Pigeons, puppets, music to celebrate Pike’s big day

Celebrations will be coming soon to mark Stoodley Pike's 200th anniversary
Celebrations will be coming soon to mark Stoodley Pike's 200th anniversary

Pigeons, puppeteers, a samba band and even a brass band are to perform high up at the summit of Stoodley Pike next month, at a special event to mark the 200th anniversary of the laying of the original monument’s foundation stone.

It’s successor is one of the oldest towers dedicated to peace in the world, say organisers Calder Civic Trust.

The celebration takes place at at 2pm on Saturday, May 3, and the trust is inviting people to join the French guests 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 and in 1814 they laid the foundation stone for a magnificent monument, sponsored by many local people.

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.

Civic Trust event organiser Nick Wilding, who has researched the monument’s history, says 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 preciated.

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. Napoleon later escaped from Elba and fighting renewed at the Battle of Waterloo.

However, Nick feels that this should not diminish the importance of the Anglo-French peace settlement or the joy Calder Valley people felt 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 11, 1854, collapsing 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.

Anybody interested in joining others for the walk to the summit of Stoodley Pike on the day 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.