THE celebrations to mark Southampton’s 50th year as a city will begin on Monday.

Southampton Mayor Ivan White will throw open the doors of his chambers for a special reception to be followed by a commemoration service at St Mary’s Church.

Plans to grant Southampton city status started back in 1958 when the county borough petitioned Queen Elizabeth.

They argued that its size, importance as a major port, quality of its municipal services and record of “voluntary service, public spirit and practice of charity” should merit it becoming a city.

In 1964 they were successful and on February 24 that year Southampton became the UK’s newest city.

Ivan White, the city’s 791st mayor, will open his chambers between 10am and noon on Monday for a reception featuring some of the city’s most fascinating artefacts and relics.

Children and teachers from city schools will attend the event and every school will be presented with a commemorative 50th anniversary plaque.

At 5pm, St Mary’s Church will be the venue for a special service commemorating the granting of city status which all are free to attend.

Monday’s events will kickstart a programme of celebratory events across the city that will feature everything from music festivals to the Queen’s Baton Relay.

The Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Mile will return to the Guildhall Square on March 23, where thousands can take part in one-, three- or six-mile runs around the central parks to raise money for charity.

The Queen’s Baton Relay will tour Southampton on June 4, ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which start on July 23.

And the day will culminate in a secret, spectacular event in Guildhall Square.

Later in the summer there will also be music festivals such as Let’s Rock!

in the Common and the Ejector Seat Festival, a St George’s Day Festival at Hub Theatre and various arts events.

The Guildhall Square will also be the venue for a theatre event – the full details of which are a closely guarded secret – based on Saints’ history, fans and players.

Speaking ahead of Monday ’ s events, Cllr White said: I am immensely proud to be able to open Southampton’s 50th anniversary celebrations at the Mayor’s Chambers. We have a great deal to celebrate and much to look forward to, and I hope people in the city will support this.

“As part of the celebrations, I am encouraging everyone across this great city of ours – whether in business, the local community, private, public or voluntary sectors – to pledge to do something uniquely special to mark this 50th anniversary year and to help make Southampton an even better place for the future.

“Together we can make this city even more special than it is today, creating a legacy for our children and grandchildren.”