Bangor's City Status

Bangor, Co Down, is situated on the east coast of Northern Ireland on the southern side of Belfast Lough. It is within the Belfast Metropolitan Area and is only 13 miles east of Belfast, linked by the A2 road and the Belfast–Bangor railway line. 

The name Bangor comes from Irish: Beannchar, from Middle Irish: Beannchor and Old Irish: Bennchor. This is thought to mean 'place of points' or 'horned curve', referring to the shoreline of Bangor Bay. 

Bangor has a long and varied history, from the Bronze Age people whose swords were discovered in 1949 or the Viking burial found on Ballyholme beach, to the Victorian pleasure seekers who travelled on the new railway from Belfast to take in the sea air.  The City was the site of a monastery renowned throughout Europe for its learning and scholarship, the victim of violent Viking raids in the 8th and 9th centuries, and the new home of Scottish and English planters during the Plantation of Ulster.

The modern City had its origins in the early 17th century when James Hamilton, a Lowland Scot, arrived in Bangor, having been granted lands in North Down by King James VI and I in 1605.  In 1612, King James made Bangor a Borough, which permitted it to elect two MPs to the Irish Parliament in Dublin.  The Old Custom House, which was completed by Hamilton in 1637 after James I granted Bangor the status of a port in 1620, is a visible reminder of the new order introduced by Hamilton and his Scots settlers.

Bangor was an important source of customs revenue for the Crown and in the 1780s Colonel Robert Ward improved the harbour and promoted the cotton industries; today's seafront was the location of several large steam-powered cotton mills, which employed a large workforce.

By the middle of the 19th century, the cotton mills had declined, and Bangor changed in character once again.  The laying of the railway in 1865 meant that inexpensive travel from Belfast was possible, and working-class people could afford for the first time to holiday in the City.  Bangor became a fashionable resort for Victorian holidaymakers, as well as a desirable home to the wealthy.  Many of the houses that overlook Bangor Bay date from this period. The belief in the restorative powers of the sea air meant that the City became a location for sea bathing and marine sports, and the number of visitors from Great Britain increased during the Edwardian era at the beginning of the 20th century, when Ward Park was created.

The inter-war period of the early 20th century saw the development of the Tonic Cinema, Pickie Pool and Caproni's ballroom.  All three were among the foremost of their type in Ireland, although they no longer exist.  Pickie Pool was redeveloped and renamed Pickie Fun Park and today is one of the top ten tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.

In May 2021, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II conferred City Status on Bangor, as part of her Platinum Jubilee Celebrations.  With this award, Bangor has furter impetus to re-establish its identity as a key destination for cultural tourism, and a gateway to the rest of the stunning Ards Peninsula and wider Borough.

Read our City Bid here.

The Platinum Jubilee Civic Honours Competition required locations to demonstrate their cultural heritage and royal links, their local identity and what their community meant to them.  The following three tenets were used to support Bangor's claim: