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Useful Notes: Other British Towns And Cities
Britain is not only London. Here are some of the other notable towns and cities:

Two notes before we begin:
  • To be a city, you have to have "letters patent" from the monarch or have been one since 1189, or as it's charmingly often called, "time immemorial". A cathedral is not required, but helps. For that matter it's possible to have a cathedral and not be a city, such as Blackburn. Most of the country's large cities (with the exception of London and Bristol note ) only gained city status in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
  • After the Second World War, the Government set up "New Towns" around London to deal with the lack of good housing for Londoners and other city dwellers displaced by the Luftwaffe (a significant amount of housing stock had been destroyed by the Blitz or was slummy anyway).

England

Home Counties

Basildon, Essex ("A New Town")

Stereotypical home of the "Essex Girl", and the birthplace of Depeche Mode.

Bedford, Bedfordshire

A large town which is almost in The Midlands and not too far from London. The town is also where The Pilgrim's Progress was written. It is surprisingly diverse for its size, it possesses a large population of immigrants from Italy, and it also home to the largest Sikh temple outside London. It was once described by Nelson Mandela as "a jewel of racial harmony".

Billericay, Essex

Small commuter town. The birth place of Russell Tovey and Richard Osman, where Lee Evans went to school and one of the two settings of Gavin and Stacey. Immortalised in song by Ian Dury And Blockheads' "Billericay Dickie".

Bournemouth, Dorset

A large seaside resort town near the border with Hampshire (it was part of Hampshire prior to 1974) this town sits on the border between the South East of England and The West Country. It was also the first British town to use CCTV, back in 1985. The conurbation that this town forms part of is the largest such area not to have any part with city status so is arguably England's largest town.

Brighton, East Sussex

A seaside resort town now one half a city with neighbouring Hove, actually, famous for its pier, its LGBT scene and the first Green Party MP in Britain. Actually there used to be two piers - the ornate West Pier was the setting for World War I in Oh What A Lovely War, but today following decades of neglect, storm damage and fires, what little remains looks like it's been through World War III. The setting for Quadrophenia, Brighton Rock and Sugar Rush. It is also home to the Royal Pavilion, a grand building that looks a lot like the Taj Mahal (although its interior is Chinese-themed) and was constructed under the order of the Prince Regent the son of mad King George III.

Canterbury, Kent

The heart of Anglican Christianity. The local Archbishop, head of the Church of England, is usually found in London, especially when an Awesome Moment of Crowning is called for. Canterbury Cathedral was the site of Thomas Beckett's martyrdom, and subsequently became an important destination for pilgrims, as depicted in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Canterbury Cathedral charges visitors £9.50 a head to get in, thus perpetuating the proud tradition of fleecing the pilgrims that Chaucer noted seven hundred years ago.

Colchester, Essex

The oldest town in Britain, and the original Roman capital. Closer culturally to East Anglia than most other towns in Essex (the nearer you get to London the more overspill Londoners you find, of the sort who get the county its atrocious reputation with the rest of England. Most of Essex is just London overspill these days.) Colchester is also an Army garrison town (home to the UK's only military prison) and civvies are best advised to avoid certain pubs at the weekend.

Dover, Kent

One of the principal ports of entry into the UK, indeed the port of entry. A place most people will pass through at the fastest speed consistent with safety, in order to get somewhere else. France is a mere twenty-one miles away, a fact not unknown to the hordes of would-be illegal immigrants waiting on the other side. Ferries run at fast regular intervals, although the ferry trade has been badly hit by the Eurotunnel and Dover's prestige and wealth has correspondingly declined. Dover today looks scruffy, tired and run-down to the point where some northern unemployment blackspots look prosperous next to it. The town was scammed badly some years ago when a confidence trickster pretending to be eminent pop star Brian May of Queen offered to be its "face" in publicity campaigns. A desperate town council was taken in. A plaque on the seafront was captured in 1944 and used to belong to a German long-range artillery regiment. It boasts of all the shells fired at Dover between 1940-44. The visitor might suspect not all the damage has been tidied up.

Epsom, Surrey

A mid-sized commuter town which is part of London's urban sprawl, but not officially part of it, and just inside the M25 orbital motorway. Famous for the Epsom Downs racecourse.

Guildford, Surrey

Ford Prefect was not from Guildford actually, and that is by far the most interesting thing about it. Yep, that exciting. Okay, it's not that bad: the Royal Grammar School, Guildford is apparently where they invented kreckett or Cricket, and it has a cathedral (which appears in The Omen: Damien freaks out at the prospect of entering it), but due to lack of those pesky letters is not a city. A strange bit of Memetic Mutation in The Eighties and The Nineties had all stand-up comedians claim that their audiences had travelled there from Guildford, regardless of where the act was taking place, for some unexplained reason.

Luton, Bedfordshire

The largest town in Bedfordshire one of the few places in the South outside London which is currently represented by Labour MPs. Is quite near London and is very multicultural. A famous saying about the town is "Multicultural without being cultural". Is probably one of the worst places to live in the home counties except maybe Slough or Jaywick Sands. The town is also the birthplace of the EDL.

The Medway Towns, Kent

A large conurbation formed from a number of towns on the Medway estuary in Kent. The main towns being Rochester, Gillingham and Chatham. Rochester used to be a city but accidentally lost it's city status during local government reorganisation. Urban legend suggests Chatham is the source for the word Chav. The area used to be home to dockyards but these closed down in the 80s. The Medway Towns are also associated with the author Charles Dickens who grew up in Chatham.

Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

One of the so-called New Towns, built in the 1960s to accommodate the post-WWII population boom. Famous for mainly consisting of roundabouts and dual carriageways, due to a grid system that makes it easy to navigate around. It has one of the largest shopping centres in the country. Generally derided by the rest of Britain as being characterless and artificial, in comedy it's seen as kind of Acceptable Target. It has the ignoble honour of standing in for Metropolis in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and also had two characters visit a (fictional) prison there in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..

Despite having a cathedral - obviously a relatively new one - it hasn't been granted city status as of yet. Despite that, it's generally viewed as one.

