Is Guildford a Town or a City?

Is Guildford a Town or a City?

Is Guildford a Town or a City? This very question has caused hours of debate among the pubs of the surrounding areas of Guildford, but we can confirm that Guildford is a Town. Many people wrongly believe Guildford is a city because of the presence of Guildford Cathedral, but this is not the case.

Why is Guildford not a city when it has a cathedral?

In the 1540’s Henry VIII awarded 6 towns City Status because they had Cathedrals. This idea of linking city status to the presence of a cathedral stuck and allowed, among others, Manchester and Liverpool to become cities. In 1889 It was decided that the presence of a cathedral was not necessary, and within the next 20 years Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Hull and Nottingham followed. In 1907 it was decided that for a town to apply for City status it would need:

  • A minimum population of 300,000
  • A record of good local government
  • A “local metropolitan character”

Since 1907 only 24 towns in the UK have been awarded City Status, bringing the total currently to 69 cities in the UK. There is a City Moniter which oversees these decisions.

Is Guildford a Town or a City?
Guildford Cathedral

Has Guildford every tried to become a city?

Yes it has. In 2002 Guildford applied for City Status competing against Reading among others. One town in England was to be chosen to become a City. Speaking at the time, the then Guildford Borough Council leader, Cllr Alison White said:

“We should be favourites. We are a major regional centre and the county town. – Guildford has all the basic requirements for a city and the benefits to business would be enormous.”


Undischarged, Guildford was once again bidding to become a city in 1999 to mark the Millennium, however it lost out to Brighton.

Can a city become a town?

There are some small Cities: Wells in Somerset for example has been a Cathedral City for almost 1000 years, but currently has a population of just 1200, making it smaller than Ash in Surrey. Rochester, a Cathedral City established in 1211, became a town after it neglected to confirm its status in back in 1998.

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