Last year, I was asked to work in Exeter. I very rarely go away with work so I booked a hotel and thought I might as well make the most of being away from home. So, I went into the city centre one evening and a trip into Dartmoor to take photos that would be later shared on TripAdvisor. Dartmoor is stunning with its winding streets, hedgerow and ponies. And it just made me realise how I don’t know much about England, beyond a couple of trips and what I know from the tv! To me, a holiday meant going abroad with the plane or ferry would be an important factor and I would turn up my nose at the thought of a trip in England. I can admit it….I was wrong. I’m pleased to say that since then, I’ve been getting out and about, and have now discovered Bath, Salisbury, Canterbury and Chichester as well as other parts of the country like the Cotswolds, Castle Combe which is regularly voted one of the prettiest villages in England, etc. And this all ties into 2 of the 50 things to do before I turn 50 1) to visit 10 UK cities and 2) to visit all of England’s 48 ceremonial counties.
Regarding the cities, I’ve discovered that England has 51 so I’ve got a wide choice to choose from but what make a city? A cathedral? Historically yes but not now, especially since the industrial revolution and urbanisation that saw some areas swell in population (and didn’t have a cathedral). As shown below, that will explain why most cities have only been recognised as such as in fairly recent times. The 1907 policy agreed by the Home Office and monarchy set out that a city must fulfil three criteria:
- A minimum population of 300,000.
- A “local metropolitan character”—this implied that the town had a distinct identity of its own and was the centre of a wider area
- A good record of local government
Some cities have had their status since time immemorial meaning since before memory and, in the England, these are: Canterbury, Durham, Exeter, Hereford, Lichfield, City of London, Wells, Winchester, Worcester and York. Out of these, Wells has the smallest population and I plan to go there next month.
And the others?
11th century: Bath (1090), Chichester (1075), Lincoln (1072), Norwich (1094),
12th century: Carlisle (1133), Coventry (1102), Ely (1109),
13th century: Salisbury (1227)
14th century: none
15th century: none
16th century: Bristol (1542), Chester (1541), Gloucester (1541), Oxford (1542) Peterborough (1541), City of London (1540)
17th century: none
18th century: none
19th century: Birmingham (1889), Bradford (1897), Kingston Upon Hull (1897), Leeds (1893), Liverpool (1880), Manchester (1853), Newcastle Upon Tyne (1882), Nottingham (1897), Ripon (1836), St. Albans (1877), Sheffield (1893), Truro (1877), Wakefield (1888)
20th century: Cambridge (1951), Derby (1977), Lancaster (1937), Leicester (1919), Plymouth (1928), Portsmouth (1926), Salford (1926), Southampton (1962), Stoke on Trent (1925), Sunderland (1992),
21st century: Brighton and Hove (2000), Chelmsford (2012), Preston (2002), Wolverhampton (2000)
So, who would have thought that Cambridge has been recognised as a city for less than 70 years! It became a city only as it was the one remaining ancient seat of learning in the UK which wasn’t a city or royal borough.
So, the other 5 cities I plan to go to? Wells next month and then Plymouth, Truro, Newcastle and Leeds will probably complete my list….but it doesn’t stop me from visiting all of the others!