  • From Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman:

    "The Arrangement was very simple, so simple in fact that it really didn't deserve the capital letter, which it had got for simply being in existence for so long. It was the sort of sensible arrangement that many isolated agents, working in awkward conditions a long way from their superiors, reach with their opposite number when they realize that they have more in common with there immediate opponents than their remote allies. It means a tacit non-interference in certain of each other's activities. It made certain that while neither really won, also neither really lost, and both were able to demonstrate to their masters the great strides they were making against a cunning and well-informed adversary.

    "It meant that Crowley [the demon] had been allowed to develop Manchester, while Aziriphale [the angel] had a free hand in the whole of Shropshire. Crowley took Glasgow, Aziraphale had Edinburgh (neither claimed any responsibility for Milton Keynes*, but both reported it as a success).

    * Note for Americans and other aliens: Milton Keynes is a new city approximately halfway between London and Birmingham. It was built to be modern, efficient, healthy, and, all in all, a pleasant place to live. Many Britons find this amusing."

Oxford, Oxfordshire

The so called "City of Dreaming Spires" for its impressive architecture, most of which is part of its University which is rather well known. Actually home to two universities - the second, Oxford Brookes, being the city's former Polytechnic - making it very much a student city. Famous for being bicycle friendly and a place where you can often see students and academics wandering around in all sorts of formalwear depending on the time of year. The city is also home to Inspector Morse and its spinoffs Lewis and Endeavour.

Portsmouth, Hampshire

As the name suggests it is by the sea. With an urban population of over 400,000, it is one of the largest cities in the South East and almost forms a conurbation with another nearby large city, Southampton. A major naval base has been there for hundreds of years—it was partly chosen because of the narrow entrance to its harbour, making it harder for enemy ships to get in and attack the fleet in harbour—and Portsmouth remains strongly associated with the Royal Navy. The town has pretty much swallowed up the neighbouring resort of Southsea, birthplace of Charles Dickens and the place where Arthur Conan Doyle practised as a doctor and wrote the first Sherlock Holmes stories.

Reading, Berkshire

A large town which desperately wants to become a city. It is often mocked for this and because of the way local government boundaries are drawn the town seems a lot smaller than the urbanity. Its urban population is almost three times that of the local government borough of Reading. Pronounced "Redding". The setting for some of Jasper Fforde's books.

Slough, Berkshire (formerly part of Buckinghamshire).

Just outside the M25. Almost part of London but it is not officially, it is also the most ethnically diverse town in England.

  • Setting for the UK version of The Office - something the town is not too happy about.
    • Probably chosen for the location of the business because, as well as it's comically awful reputation, Slough is genuinely home to some very large companies (like Amazon Europe).
  • Also the subject of an infamous poem by John Betjeman:
    Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough,
    It isn't fit for humans now.
Astonishingly, the residents of Slough weren't terribly impressed. It is absolutely guaranteed that whenever Slough is mentioned in the UK, someone will quote Betjemen's line of doggrel. Largely because he summed up just about everyone's feelings towards the place.

Southampton, Hampshire

Southampton is the second largest city in Hampshire after nearby Portsmouth. It is home to a good university (the University of Southampton) and a not so good one (which we don't talk about in polite conversation) and therefore is home to a lot of students. It is also one of the few areas in the South-East to elect a Labour MP in the last election. With an urban population of over 300,000 it is one of the largest cities in the South East and almost forms a conurbation with another nearby large city, Portsmouth. The city from which the Pilgrims set sail (although the ships were chartered in London, and most of the Pilgrims came from Boston, Lincolnshire). In Anglo-Saxon times it was just called "Hamtun" (hence why the county is 'Hampshire', not 'Southampshire') and so was Northampton until they renamed them so as to differentiate between the towns.

  • Famous for the Titanic, the Spitfire and Benny Hill.

Southend-on-Sea, Essex

As it's name suggests this is a town on the south end of Essex and is by the sea. Like many towns beside the sea it used to be a popular seaside resort but has declined since holidays abroad became more affordable. The town is at the eastern most edge and is the largest of a number of towns along the Essex side of the Thames estuary which almost form a conurbation which stretches all the way to London. However growth which would lead to this is prevented by the Metropolitan Green Belt although Southend and Basildon are close to becoming one urban sprawl. It has a small airport.

St Albans

Typically considered an ideal city for high-income London commuters, since it's just thirty minutes from London, but it's also quite rural. Property prices are notoriously high, which means that in British Monopoly it occupies the 'Mayfair' space. This makes it the British equivalent of suburbia. Has a high number of pubs. But it also has a fair amount of history. It was named after a Christian martyr who was executed by the Romans. The city also saw not one, but two battles occur during the Wars of the Roses.

Swindon, Wiltshire

Formerly a railway town the town expanded rapidly in the mid twentieth century but was never officially a new town. The town is often used as a punchline by comedians. Birthplace of Billie Piper.

Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent

A spa town in Kent to the south of London, it's seen as the epitome of the middle class, conservative and Conservative values, as in "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells". Periodically the local newspaper leads a strenuous but doomed-to-failure attempt to deny and shed the "Disgusted of..." stereotype.

East Anglia

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

A famous university town known primarily for having one of the top ranked universities in the world, and having Cambridge University take part in an annual boat race against Oxford University.

Ipswich, Suffolk

The largest town in Suffolk. It gained nationwide notoriety in 2006 when five prostitutes were murdered in the town.

Norwich, Norfolk

Where the main character of Im Alan Partridge was supposed to have been born. Although home to two large shopping centres, several live music venues and what is now one of the largest universities in England, the University of East Anglia, Norwich is often (rather unfairly) stereotyped as being, at best remote, unsophisticated and out of step with national trends, and at worst, incestuous and almost medieval - the closest American Cultural Translation might be the more exaggerated depictions of the Deep South. Stephen Fry is from Norfolk, and his series Kingdom was filmed there. The Game Show Quiz Of The Week used to open each show with the ambitious but underwhelming pronouncement "Live from Norwich, it's the Quiz Of The Week!" The implications of the medical shorthand phrase "NFN" - "Normal for Norfolk" - resonate around the UK, and it is said to be one of few areas of England where the midwife is obliged to discreetly ask the new mother if the father is a blood relative. (another is apparently Fred West's Gloucestershire).

Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

Home of close elections, the name of the Daily Mail humour column and second train stop from King's Cross. The gateway to East Anglia, an area of Britain bypassed by the Industrial Revolution, which has no motorways, and which operates in an entirely different time zone.

The West Country

Bath, Somerset

A UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for its Roman baths (hence the name) and Georgian architecture. Used to be a very popular social destination for the upper-classes to come and take the waters. Associated with Jane Austen, who lived most of her life there.

The city is very close to Bristol and a green belt prevents the city being subsumed by Bristol's urban sprawl.

Bristol

Well known for its involvement with engineering; specifically civil engineering (The Clifton Suspension Bridge) and the aerospace industry, helping to bring us Concorde. Also believed to have one of the most prestigious universities in the UK.. Not where ESPN is located, and not to be confused with that Alaskan lady's daughter. In case of invasion during World War II, The BBC built a secret studio in the cliffs near the Suspension Bridge.
  • Setting of Skins, Being Human, Casualty, Holby City, and Teachers - the BBC has a studio complex there.
  • Origin of trip-hop music.
  • Also home to Aardman Animations of 'Wallace & Gromit' fame
  • Birthplace of one Archibald leach, better known to you and me as Cary Grant
    • The unfortunately named Bristol Stool Chart, a diagnostic guide to identifying digestive ailments and alimentary health from the observed quality and consistency of faeces (there are seven medically recognised varieties of turd) is not thought to be named after the city. Native Bristolians may disagree. YMMV.

Cheltenham & Gloucester, Gloucestershire

The two largest towns in Gloucestershire seperated by green belt and a minor airport (known as Gloucestershire Airport). Gloucester is the headquarters of a bank named Cheltenham & Gloucester. Cheltenham is on the edge of the Cotswolds.
  • Cheltenham is known for being the home of GCHQ (that's Government Communications Headquarters, officially, although some people refer to the staff as the Gnomes Of Cheltenham) in a hilariously unsubtle building known as "the Doughnut" for obvious reasons.
  • Cheltenham is also known for horse racing - there are meets throughout the year but the most famous is the Cheltenham Festival, which tends to attract at least a couple of members of the Royal Family and usually takes place in the second week of March. As such, there tends to be a race on St. Patrick's Day, often the Gold Cup Day. Drunken Irishmen in town drowning their sorrows/spending all their winnings is best avoided by pretty much everyone who lives in town.

Exeter, Devon

Historical city in the rural South West of England, known for its rather nice cathedral and being the site of the Met Office, the British national weather service. Also the childhood home of comedian Tommy Cooper and Chris Martin of Coldplay.

Glastonbury, Somerset

Alleged burial place of King Arthur. Probably best known for Glastonbury Festival, six miles out of the town.

Plymouth, Devon

Largest town in Devon and near the border with Cornwall. The Pilgrims last port of call before crossing the Atlantic. They only called in here to repair storm damage after setting sail from Southampton.

Torquay, Devon

A large old seaside resort town in Devon. The setting of Fawlty Towers.

Yeovil, Somerset

This place has a railway station called Yeovil Junction, despite the station's neither being in Yeovil nor a junction. Also notable for being a (rare) Liberal Democrat safe seat and the home of Britain's helicopter-building industry.

The Midlands

Birmingham, West Midlands

The "workshop of the world" during the Industrial Revolution. Considered the UK's second city due to its urban population of over 2 million peoplenote , yet nobody's ever heard of it. The other Birmingham (in Alabama) was named after this one.
  • In Victorian-era detective stories, a favorite way for the criminal to get another character temporarily (and harmlessly) out of the way was to send them off to Birmingham on some wild goose chase or another. Whereas nowadays a train from London to Birmingham takes an hour and a half (and an even faster line is being planned, though some Londoners can't see why), back then it took up most of the day to get there.

  • Birthplace of Ozzy Osbourne, Lenny Henry, Duran Duran, The Moody Blues, the Electric Light Orchestra, UB40 and members of Slade

Corby, Northamptonshire

A medium-sized town in Northamptonshire. Only notable for being the being home to a large number of Scottish migrant workers which earnt the town the nickname Little Scotland, also according to The Other Wiki the people there speak with an almost Glaswegian accent. Has memetic status as a Wretched Hive locally, and its inhabitants are the Butt Monkeys of the rest of the county for no particularly good reason.

Coventry, West Midlands

Home of Lady Godiva. Severely damaged by a German air raid in World War II,note  leading to the city's transformation from an historic cathedral city to the soulless, depressing post-war abomination it is infamous for today (the original cathedral was destroyed in the raid and a new one built next to it. For some reason, a person who is ostracised can be said to have been "sent to Coventry".

Derby, Derbyshire

The largest town in Derbyshire and very close to the border with Nottinghamshire. The town's suburbs also almost run into Nottingham's suburbs. Many of the Rolls Royce Merlin engines used in the iconic Supermarine Spitfire were made here during WWII, and Rolls Royce still makes plane and submarine engines here today. The Bombardier factory here is in danger of closing due to a government decision to award a massive contract to another country instead.

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

A grim town in Lincolnshire, formerly along with Hull and Scunthorpe was in the county of Humberside which was abolished in 1996 although there is still a humberside police force. The town was once an important port but has not grown very much since the 1930s. The town neighbours the old seaside resort of Cleethorpes which is connected to Grimsby by urban sprawl.

Leicester, Leicestershire

Pronounced "les-tah". Has two universities and apparently the first Tesco outside London was opened here. Also has the two tallest skyscrapers in the entire East Midlands region (a rather underwhelming 84 metres and 82 metres high). A market town-turned-big city thanks to the Industrial Revolution.

