Wednesday, 12 July 2017

118 City Status

118 City Status
1969 was a significant year for several reasons, according to one’s interests and priorities.  From a sporting viewpoint, followers of Glamorgan cricket would remember it as the year that Tony Lewis’s side won the County Championship, for the second time, in those days when cricket was not distracted by T20 matches, or games with a pink or white ball.  On a national level the investiture took place of 21-year-old Prince Charles as Prince of Wales, at Caernarfon Castle on 1st July.  On a worldwide level, 1969 is remembered as the year that man first walked on the moon – memorably Neil Armstrong, but also the rather overlooked “Buzz” Aldrin.  On a local level, 1969 was the year when the town of Swansea was awarded city status.  This was announced by Prince Charles on the steps of Swansea’s Guildhall on 3rd July, two days after his investiture at Caernarfon, in the course of his tour of Wales; he returned to Swansea on 15th December to present the charter of city status at the Brangwyn Hall.  
Swansea had first petitioned for city status in 1911, the year of the previous investiture, when on Lloyd George’s initiative the future King Edward VIII was invested as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon.  Following the 1974 local government reorganisation, when the County Borough of Swansea and the Gower Rural District Council were merged into the City of Swansea, city status was re-granted, and from 1982 Swansea’s mayor became a Lord Mayor, the first being Paul Valerio.  When in 1996 Swansea became one of 22 Welsh unitary authorities, acquiring part of the former Lliw Valley Borough, it was designated the City and County of Swansea.
Wales currently has six cities, well spread throughout the country.  In the south-east is Cardiff, which attained city status in 1905 (weeks before the famous 3-0 rugby win there over the All Blacks), and it became Wales’s capital in 1955.  Bangor in the north-west had been considered a city from 1886, with its status confirmed by the Queen following the 1974 local government reorganisation.  From 1969 there was Swansea in the south-west, while further west is Britain’s smallest city, St David’s in Pembrokeshire.  From the sixteenth century St David’s had been considered a city because of its cathedral, until 1888, though city status was reinstated by Royal Charter in 1994.  After centuries of uncertainty as to whether the county of Monmouthshire was really in Wales or not, Newport in Gwent became a city in 2002 during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. 
These five cities were joined by St Asaph in north-east Wales in 2012, as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.  That decision disappointed Wrexham, which had petitioned for city status several times.  The six Welsh cities have cathedrals (Cardiff’s being Llandaff), apart from Swansea, which from 1923 has been in the Church in Wales diocese of Swansea and Brecon, with the cathedral being Brecon Priory rather than St Mary’s Parish Church, Swansea.  Swansea, however, does have a cathedral - St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Greenhill, following the formation of the Diocese of Menevia in 1987.  The link between having a cathedral and being a city began in the early 1540s, when Henry VIII founded six dioceses (each of which had a cathedral in the city) in six English towns, granting them city status by letters patent.  It became the informal custom to describe any town with a cathedral as a city, with Birmingham in 1889 being the first large town without a cathedral to acquire city status, though subsequently St Philip’s Parish Church became a cathedral in 1905 when the diocese of Birmingham was formed.              
Although I have concentrated on Swansea acquiring city status – having been among those who heard the announcement on the steps of the Guildhall on 3rd July - 1969 was also significant for much else, such as the birth of Swansea’s Oscar-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones.              


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