Livin’ for the City…Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
Is Dorchester on the verge of becoming the UK’s newest city? As part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year, the Queen will be creating a new city, and the town is among the 25 towns who have applied for the honour.
The tangible benefits of becoming a city don’t amount to much in economic or political terms, but if Dorchester were to win, the prestige of being the only city in Dorset would be considerable, and there would undoubtedly be a lot of publicity to mark the award.
So by what criteria is a town deemed worthy of city status? The old standard used to be the presence of a spired cathedral, without which no settlement could be counted a city, regardless of its size. However, this is no longer seen as a determining factor, and the current candidates will most likely be judged on their size, historical significance, and cultural and economic contributions to the UK as a whole.
The City of Dorchester?
We may not be the front-runner – Dorchester’s population of 18,280 looks very modest compared to Gateshead with 171,700, and Bolton with 266,500 – but we’re definitely in with a shot, particularly in terms of the history and cultural influence of the town.
With an Iron Age hill fort just minutes away from some of the best preserved roman ruins in the country, Dorchester speaks to Britain’s long distant past in a way few other places can. Let’s not forget that even the word city comes from the Latin ‘civitas’ – the Romans’ impact on us was tremendous, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Dorchester.
Add to that the fact that we can claim as our own one of Britain’s greatest ever authors, Thomas Hardy, whose novels continue to capture the imagination of millions of people around the world today.
With the 20th Thomas Hardy Conference and Festival being held in Dorchester later this year, the popularity and cultural significance of Hardy shows no sign of abating, and this will surely count in our favour when it comes to deciding which town deserves the honour of city status.
If you’re the betting type, the town is currently a rank outsider at 25-1, while Reading is the strong favourite at 10-11, followed by Perth and Middlesborough at 10-1. What do you think, worth a flutter?