Leicester is most famous (or infamous) for its large South Asian immigrant population (around 30%) and has been called "The largest Indian settlement west of Mumbai". It is one of the few British cities to have a white British minority. Also famous for Walker's crisps, Gary Lineker and Adrian Mole.

Lincoln, Lincolnshire

Somewhat situated in geographical limbo, being part of the East Midlands but close to Yorkshire and East Anglia, Lincoln is too far north to be in the south and too far south to be in the north. Inhabitated since Roman times and known for its magnificent cathedral, the third biggest in the country and once the tallest building in the world. Birthplace of Jim Broadbent, and nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln.

Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire

Medium sized town in Nottinghamshire, although close to, and used to be in, Lincolnshire. Mostly just called Newark unless talking to Americans. Known for being one of, if not the last, Royalist towns to surrender during the Civil War. A few hundred years earlier King John died in the castle (which is now little more than a ruin). Now days though it's more infamous than famous, with at least two infamous crimes being linked to it (kidnapper / murderer Michael Sams had a workshop there, and Fred Barras, the teenager shot dead by a farmer while burgling his house, lived there).

Nottingham, Nottinghamshire

Home of Games Workshop (they have a museum there), the origin of Robin Hood. Has a bad reputation for crime, mainly because the City Council's borders only contain the inner city parts; some of the city's suburbs outside the border are among the safest in the country. The biggest city in the (otherwise unremarkable) East Midlands region, it's actually the eighth biggest city in England, but its City Council's nonsensical borders relegate it to mid-20th in official lists.

Northampton, Northamptonshire

Alan Moore lives here. His first prose novel Voice in the Fire is a fictional history of the town. (Stick to his comics.) Close to the intersection of the M6 and the M1, making it possible to get to anywhere in the UK from here, and neighbouring town Daventry is a favoured spot for freight headquarters. It's the size of the city without actually being one.

Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire

A large town in North Lincolnshire. Has a reputation as an industrial town and unsurprisingly the constituency it's in elects a Labour MP. The Scunthorpe Problem is named after this town. Also current British PM David Cameron's wife was brought up on an estate (as in, a big posh mansion not a Council Estate) not too far from the town.

Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Situated in the North Midlands (an almost meaningless geographic term even within England) and also known as 'The Potteries'. These days most cheap pottery is imported rather than made here so it now does 'ceramic technology'. For most people this just means that if your toilet isn't made of plastic it probably came from Stoke. Technically a conurbation of six towns rolled into one another (excluding Newcastle-Under-Lyme which opted to retain its independence but is with the city's urban sprawl), but with each of them attempting to maintain their own identity (and not doing very well). The result is a fairly disjointed and schizophrenic city, with local government dominated by smaller sub-local issues and the council run by a three main party coalition to keep the crazies out (the city is a significant BNP target in elections).

Take That's Robbie Williams is perhaps the most famous person to come out of Stoke-on-Trent, alongside Motörhead's Lemmy. The local council refused a petition to erect a statue of the hard-living bewarted rocker, as this was not the sort of local-boy-made-bad that they wanted to acknowledge.

Wolverhampton, West Midlands

A large suburb of Birmingham, one of the "Millennium Cities" that was granted its status in the year 2000 - not particularly city sized just qualifying as a large town but undergoing a period of great growth since its promotion to city. Has two cathedral sized churches, one officially classified as a "collegiate church".

North East England

Darlington, County Durham

A large town just north of the border between Yorkshire and County Durham, and - along with Stockton - the site of the world's first railway line. Still a major point on the main East Coast railway line.

Durham, County Durham

The famous Cathedral featured in the Harry Potter films as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Also, the Cathedral and Castle are World Heritage sites. Roger Whittaker sang "I'm Gonna Leave Old Durham Town", though in fact he never lived there.

Hartlepool, County Durham

A port town in the north-east of England. Legend has it that they once hung a monkey as a French spy, leading to the nickname "Monkey Hangers". This is all anyone knows about Hartlepool. Their lower-league football team has "H'Angus the Monkey" as its mascot, and one of its previous occupants is now famously the mayor. Peter Mandelson was MP for Hartlepool from 1992 to 2004 (when he was shunted to Brussels). Home of Soccer Saturday frontman Jeff Stelling.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne and Wear:

Home of Geordies. Historically a major shipbuilding location, but has suffered a long decline. The locals are passionate about their local side, which were relegated from the top flight last season, to much mocking. Its colours are vertical black and white stripes, leading to jokes about setting off supermarket barcode readers as it's common for the locals to wear football colours at all times. Pronounced "Nyir-CAS-sil", often with a long pause in between the first and second syllables. A major centre of coal-mining since the Middle Ages (though it's declined in recent times) redundant or pointless action is often called "taking coals to Newcastle".

  • Not to be confused with Gateshead - or, rather, the two are not to be confused as being the same city, despite being essentially contiguous. Newcastle occupies the north side of the river, Gateshead the south. Naturally, the two cities have a rivalry that manifests itself particularly in sports.

Sunderland, Tyne and Wear

Don't call the locals Geordies. They tend to prefer the term Mackem (though some older residents will consider this a slur). As this might imply the is a big rivalry with Geordies, manifests itself over the football but it dates back to before the English Civil War over which the two cities took opposite sides. Mackem is postulated to come from the terms "Mack 'em and tack 'em" (i.e. Make them and take them) as Sunderland was one the biggest shipbuilding town in the world (only become a city in 1992, after the Shipyards decline) and would make the ships that Newcastle would take for fitting out. Currently home to a University which was a former polytechnic and that decent Pharmacology and IT departments, the National Glass Centre a museum dedicated to glass blowing and glass manufacture and St. Peter's Church in Monkewearmouth parts of which date from A.D. 674-675 and which was the birth parish of the Venerable Bede.

Teesside, Yorkshire/County Durham

A large conurbation in the North East consisting of a number of smaller towns including Middlesbrough, Redcar and Stockton-on-tees. It lies on the boundary between North Yorkshire and County Durham. The area has tried to be rebranded (by New Labour) as Tees Valley but everyone in Teesside thinks that name is shit and for poofs so they never use it. Sometimes Hartlepool and Darlington are included in the definiton for Teesside, but that is controversial.

Yorkshire

Bradford, West Yorkshire

Half of the Leeds-Bradford conurbation, it has a 22% South Asian population, which gets a reputation for curry but also terrorism. Includes the Ilkley Moor area, best known for the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at" (On Ilkley Moor without a hat).
  • Setting of East Is East.

Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Town of about 160,000 which has impatiently been waiting to become a city since about 1300 AD. Has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe. Primarily known for its St Leger Stakes horse race and building steam locomotives. Has an airport named after Robin Hood, thanks to some modern historians arguing the outlaw was actually from Barnsdale rather than Sherwood (This has still been unpopular with the locals, who would have preferred it to be named after Danian heroic pilot Douglas Bader, and believe the name was chosen because Foreigners Are Morons). Birthplace of Jeremy Clarkson, and home of BRIAN BLESSED and (by sheer coincidence) the UK's largest university for the hearing impaired.

Kingston Upon Hull, East Yorkshire

A large industrial city on the Humber Estuary (North Coast) and by far the largest settlement in East Yorkshire. The city was badly effected during the blitz and it used to have a large fishing industry which was heavily affected by the Anglo-Icelandic Cod Wars in the 1970s.

Universally known as Hull. Only the City Council uses the full formal name for the city although Kingston turns up in the names of local businesses. Being the 'King's Town' is ironic anyway, as the English Civil War kicked off when the city's governor slammed the gates in the face of Charles I and his entourage. The city is quite proud of this and one pub features 'The Plotting Parlour' where the decision was allegedly made.

Leeds, West Yorkshire

A major technology centre, one half of the Leeds-Bradford conurbation and the fourth biggest city in England. Has a big university that sports the 3rd longest corridor in Europe running through its Earth & Environment, Maths, Physics and Computer Science departments. Home of Leeds United, Leeds Rhinos, and Headingley cricket ground, a regular Test venue.

Birthplace of Howard Moon and Harold "Ox" Oxley. Oh, also Malcolm McDowell.

Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Home of The Full Monty,The History Boys, and the 'world' snooker championship, once famous for steel, on the edge of the Pennines. With half a million people, it's England's ninth largest city, and its greenest, if only because the city boundary includes sparsely populated areas of the Peak district. It's just large enough to be cosmopolitan; just small enough to be overlooked by the rest of the country. Michael Palin, Sean Bean, Def Leppard and the Arctic Monkeys hail from there. People from Sheffield are sometimes called "Dee-Doughs" or "Dee-Dahs" due to pronouncing th as d (remember that Yorkshire still uses thee as a common term of address).

York, North Yorkshire

A pretty medieval city in Yorkshire, best known for its enormous cathedral (York Minster), railways, chocolate factories (Kit Kats, Smarties and Polos originated here, among others), city walls, proliferation of pubs and horse-racing. King George VI once remarked that "the history of York is the history of England." He was Duke of York at the time, so he was probably just trying to find something nice to say. The place has been ruled by the Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans throughout its past, so he did have a point - the Romans called it 'Eboracum', and company names such as 'Ebor Taxis' or 'Ebor Pizza' are still common.

In fact it's gone through more names than probably any other place in Britain - successive waves of invaders mispronouncing the local name saw it move between the Latin Eboracum, the Brythonic/Welsh Ebrauc, the Anglo-Saxon Eoforwic, and the Danish Jorvik before settling as York. Hordes of tourists in the summer, but manages to stay a pleasant place to live and work. Home to the Church of England's other Archbishop.

York (or rather Eboracum) is where the Roman Emperor Constantine grew up (although he was born in the Balkans) and where he proclaimed himself Emperor. This means he is the city's second favourite historical thing to commemorate after the Vikings.

Contrary to popular belief, old York has nothing to do with New York; New York was named after a person, the Duke of York (later James II), not the city. Given the later history of New York in the American Revolution, it's Hilarious in Hindsight that it was named for a king that the British themselves overthrew in a revolution. The lack of similarity between small, picturesque York and the great metropolis of New York is sometimes pointed out, for example by Dave Gorman: "New York has a lot more Americans than old York, although if you've ever been in old York city centre in the summer this may be hard to believe".

York is infamous as one of - if not the most - regularly flooded cities in England; if Britain is suffering widespread flooding (as it has done recently) expect pictures of the River Ouse (especially the seemingly perennially waterlogged King's Arms pub) to turn up on the news. The city now has various flood defences, but severe weather will usually send the locals running for the sandbags.

Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire

Chester, Cheshire

County Town for the county of Cheshire.note  Originally a Roman garrison town with a rich architectural heritage extending from Roman times through the middle ages to Victorian times. Notable for The Rows, a complex of medieval buildings still in use today as shops. The city sits on the Welsh border and some of it's suburbs lie across the border in the Welsh county of Flintshire.

Best known in popular culture as the setting for Hollyoaks.

Liverpool, Merseyside

Home of The Beatles, Liverpool FC, Bread, Clive Barker and Craig Charles. Oh, and and Everton FC. Locals are called "Liverpudlians", or, more colloquially, "Scousers" (after a local soup called lobscouse). Scousers are stereotyped in media as being argumentative, criminal-minded but lovable at heart and prone to displays of emotion not usually found in Britons. There is a large Irish-descended population in Liverpool, from which both Lennon and McCartney came. Liverpool also has, (perhaps now had) at least three Welsh-language churches, testimony to the input of people from nearby North Wales. In fact, Welsh regiments of the British Army still find it a rich recruiting area; there used to be a seperate Army regient, the Liverpool Welsh, which has long since been amalgmated into the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.
  • Also, the entire city despises the Sun newspaper and has since the Hillsborough Disaster of the 1989 and the Sun's infamous 'The Truth' front page story in which they alleged a number of disgusting things about the Liverpool fans. To this day, despite several grovelling apologies, the Sun isn't bought anywhere within the Mersey area.

Manchester, Greater Manchester (formerly Lancashire)

Setting for Life On Mars and Shameless, and (more or less) where the Ninth Doctor gets his accent. Home of Manchester United, where David Beckham played and also rivals Manchester City. Argues with Birmingham about second city status. The City of Manchester is just the central bit. The whole conurbation (Greater Manchester) is made up of 10 metropolitan boroughs (including one, Salford, which is technically a city in its own right), like a miniature version of One London, 33 Boroughs. These are:
  • City of Manchester
  • Stockport
  • Tameside
  • Oldham
  • Rochdale
  • Bury
  • Bolton
  • Wigan
  • City of Salford
  • Trafford

Manchester United's ground is in Trafford, and Christopher Eccleston's accent is from Salford (though no-one outside the cities would really know the difference). Manchester took over from Liverpool as the music capital of Britain during the 1990s, when its thriving club scene gave it the name "Madchester" note . Waterloo Road is set in Rochdale. Be careful referring to someone from outside the City of Manchester itself as being from Manchester. "Greater Manchester" was created in 1974 in an attempt to create a county which represented most of Manchester's metropolitan area it was brought about by lumping together the bottom right hand corner of Lancashire, the top right hand corner of Cheshire, and little bits on the outside edges from Yorkshire and Derbyshire. To this day, a large proportion of the population of Greater Manchester are perpetually confused as to whether they're in Lancashire, Cheshire or Greater Manchester, and many of the residents are adamant to deny Greater Manchester actually exists. People from Stockport (despite the course of the river Mersey and the top of Lancashire Hill marking the time-honoured border between the two counties, which puts the northern half of the town firmly in Lancashire) will deny they are in Manchester and are adamant their town is still in Cheshire. (Indeed, people in the upmarket Stockport suburb of Cheadle deny that they are even in Stockport - despite an unbroken rolling vista of urban development betwen Edgley and their suburb, Cheadle people still loudly insist they inhabit a village in Cheshire, or that they don't pay the higher level of income tax just to live in STOCKPORT). And as for the bit around Todmorden, note  dragged unwillingly in from Yorkshire... this is the Alsace-Lorraine of the Pennines, and displaced Yorkshire folk still bang on about it now. Despite this, since it became cool to be Mancunian (due to the music scene primarily i.e. Happy Mondays, Oasis etc.), many folks from Greater Manchester will simply state they're from Manchester, either for geographic reference (you're always close to the city itself in the county) or just to big themselves up.

Fun fact: Manchester's name ultimately comes from an ancient determination that it sat on a hill that looked like breasts—that is to say, "Manchester" means "Tit City". Making it strange that the name is pretty much just "Man-chest" now...

Warrington, Cheshire

Directly in between Liverpool and Manchester, Warrington is officially the largest town in Cheshire. Do NOT ask whether or not it ought to be a city. Used to be part of Lancashire (and indeed, you will occasionally still find references to Warrington, Lancashire). Best known for its rugby team, the Warrington Wolves. Also includes Lymm, who will often insist vociferously that it doesn't include them at all.

Wigan, Greater Manchester

It's home to a Premiership football club, though the Rugby League team is better supported and more successful, Heinz Baked Beans, a major shopping complex and the World Pie Eating Championships.

Cumbria and Lancashire

Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria

Decayed industrial town in the bit of Cumbria that used to be in Lancashire (and that many argue still is). Founded out of nothing but a tiny fishing hamlet in the nineteenth century by a railway pioneer who visualised it as a New Liverpool, a place from which you'd travel to New York. It didn't catch on. It did have the world's largest iron and steel works for a while, and a major shipyard, but the steelworks closed in the 1970s and shipyard much reduced and dependent on building nuclear submarines.

The most northerly town in the United States is not named after Barrow. It is however named after Sir John Barrow who was born in the nearby small town of Ulverston, which is also the birthplace of Stan Laurel.

Blackburn, Lancashire

One of the first industrialised towns and a former mill town. The town has a cathedral but is not a city and like many former mill towns is home to a large muslim population, the largest in percentage terms outside London. Famous for having four thousand holes in its roads in 1967. Not exactly the birthplace of football but the place from which teams of working class men first took on and beat wealthy amateurs (the sort who would call it 'Soccer') in The FA Cup bringing the game to the people.

Blackpool, Lancashire

The archetypal northern seaside resort town. A very popular tourist destination (over 10 million visit the town a year) unfortunately it is also very deprived (for England) in places. [1]

Carnforth, Lancashire

Market town and railway junction near Lancaster. Best known for its railway station, where the station scenes of Brief Encounter were filmed.

Carlisle, Cumbria

The capital or county town of Cumbria (a county created in 1974 out of the ancient counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, a big chunk of Lancashire and some bits shaved off Yorkshire to make the edges straight enough to fit in a London bureaucrat's filing cabinet) very close to the border with Scotland (and no its not in Wales) so close in fact the city changed hands several times in the Middle Ages. Best known as an important railway junction and for Carr's Water Biscuits, floods and Eddie Stobart lorries. Technically, Carlisle is the UK's largest city as the City Council governs an area of 402 square miles, though most of is rural and even mountainous and larger than some English counties.

Lancaster, Lancashire

The capital of Lancashire. Smaller and more laid-back than it's supposed rival, York. The seat of Lancaster University and so has a high proportion of students who have a big impact on the city's culture. Has a castle where the Pendle Witches (sort of like the Salem Witches only eighty years earlier and Catholic not Puritan) were tried and hanged. Overlooked by a huge monument known officially as the Ashton Memorial and unofficially as the Taj Mahal of the North.

Preston, Lancashire

Formerly an industrial town, expanded as a new town in the 1970s and became a city in 2002. A robotic dog in Wallace & Gromit was named Preston after the city and it was the place where Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit's creator) was born.

Whitehaven, Cumbria

A former coal-mining town and port. When the grime was cleaned off it in the 1970s onward it was discovered to have quite a lot of rather nice Georgian buildings and so had an outbreak of well-heeled young people and trendy bars around the harbour. Mostly notable for being the target of the last attempted invasion of Britain, by John Paul Jones (no, not that one). He failed, though some might say he was welcome to it.

