July 19th, 2012 | Tags: Chelmsford, Essex, Jubilee City,

Chelmsford, the first official city of Essex

On 14 March 2012 the Queen awarded city status to three cities in the United Kingdom: Chelmsford in Essex, St. Asaph in Wales and Perth in Scotland.

Chelmsford is to become a “Jubilee City”; St Asaph is to be a “Diamond Jubilee City”; and Perth is to be Scotland’s seventh city. To win the "civic honours" accolade, the winning cities beat stiff competition from twenty-two other towns from across the UK. Local authorities were invited to submit bids in a process overseen by the Deputy Prime Minister's office. The Queen granted the awards under the royal prerogative. The award of city status is purely an honour and means no additional funding, powers or functions.

The city status awards are part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. The Queen took advice from Deputy Prime Minister and Lord President of the Privy Council, Nick Clegg (he really does hold that second title as well!). The Queen will formally grant the city statuses by Letters Patent later this year. These are the same letters that are sent to individuals when they are invited to become life peers in the House of Lords.

Chelmsford: the facts

Chelmsford is a Norman town which was first founded in 1199. It’s possibly most famous for Marconi having established the first wireless factory in the town's Hall Street in 1899. The town has a population of nearly 160,000 and is now probably most famous for the V Festival. In 2011 Chelmsford’s stunning cathedral was also awarded Grade I listed status.

What does city status mean for Chelmsford?

We have discussed the issue of what is a city anyway on an earlier blog. Chelmsford will not gain any power, extra funding or political influence as a result of being awarded city status. It is a purely honorific status. The first towns in the United Kingdom to receive city status were those towns that had cathedrals. The cities were created in the 1540s when King Henry VIII founded dioceses.

Chelmsford beat bids from Southend and Colchester to not only become a city but also Essex’s first city. Colchester had a strong case as it is Great Britain’s oldest town and has a well-established history. However, Chelmsford is the “county town” and it is also where Essex County Council is based and does most of its business.

Chelmsford City Football Club

Chelmsford’s football club could not wait for the Queen to grant Chelmsford permission to call itself a city, as Chelmsford City FC has carried the city status since it was founded in 1938. The football club was given its city title during its formation in a pub called The Fleece in 1938. The founders presumed it was a city because it had a cathedral, so the club was founded under the misapprehension it was already a city.

The reaction to Chelmsford's City status

The leader of Essex council, Roy Whitehead, said: "It is a tremendous honour for the town and will bring considerable joy to the local community. I would like to congratulate everyone at Chelmsford Borough Council and elsewhere who worked so hard and put such a compelling bid together, which has led to this honour for our community."

Chelmsford's Mayor Robert Shepherd said: "This is very welcome news for Chelmsford and everybody who lives and works within the city. We are delighted that Chelmsford has been honoured in this most important of years and also that Essex has at last been recognised as the vibrant and successful county that it has become. On behalf of everyone in Chelmsford we would like to thank Her Majesty for this great honour in her Diamond Jubilee year."

So this means Chelmsford is now the official capital of TOWiE!

City pics

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