Timeless, ancient and inspiring are just a few words bandied about when talking of Britain’s heritage cities; dare we say Britain’s best cities… We take a closer look at why they are so very special
1. King’s College Chapel, Cambridge is a Gothic masterpiece with the world’s largest fan-vault. Its construction took almost 100 years and was completed during Henry VIII’s reign. The initials H and A above the central doorway refer to Henry and Anne Boleyn.
2. The Ashmolean, Oxford is England’s oldest and one of its best public museums. It was begun in 1683 with objects collected on the voyages of naturalist John Tradescant, and its name derives from the collections of scholar Elias Ashmole, added in 1899. In 2009 it reopened to wide acclaim after a £61-million revamp.
3. Chester is the only place in Britain to have retained the tradition of mid-day public proclamations by its town crier. Dressed in his (or her) scarlet tunic, carrying a handbell and to the cry of “Oyez! Oyez!” the crier stands at the High Cross and regales the audience with announcements and banter, daily except Mondays (May to August).
4. A lightning bolt struck York Minster in 1984 and started a fire that destroyed the South Transept roof. A four-year restoration project included 62 newly carved roof bosses.
5. Several cities are noted for their racecourses. The Roodee, at Chester, is Britain’s oldest, dating from 1539. At Carlisle’s 16th-century races the winners were given silver bells, the oldest surviving trophies. HRH The Princess Royal rode a winner, Insular, at York in 1988.
6. The Great Tom bell at Christ Church, Oxford tolls 101 times nightly, based on the original roll call of students at the college.
Read the full feature on our heritage cities in the latest edition of BRITAIN magazine (Volume 80, Issue 3) on sale now.