Bicentenary Celebration on Stoodley Pike
Tuesday, 15 April 2014
Marking the 200th year since the Treaty of Paris, which inspired the building of the original monument on Stoodley Pike. its successor is still listed now as one of the oldest towers dedicated to peace in the world.
Update: See Photos from the day
Pigeons, puppeteers, a samba band and even a brass band are to perform high up at the summit of Stoodley Pike at 2pm on Saturday 3rd May and the Calder Civic Trust is inviting people to join the French people visiting from Todmorden's twin town of Roncq to celebrate the significant Anglo-French anniversary of the Treaty of Paris in May 1814.
France and Britain had negotiated a peace settlement that appeared at that time to sort out the differences between the two countries. People in the Upper Calder Valley were relieved about what appeared to be the end of a long war. The Napoleonic Wars lasted for a quarter of a century. So, in 1814 they laid the foundation stone for a magnificent monument, sponsored by many local people. They may well have been oblivious to its international significance at the time. People rarely built towers dedicated to Peace. Even its 1854 successor is listed on the internet as one of the first such monuments to be built in the world.
Trust member Jill Smith Moorhouse says that those people who make the effort to reach the tower will be treated to performances by fitter members of the Todmorden Community Brass Band, who agreed to perform on condition that the organisers arranged that their equipment is taken up for them!
The climax of the day will be when 200 homing pigeons will be released from the balcony of the monument to fly back to their owners. This will be followed by a performance of puppeteering, courtesy of the Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade, accompanied by music from their own samba band.
Stoodley Pike's "importance as a peace monument has never been appreciated" - Nick Wilding
Civic Trust event organiser Nick Wilding, who has researched the monument's history, says that countless books have incorrectly linked the monument to either the Battle of Waterloo or the peace that followed it in 1815. He wants the event to make people aware of the real inspiration that led to its construction. Up to now, he says, its importance as a peace monument has never been appreciated. There is on the internet a site which records all peace memorials.
Together with the Angel on the top of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, it is certainly one of the earliest peace towers in the world. Of course, Napoleon later escaped from the Isle of Elbe and fighting renewed at the Battle of Waterloo. However, Nick says that he feels that this should not diminish the importance of the Anglo-French peace settlement or the sheer joy felt by the people of the Calder Valley in building such an interesting memorial.
The tower became even more related to peace and war, when the original monument was struck by lightning on February 11th 1854. It collapsed on the very day when the Russian ambassador was expelled from Britain at the start of the Crimean War. For many years, it is said, local people believed that if Stoodley Pike was struck by lightning there would be another war. Its replacement, the monument you see today, was built later in Victorian times, through public subscription.
Because of the unique situation of the Tour de France coming through Yorkshire, this year may be a perfect symbolic moment to celebrate the 200 years of Peace that France and Britain have enjoyed since the end of the Napoleonic Wars, which finally did end, a year later, with the Battle of Waterloo.
"Stoodley Pike. A beacon monument erected by public subscription commenced in 1814 to commemorate the surrender of Paris to the allies and finished after the Battle of Waterloo when peace was established in 1815. By a strange coincidence the pike [monument] fell on the day the Russian ambassador left London before the declaration of war with Russia in 1854. Was rebuilt when peace was restored in 1856."
Anybody interested in joining others for the walk to the summit of Stoodley Pike for this event by the monument at 2pm on Saturday 3rd May are invited by the organisers to meet between 12.10pm and 12.20pm in the top car park of the Top Brink Public House at Lumbutts near Mankinholes. Country roads leading up to this location meet the main road at Walsden, south of Todmorden and at the A646 junction just to the west of the recently re-opened waste disposal station at Eastwood between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden.