12 May, 2009

Why Bideford and Manteo?

Bideford and Manteo are about to become official twin towns, or sister cities.

Bideford has a long and fascinating association with the Eastern Seaboard of America, with the trade in pottery, tobacco and other goods being prominent in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Ships sailed to and from Bideford’s busy port up the river Torridge exporting goods to the Colonies and bringing back a variety of goods that helped the town to develop and prosper. Much of this can be viewed today as part of Bideford’s walking Heritage trail.

In particular, the ‘Lost Colony’ of Roanoke Island (where the town of Manteo is situated) is an amazing story of the colonisation of this Island with 117 people sailing from Bideford. They travelled to Roanoke Island with the promise of a new life but instead disappeared. A mystery still unsolved. What is mysterious is that there is no proof that they died or moved on; nor is there proof that they survived, despite documented stories of blue-eyed Indians and sightings of white men. Are any of their ancestors still alive today? DNA testing is taking place which provides the means to establish and determine whether the Lost Colonists did survive long enough to produce off-spring. If so, Roanoke Island will be considered as the birth place of America - some 33 years before the Mayflower set sail and the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia.
This is incredible and will totally re-write the history books if the evidence is found. Indeed this connection is already celebrated in Manteo through various tourist attractions such as the Lost Colony outdoor drama, Roanoke Island Festival Park and Fort Raleigh National Historic site.

We can continue to develop these strong links through the arts and creative people of both towns and countries and celebrate our special historical relationship. The arts provide a mechanism to bring communities together and to share in the past as well as to look towards the future.

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