There are lots of things you remember from when you grew up that seemed completely normal at the time, but as you grow older and meet people from further afield, they seem unique in the cold light of day, viewed through the objective prism of hindsight.

For me, going to school in St Asaph meant our school’s Harvest and Christmas services were held in the cathedral across the road.

You end up just sort of taking for granted that this is what kids in every school did. You just stood there in an historic building, pretending to sing, bored out of your mind but grateful not to be in class at the same time.


At the end of one reading during a service, a booming voice asking us to pray came through the speakers dotted along the mostly fifteenth century, sweeping stone arches holding the ceiling up. To almost everybody in attendance it was obvious that it was the Bishop (or the Dean, or whoever else he’d delegated this low level appointment to), who was stood just out of sight behind the nave and at the front of the choir. 

Our friend Geraint, however, most likely still half asleep, believed that he had received his calling. He sat bolt upright and in terror exclaimed, “GOD?!”.

The age of a building can grant it power and awe as much as the objects it houses. We were sat probably about thirty feet from a wooden cabinet with a curtain over it housing an original copy of William Morgan’s first Welsh bible from 1588.

The true history is less relevant than the mythology - St Asaph cathedral was left in ruins by Owain Glyndŵr and by the time of Oliver Cromwell two centuries later, it was being used to house livestock.

Perhaps if Geraint had known this he wouldn’t have been so susceptible to the call of the Almighty.


One of the other idiosyncrasies of this town of 3,500 people from this time was the local noticeboard across the street. The golden lettering painted onto the dark wood panel read: “The City of St Asaph Town Council”.

It’s one of those things that lingers in my subconscious and unexpectedly pops up at unexpected times, like my first kiss or Frances the Firefly. By now, though, St Asaph actually is a city - it received the status in 2012 which put it on a level footing with the other cathedral cities of Wales - Bangor (Population: 18,000) and St Davids (Population: 1,400).

The fact that it’s taken a further ten years for Wrexham to be seen on the same level as these settlements is nothing short of scandalous.

It may be reductionist to only look at population size, but it’s a pretty good yardstick for comparing cities. Wrexham is the fourth most populous area of Wales - how could it only now be receiving city status when it has three times the population of the smallest three “cities” of Wales combined?

The UK government are claiming this as a victory for the Union, and how this is a gift to Wrexham for its people’s support of the monarchy. But if Wales was in charge of these decisions it wouldn’t have taken three failed bids and a chance investment from two Hollywood stars to get Wrexham the city status it’s deserved for years.

To some, it may just be a shiny bauble, a pat on the head, a piece of Royalist propaganda for which the people of Wrexham should be grateful and not at all patronised. There was even a campaign against applying for city status. But I think this is a really important development.

For those of us who are from the north east of Wales, there can be a huge vacuum that causes an identity crisis - especially if you don’t speak Welsh. It rears its head quite clearly whenever you meet a new person.

“Where are you from?”
“North Wales”

Yes, you’re from ALL OF NORTH WALES. From Connah’s Quay to Caernarfon - that’s the very specific place that you’re from and it’s all the same and not at all varied in between.

For me, if people want something more specific (they might ask if I’m from “Betsy Code”), I’d usually say I’m from near Chester, which hardly does wonders for the confidence of Welsh identities in the area, does it?

Wrexham and Chester, only about twelve miles apart, are similarly-sized cities, and although they both have football teams based in Wales who play in the English league pyramid, the similarities end there. 

With Wrexham’s new city status, it can reflect the confidence shown by its football team and their supporters. It can hopefully be seen as a centre of gravity in the north east, and potentially even the rest of the north of Wales. 

Instead of saying I’m from near Chester, I’ll now proudly say that I’m from near Wrexham.

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.