Northampton stands as one of the largest towns in the UK, bustling with a population of 240,000 individuals. In stark contrast, cities like Portsmouth, Oxford, and Exeter boast significantly smaller populations. Oxford, as reported by the ONS, houses just 162,000 residents, while Portsmouth City Council estimates their population to be over 208,000. Meanwhile, Exeter’s population, as per Exeter City Council, hovers around 128,000, nearly half of Northampton’s populace, leading to fervent discussions about why Northampton has yet to attain city status.
A prevalent misconception suggests that having a cathedral is a prerequisite for a town to be considered for elevation to city status. This myth, debunked by City Monitor, persisted until the 20th century. The idea originated from the simultaneous elevation of Bristol, Chester, Gloucester, Oxford, and Peterborough to city status, coinciding with their selection as new diocesan seats by Henry VIII. However, the Commons Library clarified that possessing a cathedral is not obligatory for city status. Birmingham notably became a city without a cathedral in 1889, dispelling the cathedral myth.
The path to cityhood is navigated through a bidding process overseen by the Ministry of Housing. In the 2022 round of applications, marking Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, Northampton submitted its bid but fell short of success. The coveted titles of city were bestowed upon Bangor, Colchester, Doncaster, Dunfermline, Milton Keynes, Wrexham, Douglas, and Stanley. Additionally, Southend-on-Sea received city status following the tragic murder of MP Sir David Amess in October 2021.
Despite the setback, Northampton’s local authorities remain resolute. West Northamptonshire Council expressed unwavering pride in their town, asserting that Northampton would “always be a city at heart.” Their bid was a testament to the town’s remarkable people, rich heritage, vibrant culture, and strong communities. As the debate rages on, Northampton continues to thrive, retaining its identity and community spirit irrespective of its official designation.