Southampton has been around as a settlement for around a thousand years. But few people knew that Southampton, the city, has only been in existence for a mere 50 years.
Some of you will be asking how can that be? After all, many believe that a location automatically becomes a city when they have a certain something that makes them a central hub, such as a Cathedral or a University. And after all there is no Southampton Cathedral and weren’t the university making a big deal recently about being around for 60 years?
Well, as you may have guessed by now, it’s not quite that simple to become a city. So what do you need?
Well firstly to argue why you should be a city because to become a city you need to petition the Queen. This elevation in status is rare: usually one during a coronation or a jubilee. The last towns to be made cities were Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph in 2012 – to have three is unusual and was chosen “in recognition of the significance of every part of the UK” during the Diamond Jubilee year.
Now the more astute of you may recall that there was no coronation or jubilee during 1964, so Southampton was not granted this honour because of these great occasions.
To petition outside of these great occasions is difficult, so you’ve got to have solid evidence to support your case. For Southampton it had both the past and the future on its side. The town had a long history of efficient local government, services and community spirit while also looking to the future with an expansion in size (both in physical size and population) and importance as a port.
And so it was that Southampton gained a new charter for the town’s collection, this time officially making it a town from the 24 February 1964. Fifty years later, the city is celebrating with a series of events, the first of which was a behind the scenes tour for some of the city’s schoolchildren of the Mayor’s Parlour. It will continue throughout the year with fun runs and the Sport Relief mile (which SUSU has a role in organising this year), various fairs and festivals, a visit from the Commonwealth Games’ Queen’s Baton Relay on 4 June and lots of musical events.
So, fifty years after becoming a proud and confident city, Southampton is ready to show off.
You can find out more about the events being held at www.discoversouthampton.co.uk/live/50-anniversary-of-city-status.