Wales

Barry (Barry Island)

A seaside town that's no longer actually an island (due to the docks being built there in the 1880s) about ten miles south of Cardiff. One of the two settings of Gavin and Stacey. It also has the dubious honour of being the birthplace and home of the parents of current Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
  • Note that the town is called Barry, not Barry Island which is just a district of Barry, which makes it a bit like calling London Hammersmith. Calling Barry Barry Island is an easy way to annoy the 97% of residents who don't live on the island.
    • Also the setting of series 3 and 4 of "Being Human", after the protagonists flee Bristol.

Cardiff

Capital of Wales. Home to the current Doctor Who franchise (though for series 4, Torchwood split its filming between here and Los Angeles), the Welsh Assembly and the Millennium Stadium. Number three doubled for an alien vault in Utah. Also serves as the fictional setting for Torchwood's first three series.

Newport, Gwent

Some large town near Cardiff or something.

Swansea

West of Cardiff, at the end of the M4. Birthplace of Russell T Davies and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and home of the DVLAnote .

Wrexham

A large town considered to be the "Capital of North Wales". Burial place of Elihu Yale, the guy who Yale University was named after. Has strong connections with the city of Liverpool and a strong rivalry with closest city, Chester.

Aberystwyth

A small town on the west coast of Wales, it's in the centre of Wales so is often seen as some sort of link between the North (Y Gogledd) and the South. Other than that it's known for it's university which is the oldest one in Wales, the ruins of a castle and a small theme park up a cliff. Often joked about being "Birmingham on Sea" for the amount of "Brummie" tourists that come to the town in the summer or move here permentally.

Merthyr Tydfil

A small town in the south of Wales. Like a number of Welsh valley towns it is most notable for its deprivation since the decline of the mining industries and iron and steelworks in the area. This one is arguably the most notable because it is the most deprived. Many people there are unemployed and 30% of the population suffer from limiting long term illness. It also has the lowest life expectancy in Wales. In 2006 Channel 4 named it the 3rd worst place to live in the UK and the town was the smallest place on the list. However the town is very close to a national park and its status as a Crapsack Town is often disputed. Also serves as a punchline in jokes due to its name being an Inherently Funny Word.

Portmeirion

A village in North Wales, built in the style of an Italian village. If you've ever seen an episode of The Prisoner, you've seen Portmeirion, where it plays the role of The Village. Alternatively, you might have seen it doubling for Renaissance Italy in Doctor Who's The Masque of Mandragora.

Machynlleth

A market town in central Wales. Also a trap for the unwary visitor to this Welsh-speaking area – it looks innocuous compared to many Welsh names but it's actually a real stinker to get the non-Welsh tongue around.

Scotland

Aberdeen

"Well I was born in Aberdeen, but I overcame that hurdle."
—"Dennis Law", Only An Excuse

The Granite City, and thus has higher than average background radiation. Formerly an important fishing and shipbuilding town, the existing huge docks became very useful with the discovery of North Sea Oil in the 1970s. Oil is a big deal here: Aberdeen has the busiest heliport in the world to ferry workers to the rigs and back. Incredibly grey, what with all the granite combined with the generally dull weather. Also, it's the heroin capital of western Europe, although this isn't really noticeable or prevalent outside of the bad areas.

Today, with all these rich oil executives running the place, everything costs a bloody fortune - especially housing.

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have their own quite distinct local Scots dialect, known as Doric. If one considers Scots as one step removed from "Standard English", then Doric is as far removed again from Scots - so someone fluent in Scots can generally follow it, but it's somewhat opaque to those only familar with "the Queen's English". Visitors need have no fear though, as everyone there speaks the latter as well.

Dunblane

Dunblane is famous for two things, Tennis and the Dunblane School Massacre, in which an unhinged gunman marched into Dunblane Primary School and killed 16 children and a teacher before committing suicide. The resulting public outcry forced the government to effectively ban all handgun ownership in Britain. It is the hometown of British tennis number one Andy Murray who was present at the school during the massacre.

Dundee

A place almost as cheery in description as Aberdeen. While it used to be known for jam, jute, and journalism, the jute industry (which is a type of fibre grown in India and used to make sacking material) sharply declined after the First World war, and the jam industry ended in 1988 when the James Keiller company was sold and moved to Manchester. Journalism is still going strong, however,and Dundee is the home of DC Thomson, most famous for being the publishers of a number of newspapers as well as some of the most popular British comics such as The Beano The Dandy and Commando. There's a statue of Desperate Dan and his dog in Dundee city centre.

The other thing Dundee is famous for is the Tay Rail Bridge, which was the sight of one of the worst rail disastors in British history. The only reason anyone remembers this is because it's the subject of the world's worst poem, The Tay Bridge Disaster, by William Topaz McGonagall, the world's worst poet.

Oh, and in keeping with Scotland's "bad-thing-capital-of-Europe" tradition, it is the knife-crime, teen pregnancy and STD capital of Europe. This has led other Scots (and some locals) to refer to it as "Scumdee." On a cheerier note, it is the sunniest city in Scotland, and so is also named "Sundee". Also, it has a fruit cake named after it, which is nice if you like fruit cake.

Edinburgh

Capital of Scotland, situated on the Firth of Forth in the East of Scotland. Has a castle, the Scottish National Museum, and the Scottish National Library. The Edinburgh International Festival (performing arts festival, often known as just 'The Festival') and The Edinburgh Fringe (established as an alternative to the Festival) are held every year in August, and The Fringe is known as the place where aspiring comedians from all over Britain come to make their bones.

Also has possibly the most spectacular Hogmanaynote  festival in the Isles, with bonfires, street performers, and food and beverage carts; many of the downtown streets are made pedestrian-only for the night, and absolutely everyone gets smashing drunk.

The name is pronounced approximately "Eddin-bruh" (although this will vary by accent), not "Edin-burg". Exactly who it was named after is a matter of some controversy; the theory put forward at Edinburgh Castle is that it comes from 'Dun Edin' (spellings vary), meaning 'Fort on the Sloping Ridge'.

