A year earlier (1989) the Circle had emerged from Peter's fertile imagination and with his enthusiasm tempered by his friends John Beynon, John Tipton and Bob Storey it gained support from the Wales Tourist Board and the European Commission as part of the European Year of Tourism’. This Appreciation is also available as a .pdf
Peter had just retired
from running a hotel and set off round Western Europe armed with a well
designed and produced brochure and certificates of membership and friendship,
which he liberally awarded to some 130 walled towns in Wales, England,
Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal
and the Netherlands. In 1991, some 70 delegates from fifty or so walled towns
came to an inaugural conference hosted by the Wales Tourist Board in Cardiff
Castle. Working through the night we established a basic constitution and
within a couple of days the Walled Towns Friendship Circle (WTFC) was an
established trans-national body with an Executive committee, chaired by Cllr
John Price of Chester and a membership of up to 140 towns. The intent was to
hold annual symposia, hosted by individual towns, as well as holding six
monthly Executive Committee meetings. Peter Osborne was elected President with
the Tenby based volunteers as the secretariat.
Cittadella in the
Veneto agreed to host the first WTFC Symposium (1992) and set such a high
standard of hospitality and quality that other towns felt a bit wary of
emulating it. However Loches in France stepped up to the plate for 1993 and other
towns queued up to follow with either a more modest Executive meeting or a
The 1994 Derry /
Londonderry Symposium was an early achievement for Peter. With the heavy weight
political commitment of the late John Hume, who spoke eloquently ("If Stones could Talk...") at the meeting in Derry/Londonderry was made possible by an early truce in the
troubles. Both the communities within that city as well as delegates, invited by Peter, from
Carrickfergus, a staunchly Ulster walled town, took part and talked peaceably
together in ways that seem to have in ways that foreshadowed and
may even have contributed to moves towards the peace which was finally
celebrated three years later in the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. As Walled
towns delegates from around Europe, we were the first civilians to walk around
the ‘London’ walls of Derry in twenty years, undermining their long standing
role as a symbol of conflict and paving
the way for them to become, as they remain, an historic monument. The walls are
interpreted to explain differing traditions and differing heritages which can
all be celebrated and then serve the peaceful purposes of attracting visitors
Friendship Circle had become a partner in a trans-European tourism research
project which brought together four walled towns - Chepstow, Naarden, Alcudia
and Conwy – with three Universities.
Walled towns across Western
and increasingly from central and Eastern Europe joined the select group, which
hosted Symposia and Executive meetings. In Peter's ten years as President,
large and small walled towns the across eleven countries shared the honour and
bore the costs of the meetings.
Sharing his Quaker values of friendship and decisions by
consensus, Peter led by example up to the year 2000 when nearing 80, he made
way for a successor President. He had promoted the original objective "to
encourage friendship between the inhabitants of all ages in walled town communities"
and in Piran (Slovenia) in 1998 put forward a Declaration, which emphasized the
conservation ethic of the Circle, establishing the concept of walled towns as Timestones of History'
In the year 2000, the 10th
Symposium brought friends and walled towns from all over Europe to Tenby, Peter’s
home walled town where he displayed all his hospitality and the voluntary
secretariat and the town itself produced a special event. It was the culmination
of what he had achieved and marked a smooth hand over to Cllr John Price of
Chester. He had long been Chair of the Executive Committee and now became
President with a Chester Council based Secretariat, led by Chris Lines and a new Treasurer - Medwyn Jones of Denbigh - to provide a
firm foundation for further development.
As Life President,
Peter continued to exert his benign influence and to take part in WTFC events
for many further years. In 2008, he gained wide acceptance for his Canterbury
Accord with re-enforced his ideal that walled towns strive to become ‘sanctuaries of conciliation and peace’.
In the same period
walled towns including Tenby itself continued to host intensive undergraduate
and post graduate field study trips, especially from University of West of
England, Bristol both within and across and across European borders and to
generate published research.
After 2009, WTFC evolved
into European Walled Towns and formal leadership – the presidency and
secretariat - devolved first to Den Bosch in the Netherlands and then to Malta
with continuing Symposia and Executive meeting to complete over 25 years of
activity in 2015 including more than fifty transnational meetings which in turn
have produced lasting friendships across the European continent and its
The Walled Towns
Friendship Circle, was once described as akin to a network of twin towns. With
the great range of size, wealth and local political autonomy, perhaps a network
of sibling walled towns would be more accurate but it has left a legacy of
common aspirations among its many participants which continues into the future.
interest and enthusiasm continued throughout his 90s, latterly as patron of his
initiative to take forward his commitment to Walled Towns Heritage to future generations. A select group of
walled towns in Britain and Ireland have met (often by Zoom once Covid struck)
to encourage and part fund local school and other youth related projects.