‘City’ Indeed

Bradford won it’s bid to be UK City of Culture last night, so let me first congratulate it’s citizens on their win. I’m sure 2025 will be a marvellous year for them. My knowledge of geography being what it is though, I just looked up Bradford on a map, and I’m sorry, that is not a city. As far as I’m concerned, cities have to be big, impressive places, but I could probably get from one side of Bradford to the other in my powerchair within half an hour. It is tiny, and qualifies as a medium-sized town at most. Mind you, if I’m going to get into that debate, I must admit that, compared to the vast, bustling metropolises I encountered in India, London is barely more than a sleepy little English village, so I suppose it’s all subjective. Whatever it’s called though – town, city, village or farmstead – it’s great to see a northern community getting it’s time in the limelight. As I and so many others keep saying, London and the south-east get so much investment and attention, while the rest of the country gets largely forgotten about. It will be fascinating to see what a relatively small yet extremely diverse community like Bradford does with this award.

2 thoughts on “‘City’ Indeed

  1. Cities are, by definition (or at least used to be) places with a cathedral, and possibly a university..it’s nothing to do with size…here’s what wikipedia has to say…it;s quite interesting actually

    The initial cities (Latin: civitas) of Britain were the fortified settlements organised by the Romans as the capitals of the Celtic tribes under Roman rule. The British clerics of the early Middle Ages later preserved a traditional list of the “28 Cities” (Old Welsh: cair) which was mentioned by Gildas[7] and listed by Nennius.[8]

    The title of city was initially informal and, into the 20th century, royal charters were considered to recognise city status rather than to grant it.[10] The usual criterion in early modern Britain was the presence of a cathedral, particularly after King Henry VIII granted letters patent establishing six new cities when he established a series of new dioceses in the 1540s as part of the English Reformation.[11] No new cities were created between the 16th and 19th centuries, but following the Industrial Revolution and the accompanying population boom and growth in urbanisation, new sees were established at Ripon (1836) and Manchester (1847); their councils began to style them cities immediately. Inverness in Scotland was even refused a charter at the time of the Jubilee honours of 1897, in part because it would have drawn more attention to the other traditional “cities” still not formally chartered as such.[4]

    Beginning in the mid-19th century, however, the process became more formal. A visit by Queen Victoria in 1851 prompted Manchester to petition Parliament for recognition of its status. Ripon followed in the 1860s, and a series of hitherto informal “cities” were formally recognised in the 1880s and 1890s. On the basis of its size, importance, and regular government, Belfast was elevated in spite of its lack of a cathedral in 1888; other large municipalities followed, while smaller applicants began to be rejected. King Edward VII and the Home Office established three criteria for future applicants in 1907—a minimum population of 300,000, a good record of local government, and a “local metropolitan character”[4] – but these criteria were not made public, and following Leicester’s successful elevation in 1919 a series of exceptions were made. The 1972 Local Government Act effectively eliminated all authorities holding city status outside Greater London on 1 April 1974; most of their replacements were confirmed in their predecessor’s status—even in cases such as the City of Carlisle, where much of the local authority area is undeveloped countryside—but the Borough of Medway was not permitted to continue Rochester’s title. In recent times there have been competitions for new grants of city status. Towns or councils that claim city status or add “city” to their name have been known to be rebuked by the Advertising Standards Authority.[12]

    The cities of Scotland and Ireland were treated separately. Scottish towns irregularly applied the description to themselves, but were formally organised as royal burghs; the special rights of these were preserved by Article XXI of the Treaty of Union which established the single state of Great Britain in 1707.[13] Edinburgh and Glasgow were confirmed as cities “by ancient usage” in the 18th century,[4] as was Aberdeen, and this was later reconfirmed in the Act enlarging the burgh in 1891. Dundee was granted letters patent in 1889 and Elgin and Perth were recognised as cities by the Home Office in 1972, before the privilege was removed by the Scottish Local Government Act of 1973.[14]

    In Ireland, only the seat of the primate at Armagh was accorded city status by ancient usage, and this status was abolished by the Irish Municipal Corporations Act of 1840. All other cities have been those explicitly recognised as such.

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