There was singing, an array of costumes and even a cake as Southampton celebrated the 50th anniversary of its city status.

City mayor Councillor Ivan White threw open his parlour doors to the public and schoolchildren for a special event to mark the occasion yesterday.

Later on, dignitaries and residents attended a special service at St Mary’s Church to mark the milestone and give thanks.

February 24, 1964, was the date that Southampton officially became a city.

The mayor’s reception at the Civic Centre featured a presentation of celebratory plaques to the city’s schools.

Children and members of the public were able to see the mayor’s robes and some of the artefacts and treasures presented to the city over the past 150 years.

They include the ivory gavel and trowel used by the Duke of York – the future King George VI – to lay the foundation stone of the Civic Centre in 1930, and the 12th largest piece of amber in the world, presented to the city in 1994 by the governor of the Russian city of Kaliningrad.

Stewart Cross, from the Southampton-based Dancing Man Brewery, attended the event to make a pledge to the mayor to make a celebratory beer.

And city taxi firm West Quay Cars have marked the 50th anniversary by putting the “50 years” logo on the company’s cars.

The event was enjoyed by dozens of youngsters, including 11-year-old St Denys Primary School pupil Theo Le Huquet, who said: “It’s been really interesting, I’ve enjoyed looking around.”

And 10-year-old Townhill Junior School student Emma James added: “I think the event was quite important because we can see what happens and learn about the past and the city’s history.”

And their teachers also enjoyed the event, which featured a specially made cake, as well as smaller versions for all the youngsters.

A string of events will be held later in the year to mark the 50th anniversary.

They will include the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Mile on March 23 and the arrival of the Queen’s Baton Relay on June 4, ahead of the Commonwealth Games.