Why is Guelph called the Royal City Why is Guelph called the Royal City

Guelph the Royal City: Learn More About the Royal Aspects of the City

Guelph pronounced as “Gwelf“, is one of the first well-laid and calculated towns in Canada. Although the spelling has changed phonetically for years, it rhymes with “self” as comfortably as was for 187 years.

The history behind its name Guelph, its link with the ancestral family, and how the popular Scottish novelist John Galt who lived in Upper Canada city decided to choose the name Guelph, in spite of the fact he earlier worked maps for  Lower Canada. Well, I assure you the following details are worth revisiting.

This article promises to understand the story behind the first planned town with a European city center complete with squares, and broad main lanes explicitly designed to attract settlers to this part of Canada.

1. Meaning of the Word Guelph

The dictionary meaning of the word Guelph is as under

Any member of the political association who opposes foreign rulers and believes in sovereignty. The idea prevailed in medieval Italy and late medieval Germany in the early 19th century.

2. Location- City of Guelph

In Southwestern Ontario, Canada lies a city that was a small town but is now known as the royal city, Guelph. Guelph is rightly called the advantageously located town. For you, the secrets of this royal city are yet to unfold.

So, Guelph is located east of Kitchener and is just 22km away from there. Downtown Toronto is 70 km away to the west. Guelph is located at the crossroads of Wellington County, Highway 7, and Highway 6. Though it is on the political seat of Wellington, Guelph is independent of the county.

The popular Scottish novelist, John Galt chose the location while he was the Company’s superintendent in British Development Firm in Canada, i.e. “Canada Company“. He wished to design such a town to attract settlers to not only Guelph and to the surrounding countryside.

Another important aspect of the city of Guelph is its proximity to St. Patrick’s ward. St. Patrick’s ward was the place where many factories flourished due to its proximity to the riverside.

Another important aspect of any city to flourish along with the location is the city map and the directors reviewing the work of the architects and the designers.

3. Foundation- City of Guelph

The British development firm, a “Canada Company” in the year 1827, officially endorsed Guelph as Canada Company headquarters by a ceremonial felling of a large maple tree. A ceremonial felling took place under the then Company’s Superintendent John Galt.

Icon of the Guelph
Image from Depositphotos by Aleks Taurus

3.1. John Galt’s Imaginative Plans

What could be expected from a popular Scottish novelist like John Galt other than a highly imaginative town?

Its obvious Galt’s plan was not only imaginative to establish a town to attract settlers but also that it resembles any other European city centre complete with squares, narrow side streets, and broad main streets radiating from a focal point of the Speed river.

His farsightedness resulted in a city of varied block sizes.

3.2. Founders and Scalers

The town was founded on the area of superficially about forty thousand acres on St. George’s day in 1827. The town like any other civilization was founded near the river. The Speed river near Guelph falls into Eramosa, one of the branches of the Grand River.

British North America’s Surveyor General Joseph Bouchette surveyed the city plan of Guelph in Ontario. Before that, he had already published the map of Upper Canada and Lower Canada.

From 1774 – 1841, Joseph Bouchette held the important position of surveyor general of Lower Canada also. British dominions in North America’s Ontario clearly described Joseph’s version of the map as accurate.

4.Guelph Called the Royal City- A Royal Tribute

John Galt chose Guelph to name the town which he designed near the Speed River. While working under the British Development Firm, Canada Company wished to set up the city with broad main streets and narrow side streets radiating from the focal point at the river flowing there, the Speed River.

Being one of the royal names of the British Family and had never been used to name a city or town, Galt chose Guelph as the city name.

4.1. Brunswick Lüneburg Heritage- The Long Historical Background

Brunswick Lüneburg was the two main territories in the 13th century German Empire. The name Duchy Brunswick lüneburg. The Brunswick Lüneburg further split into varied principalities each belonging to the legal heir.

But with the British princess becoming part of the family of one of the principalities and with no legal heirs of the others the Hanoverians were the new Guelph rulers.

Whoop! array of facts, Right?

Why is guelph called the royal city
Image by Murat Aydin from Pixabay / copyright 2017

Therefore, the House of Guelph, or “Guelf”, or “Welf” had in history many monarchs of German and British royal families. The great political factions of medieval Italy, Germany, and the reigning British monarch had been part of it.