Trainspotting is set here, though the actual town isn't as crappy as portrayed in the novel and film.

Oh, also the home town of Sean Connery.

  • Iain Rankin's "Rebus" novels are also set in Edinburgh, with attention to authentic detail: particularly tellingly, it is possible to follow Rebus pub crawls in the city.

Has recently ordered a tram system, which has become a byword for pork barrel spending, mismanagement, incompetence and general clusterfrakery. To sum up, Edinburgh council wanted £375 million for a three line tram system. We will now pay £1.2bn for a single line system, plus £228 million interest on a 30-year loan to cover the overspend. Edinburgh did have a tram system, but got rid of it in 1956. People seem to have forgotten why...note 

Glasgow

Seventy miles to the west of Edinburgh, and quite a bit larger - it is the largest city in Scotland and the fifth largest in the UK overall, behind Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London. Calls itself "second city of the empire" due to it being a former a industrial giant in shipbuilding. Will host the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Murder capital of Western Europe...

Livingston

Another "new town", sometimes dubbed "Scotland's Milton Keynes". Nobody is sure if this is a compliment or not. Famously difficult to navigate for out-of-towners and a complete bastard to navigate for pedestrians. The postwar authorities tried to build it without traffic lights, using roundabouts instead. This has made a lot of people very angry and is widely considered to have been a bad move. Home to the ancient village of Livingston Village, whose inhabitants are displeased at the enormous town built next to them. Home of the mediocre Livingston F.C. The nearby town of Bathgate was the birthplace of David Tennant.

Inverness

Main city (since 2001) of the Highlands and a key place for bagpiping. Less touristy than one would expect given that it is within very easy reach of both Culloden Moor and Loch Ness, but still hosts a number of B&Bs as it is the seat of tourism for the Highlands and the northernmost major city in Scotland. Sometimes called "Inversneckie", for reasons unfathomable.

Paisley.

Birthplace of Steven Moffat. Also the setting for A Tale Etched In Blood And Hard Black Pencil. Has a bit of trouble with its status - technically, it ticks all the boxes for becoming a "city", but keeps getting turned down for the title, remaining a "town." Formerly a centre of the weaving industry (hence the term "Paisley pattern") and later a popular destination for weekend shopping, Paisley was badly affected when large shopping complexes (or, to use the American term, malls) sprang up nearby, drawing custom away from the town. Usually considered a Glasgow suburb and shares in some of it's "tough" reputation .

Lockerbie

Famous for the 1988 "Lockerbie Bombing", when a Pan-Am airliner was destroyed above the town by a terrorist bomb. Also has an improbably large Tesco supermarket for a relatively small town, with the word 'Tesco' written on the roof letters large enough to be seen from space. It does have a rather nice Fish and Chip shop just outside the train station. In other ways, it conforms to the sterotype of Scotland, with a disproportionate number of fast food outlets and red standstone churches dotted across the town.

Northern Ireland

Belfast

Regional capital. Former industrial powerhouse of the British Empire, but this has declined. Still an aerospace hub through the work of Short Brothers plc. Lots of The Troubles happened here. Also birthplace of the Titanic.

Londonderry/Derry/Stroke City/The Maiden City

Don't start on the name. Best not make the "smell our Derry air" joke, either.
  • And on that note, the melody that Danny Boy is most commonly set to is called (variously) "Londonderry Air", "Derry Air", or "Air From County Derry"

Armagh

Home to Sir Jonathan Swift. Known for its Georgian Architecture and Northern Ireland's main Plane-arium.

Lisburn and Newry

Became cities in 2003. There were accusations that both were selected to become cities, despite there only supposed to be one city from each part of the UK, so there would be a Protestant City (Lisburn) and a Catholic City (Newry). Lisburn is part of the Belfast commuter belt. Newry is the last town in Northern Ireland before you cross the border on your way to Dublin. Newry is currently experiencing good commercial trade as Southern shoppers hop over the border to take advantage of the good Sterling/Euro exchange rate.
  • Fun related fact: In terms of profit margin percentage, the Asda in the County Fermanagh town of Enniskillen is currently one of the five most profitable Wal-Mart shops (Asda being owned by Wal-Mart) in the world, because of Southern Shoppers looking for bargains.

Berwick-upon-Tweed

Technically in England, but has passed back and forth between there and Scotland rather a lot in the past, has a Scottish post code, and has a football team that plays in the Scottish league system (because Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC is less of a trek away from the city than Plymouth Argyle). One of the scottish counties (Berwickshire) is even named after the town even though the town is now part of England. An SNP MSPnote  called for it to be returned to Scotland in 2008, but that didn't go very far.
  • There's an old urban legend playing to this indecisiveness that claims that when Britain went to war with Russia in The Crimean War, the actual declaration was "The Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Berwick-upon-Tweed declare war on Russia" or thereabouts; and when peace was declared, only the kingdoms of England and Scotland officially declared peace with Russia, leaving the town at war with the country for over a century. So a Russian official still visited the town to ensure peaceful relations. (It's also definitely apocryphal, since the town had been incorporated fully into England in English legal documents for over a century. More to the point, by the time of the Crimean War (1853), the kingdoms of England and Scotland had ceased to exist as separate legal entities nearly 150 years earlier, being replaced by and subsumed into the Kingdom of Great Britain by the Acts of Union 1707—and the Kingdom of Great Britain was itself subsumed into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801. Suffice it to say the declaration of war would refer to the United Kingdom, and not the non-existent kingdoms of England and Scotland.)
    • QI bought this one, suggesting that the Crimean War didn't actually end until the mayor of Berwick signed an armistice with Russia, and thus the War only had one survivor (a tortoise).

The Colonies

Port Stanley

Main settlement in The Falkland Islands.

Plymouth, Montserrat

Legally the capital of Montserrat (an island in The Caribbean) but has been abandoned since a volcano erupted nearby back in the 1990s.
TodmordenUsefulNotes/BritainThe Channel Islands

alternative title(s): Other British Towns And Cities
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