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Its creation as a cathedral has led to confusion over the civic status of Southwell. Traditionally it was considered to be a city because of the presence of the cathedral, but in more modern times the traditional definition has not been recognised by government (see city status in the United Kingdom).
It was made a cathedral in 1884, and Birmingham became the first non-episcopal city in England in 1889. That gives a five-year window for the supposed "tradition" to become established. Edward Augustus Freemanwriting in 1889 states:
ust as among the older sees, the new list takes in towns of very different classes, from Liverpool down to disfranchised Saint Albans. Still the line must be drawn somewhere; there is one bishop's see on which it would have been too grotesque to bestow the rank of a city. ... I looked carefully for some time to see whether a proclamation would come making Southwell into a city; but I have not seen it yet.
It may be that some people have erroneously assumed that bishopric=city still applies, and hence that Southwell is a city; but I think it is clear that such assumption is an error; whereas the phrasing "confusion over the civic status" suggests doubt or contention rather than mere error. jnestorius(talk) 18:05, 8 May 2010 (UTC)
It is normal for the roof (lead, shingle etc) on a timber construction, roofed spire to overlap the edge of the tower. That is the way they are usually made, unless the tower has a parapet, battlements or pinnacles.
The shape is not "Rhenish cap", usually termed "Rhenish Helm" . That shape is more complex. See Sompting.
Neither is that the shape known as "pepper pot", regardless of what some locals might mistakenly call it.
"Pepper pot" spires or towers are circular or octagonal and have a dome with a finial of some sort on top. The two little towers on the National Gallery, London are pepper pots.
This type of spire is usually just called a pyramidal spire, but may also be referred to as a "candle-snuffer" spire, although that term also applies to conical spires.
To refer to these spires as "pepper-pot spires" is misleading, architecturally.