Doncaster, Milton Keynes and Stanley in the Falkland Islands have been awarded city status, approved by the Queen, in a competition being held as part of the platinum jubilee celebrations, the Cabinet Office has announced.
The eight winners of the 2022 Platinum Jubilee Civic Honours competition, also included Bangor in Northern Ireland, Colchester in England, Douglas on the Isle of Man, Dunfermline in Scotland and Wrexham in Wales.
The competition for city status has taken place in each of the last three jubilee years, with previous winners including Lisburn and Newport (2002) and Chelmsford (2012).
This time the contest was open for the first time to applications from crown dependencies and overseas territories and attracted almost 40 entries.
In addition to demonstrating why their unique communities and distinct local identity was deserving of city status, applicants also had to highlight their royal associations and cultural heritage to a panel of eight officials.
The MP Stephen Barclay, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “What was clear to me during the process of assessing each application was the pride that people felt for their communities, local cultural heritage and the royal family.”
The culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, said city status was a “huge accolade”, adding: “This competition showcases the best of Britain and the overseas territories and will act as a lasting legacy of Her Majesty the Queen’s platinum jubilee.”
Bangor (pop 61,000) in Northern Ireland was a key site for allied forces during the second world war, with supreme commander Dwight D Eisenhower giving a speech to 30,000 assembled troops there shortly before ships left for Normandy and the D-day invasion. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited Bangor Castle in 1961 before lunch at the Royal Ulster Yacht Club in the run-up to Prince Philip racing in the regatta. Previously, Edward VII had visited in 1903.
Colchester (pop 122,000) is Britain’s first recorded settlement and its first capital, and for the past 165 years has been a garrison town. Firstsite, its contemporary art gallery, was named Art Fund museum of the year in 2021.
Doncaster (population 110,000) highlighted that its “community spirit and resilience was demonstrated during the Doncaster floods in 2019 as the community rallied to provide relief”. Originally a Roman settlement, it is home to the St Leger, founded in 1776 and the oldest classic horse race in the world, regularly attended by royals since George IV. It has made three previous attempts for city status.
Douglas (pop 27,000) has links to the royal family through the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which originated there, with George IV as first patron, and the Queen patron today. Its cultural highlights include the annual Manx Music Festival, dating from 1892, and the Isle of Man Film Festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
Dunfermline’s (pop 56,000) most famous son is probably Andrew Carnegie, whose steel and industry helped build the US, and whose philanthropy started the world’s public library system, according to Dunfermline’s bid. Its royal links stretch back to the reign of Malcolm III, king of Scotland from 1058-1093, when he set up his court there.
Milton Keynes (pop 223,000), a new town started in the Queen’s reign, is described in its bid as “the pinnacle of the national postwar planning movement”. Today it has 27 conservation areas, 50 scheduled monuments, 1,100 listed building and 270 pieces of public art.
Stanley, in the Falklands, (pop 2,100) has been regularly visited by members of the royal family, including Prince William, who spent six weeks based there as a search and rescue helicopter pilot. This year marks 40 years since the Falklands conflict.
Wrexham (pop 42,500) boasts the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a Unesco world heritage site described as a “masterpiece of creative genius”. It is also home to Wrexham Football Club, established in 1864 and said to be the third oldest in the UK and with the world’s oldest international ground. In the past decade, Wrexham has become one of the fastest-growing retail centres in the UK.