14 Mar 2012

Three towns become cities to mark jubilee

Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph are awarded city status ahead of the Queen’s diamond jubilee. Channel 4 News looks at their history and what they have to offer.

Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph are awarded city status ahead of the Queen's diamond jubilee (Reuters)

The towns in England, Scotland and Wales were chosen from a shortlist of 25.

Armagh, which is already a city, has been granted a lord mayoralty. It is now the only place in Northern Ireland outside Belfast to have a lord mayor.

The awards were made by the Queen on the advice of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg following a competition launched in December 2010.

He said: “Across the United Kingdom, I have been moved by the pride and passion which people have shown in putting their nominations forward. The standard of application was very high, and those who missed out should not be downhearted. I hope the competition has given the residents of all of the places which applied a sense of civic pride, of collective ownership and of community spirit.”

Across the UK, St Asaph is the least well known of the four places, outside Wales anyway, so let us start here.

St Asaph

St Asaph, in Denbighshire, has a population of just 3,400, but manages to attract 800,000 visitors a year.

Most of these visitors stay for less than a day, which is just as well as there are not many hotels.

St Asaph is home to the North Wales International Music Festival, founded by William Mathias, the composer who wrote an anthem for the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Musicians perform in the cathedral, where the acoustics are said to be bettter than in Sydney Opera House.

Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph are awarded city status ahead of the Queen's diamond jubilee.

It is not the smallest city in Britain; St Davids, in Pembrokeshire, is home to just over 1,700 people. St Asaph has always been known, both locally and nationally, as a city, but there is no record of city status ever being granted.

It does boast an historic cathedral, founded in the 6th century – the smallest ancient cathedral in Britain.

Fluent Welsh speakers make up 30 per cent of the population – in line with the national average. William Morgan, Bishop of St Asaph at the beginning of the 17th century, translated the Bible into Welsh – an act regarded as a milestone in the history of the Welsh language.

The journalist Henry Morton (HM) Stanley, who found Dr Livingstone in Tanzania in 1871, was raised in the workhouse in St Asaph, which is now a hospital.

In 1961, Ian Rush, one of the greatest strikers in the British game, was born in this hospital. He scored a record 229 goals for Liverpool during the club’s heyday in the 1980s and 1990s.

He also spent time at the Italian club Juventus, where he found it hard to settle. Legend had it that he once said that being there was “like living in a foreign country”. He played along with this for years until finally revealing in 2008 that the quote had been made up.

Lisa Scott-Lee, from the pop group Steps, was born in St Asaph in 1975.

Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph are awarded city status ahead of the Queen's diamond jubilee.


Perth, which has a population of 50,000 and a 19th century cathedral, was considered to be a city until 1975, when this status was officially taken away as part of the re-organisation of Scottish local government.

This has not stopped the people there continuing to call it a city and the signs pointing towards the “city centre”. Despite 1975, Perth’s enthusiasm for the phrase “the fair city” has not waned.

Scotland’s early monarchs frequently lived in Perth Castle and they were crowned on the Stone of Destiny outside Scone Abbey.

Perth was the capital of Scotland from the 9th century until 1437, when King James I was murdered at Blackfriars convent. After the death, the royal household moved to Edinburgh, which was officially recognised as the capital in 1452.

Perth remained Scotland’s second city until 1975. It is home to the Black Watch, one of Britain’s most famous army regiments which was formed in the 18th century.

It is also synonymous with Famous Grouse whisky and Highland Spring mineral water.

The city’s most famous sons and daughters include Sir Patrick Geddes, the biologist and sociologist who coined the phrase, “think global, act local”; John Buchan, author of The 39 Steps; and Tanya Ewing, the inventor who created the Ewgeco device for monitoring energy consumption in homes and businesses.

Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph are awarded city status ahead of the Queen's diamond jubilee.


Chelmsford has been the county town of Essex since 1250 and competed with nearby Colchester for city status.

The borough of Chelmsford has a population of 168,000 and houses the second smallest cathedral in England. It was a Roman settlement called Caesaromagus, meaning “market place of Ceasar”.

In 1381, it briefly became the seat of national government during the Peasants’ Revolt. In 1899, Guglielmo Marconi opened the world’s first radio company in Chelmsford, opening the way for the first entertainment broadcast in 1920.

Hylands House became the headquarters of the newly-formed SAS during the Second World War.

Due to its closeness to London, it will host the Olympic torch relay evening celebration in July, three weeks before the Games begin.

Some 170,000 music fans make their way every summer to the V Festival in Hylands Park.

Essex County Cricket Club, whose players include England internationals Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara, is based at the county ground in Chelmsford.

 Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph are awarded city status ahead of the Queen's diamond jubilee.


Armagh was granted city status in 1994. It has a population of 14,590, making it the least populated city in Northern Ireland.

It has two cathedrals, one Roman Catholic, the other Church of Ireland (Protestant). Both are called St Patrick’s, but apparently there is no evidence of people turning up at the wrong place for weddings and christenings.

Armagh is the oldest city in Ireland, founded by Saint Patrick in the 5th century after converting the local chieftain at Navan Fort to Christianity.

Missionaries based in Armagh travelled the world to spread their Christian message, and the city became a centre of learning, giving Ireland a reputation as a land of saints and scholars during the dark ages.

Brian Boru, the last High King of all-Ireland, is buried on the site of the current Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral.

Apple-growing in Armagh dates back 3,000 years and the area is known as “the Orchard County” and the “Orchard of Ireland”.

Local boy Tommy Makem is credited with making the folk music of Armagh popular among Irish Americans.