Like Maldon, Cuijk has a lot of history and dates back to pre-historic times.
Maldon’s second twin town is Villeparisis in France.
Villeparisis is in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris, just 13.5 miles away from the centre of the capital.
It is known for its country parks and historical churches.
Essex seaside town Southend-on-Sea is very popular with those looking for a day at the beach.
It is well known for its theme park, Adventure Island and for having the longest pier in the world.
Southend has a population of around 183,000 people, making it Essex’s most populous area.
Southend only has one twin town – Sopot in Poland.
Sopot is similar to Southend in that it is a seaside resort.
It is a major tourist town, and has the longest wooden pier in Europe.
Although it is a district and not a town on its own, Tendring has three twins.
The largest town in Tendring is Clacton-on-Sea, one of Essex’s most popular seaside resorts.
Tendring also includes Frinton, Walton, Brightlingsea, Harwich, St Osyth and Great Bentley.
Biberach an der Riss
Biberach an der Riss in Germany is twinned with Tendring.
Unlike Tendring, Biberach is very far from the coast, and in the far south of the country.
It has a river flowing through it and is an industrial city.
Tendring is also paired with the Polish town Świdnica.
Świdnica has a long history and was once famous for its beer production.
It is also home to the oldest restaurant in Europe and is very well known for its cathedral.
Tendring’s third twin town is Valence in France.
Valence is found on the left bank of the Rhône, one of Europe’s major rivers.
It is often called “the door to the South of France” because of its Southern culture.
Thurrock is the home of Grays, Tilbury, Purfleet, Corringham and Stanford-le-Hope.
It is within the Thames Gateway and part of the London Commuter Belt, being very close to the city centre.
Thurrock’s best know attraction is Lakeside Shopping Centre.
Mönchengladbach in Germany the first of Thurrock’s twin towns.
It is a city which has four boroughs and 44 districts, and is very far away from the capital city, Berlin.
Tourism is a large part of the economy in Mönchengladbach and it is well known for its art museums as well as its history.
Thurrock is also twinned with Plock in Poland.
Plock is a city in central Poland and was once the capital city of the country.
The city has a very long and detailed history, especially when it comes to religion. It is famous for the Divine Mercy Sanctuary, where the apparition of Jesus to Saint Faustina Kowalska took place.