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The UK's Oldest Cities

It is important to be clear about what is meant by the 'oldest cities'. A city may have only recently officially become a city, but may have been around for millennia though without official city status. Also the oldest cities are not the same as the oldest towns as there are a number of ancient towns in the UK which have never been granted city status. For many purposes therefore, a list of 'oldest towns' may be more appropriate since for historical or archiological purposes, it is not often relevant what the modern status of the settlement is.

In almost all cases it is not known when any of the UK's old cities first began as settlements. Some began as Celtic and Druidic tribe settlements but were built upon by the Romans. In fact most of the early written evidence we have originates from around the time of the Roman occupation. The Romans brought with them vastly superior town planning architecture and infrastructure transforming the previously primitive settlements into 'modern' cities with provisions for the resident population, and for travelers, traders and visitors. Prior to the occupation of the Roman Empire, there is little evidence about the origins of the settlements.

Despite the lack of evidence of the early settlements, the forerunners of the cities, we have hostorical records of when some cities were granted city status by the monarch. For other cities we have to concede that they have been cities since time immemorial.

Oldest UK Cities - Predating Records

  • Canterbury
  • Carlisle
  • Chichester
  • Durham
  • Ely
  • Exeter
  • Lincoln
  • City of London
  • Salisbury
  • Winchester
  • York
  • Bangor

Oldest UK Cities - by Date of Incorporation

  • Coventry 1345
  • Edinburgh 1329
  • Hull 1299
  • Salisbury 1220
  • Leeds 1207
  • Wells 1205
  • Norwich 1195
  • Hereford 1189
  • Worcester 1189
  • Newcastle upon Tyne 1080