John galt chose to christen the town Guelph because of the royal family and the long European dynasty related to the name Guelph.

Let’s delve deep into the other points.

4.2. The Lineage

Guelph has a long history of ancestral families. From the 11th to 20th century many British, and German monarchs. But it was under King George this part of the British dominion saw upscale development.

During the reign of King George V, the ongoing First World War pressurized him to change the royal family surname to Windsor. Now it seems quite vague why a king of such a lineage could be forced to change his surname.

So, the reason behind this was Saxe-Coburg seemed too German for a ruler whose kingdom was at war with Germany.

5. John Galt’s Grandiose Plans

The major reason even after galt’s plan to make the city of Guelph a prosperous metropolis was the lack of connectivity with Toronto. The city of Guelph rose from the village only after the Grand trunk railroad reached Toronto in the year 1856.

This development lead to Guelph’s prominent buildings, delineated by high-profile designers, stone carvers, and many local architects.

6. Icons of the City of Guelph

Below are hats off achievements by the high-class officials and then residents of Guelph

6.1. Guelph’s Police Force

Chief ted lamb brought his army motorcycle. Chief ted lamb was an army officer in the first world war. He patrolled in his army motorcycle he used in First World War. And thus Guelph’s Police Force became Canada’s prime to use municipal motorcycle patrol in the city of Guelph.

Officer, Chief ted lamb was first to introduce municipal motorcycle patrol in Canada, and later in a new position as a police officer with his army motorcycle in his hometown Guelph. Needs acknowledgment. Right?

Hence the current use of the “Royal” tag to the Guelph in this context is justified.

6.2. University of Guelph

The University of Guelph has seen exponential growth since its inception in the year 1964. The public university has top positions in various disciplines and areas to its credit in Ontario, Canada, and the world over.

The iconic educational institutions are now part of the University of Guelph. Some of them are

The educational institution, Ontario Agricultural College was rooted in the year 1874.

The veterinary center, the Ontario Veterinary College established in the year 1862

MacDonald Institute was formed in the year 1903.

6.3. Guelph’s Crest

The coat of Arms is rightly called the Guelph’s crest. On April 23, 1879, the day when Guelph was ready to drop the town suffix and endorse “city” the coat of arms was adopted as the face of Guelph city.

The “Coat Of Arms” has many allegories embedded in it. On the left side of the crest is a man standing with an axe symbolizing the ceremonial felling. This ceremonial felling of a stout standing wood marked the beginning of civilization in this part of Canada. It was no other but Canada’s awesome large maple tree. On the opposite is Britannia, in a gown with a helmet and shield signifies the British royal family connection.

In the center is the shield with the white running horse of Hanover, symbolizing the principality of German.

The symbol, though unofficial, was used extensively for nearly 90 years. But with the help of artist Eric Bath and local historians who kept in mind the facts and did changes to the crest, it was officially adopted as Guelph’s crest in the year 1978.

6.4. Pin Bowling

Five Pin Bowling was invented by Tim Ryan, a resident of the city of Guelph. It was his vision to make North America’s ten-pin bowling a popular sport in Canada too but with ease to play and without time constraints.

Five Pin Bowling
Image from Depositphotos by DesignPicsinc

Tim Ryan evolved five-pin bowling by 1909 on the feedback received from the people playing ten-pin games. He used the rubber ring around the pins to halt their swinging in the air. Bowling Alley of Tim didn’t allow women to play there.

Tim Ryan never patented it and that’s why he didn’t earn profit from it as well. But today the game is popular in Canada and is played by all men, women, children and that too irrespective of the fact how old they are.

6.5. Guelph’s Prominent Buildings

Guelph’s prominent buildings attract settlers and Galt’s plan of a city complete with squares, narrow side streets, and broad main streets radiating from the point at the river called, the Speed river is worth venturing into.

Guelph’s prominent buildings were excellently carved by local architects and stone carvers in what is an advantageously located town as mentioned under its location. They carved the city of Guelph’s buildings on Guelph’s locally quarried and warm-shaded limestone.

7. The Independent Town

Another important reason why is it called the royal city in Toronto Canada. Even after its founder John Galt’s expulsion in 1829, was the Guelph independent entity that was earlier restricted to be a part of Wellington county.

When Guelph become independent and during its official announcement Mayor George Howard used for the first time, the phrase”The Royal city“.

At the inauguration ceremony, the only member of the royal family present was John Campbell, along with the Marquis of Lorne, Princess Louise, his wife; Queen Victoria’s daughter, and the Duchess of Argyll.

But as the saying goes,” All’s well, that ends well“. The town got the title of the royal city.

8. Uniqueness in Name – Guelph for City

Here are a few instances where Guelph had or has been used and that too in North America only

  • Some streets and roads are named after Guelph. Some are in Ontario like Stratford, Burlington, Hamilton, Halton, Kitchener, Cambridge, Fergus, and Rockwood.
  • Guelph Place and street named Guelph Crescent in town named Prince George.
  • In British Columbia, some streets and even a park are named after Guelph.
  • Vancouver has Guelph Park and Guelph St.
  • In Pentiction, there is a street named Guelph Avenue.

Probably these streets were inspired by the dictionary meaning of Guelph which we discussed at the beginning of the article.

9. Is Guelph Called the Royal City? Some Facts

The below-mentioned list of facts and discoveries in Guelph will surely help you conclude why is Guelph known as the royal city of Ontario, Canada.

  • Present-day Guelph was inhabited by First Nations 11,000 years ago.
  • When Guelph was declared an independent city, Guelph’s population was just 10,000.
  • The enterprise Steele’s Wire Spring, in 1920 invented the wire coat hangers.
  • Guelph still has its first and then only British Municipality to have its rail link.
  • The two-way car radio was introduced by Guelph’s police force.
  • Ontario veterinary college was the first of its kind college in the Western Hemisphere.
  • In Flanders Fields” by Colonel John McCrae, was born and brought up in Guelph.
  • In 1905, a contest was held to name Riverside Park. The contest was won by the Guelph resident, Priest William Carrol, hence the current name of the park.
  • The Cable TV system was first invented in Guelph. And to your surprise, It is the first of the whole Canadian territory too. The first event to be telecasted was Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation.
  • Guelph City Council was the one who set the city manager system. The system for the very first time was created by John McVicar, who after some time got the title of League of American Municipalities secretary.
  • Mercury Printing Press was operated by horses till 1868 and beyond that steam engine was installed to operate the press.
  • The place where Guelph got its name is today known as John Galt Park.
  • In 1980, the research team at the University of Guelph developed a breed of potatoes and named it Yukon Gold. Later it became the first licensed breed of potato to be supplied under a specific Canadian brand name.
  • Guelph gave the credit to its once-parent district Wellington by christening Baker Street after Alferd Baker. He was the inspecting officer of measures and weights of that district.
why is Guelph called the royal city
Photo by hstiver from Depositphotos

Another important fact worth mentioning and underlining on the name Guelph is that the name of the city of Guelph was rejected by John Galt’s bosses, the directors of Canada Company. Now you may question, Why?

The directors of the company didn’t find the riverside location i.e. on the bank of Speed river appropriate for the prosperous metropolis. Moreover, they didn’t like the royal name to be used for such an inappropriate location. But don’t you think the name Guelph is best suited for the royal background of the town?

But now, don’t you think the location, the European city center complete with squares, broad main streets, narrow side streets, and the surrounding countryside ideally speaks of the life led by the royal family?

10. Takeaway

The above description of the city of Guelph, designed by John Galt as a town to attract settlers under the British Development firm represents the royal family in its various styles and setup.

I hope this article must have thrown enough light on why North America’s city of Guelph is called the “Royal City“.

I can’t end the article without praising the popular Scottish novelist John Galt’s grandiose plans, local architects, the stone carvers, and of course the royal family which helped envision galt’s settlement name Guelph.

Hence the current use for the city of Guelph, ” The Royal City” is apt in the true sense. Apart from Guelph, there are many beautiful small towns in Canada that are worth visiting.

I tried to unfold the mystery behind the name Guelph, and the company’s superintendent Galt’s plan for the town to attract settlers and the hierarchy of family names of about 300 years all throw light at the focal point, it is called the royal city.

Enjoy Reading!


  • Sonal Goel

    Sonal is an avid reader and loves to travel to places. As a keen and silent observer, she can pen her deep thoughts. Sonal has a Master's in English, Education, and Computer Software. The diverse areas help her touch the minute details that sometimes remain unnoticed in the real world. She loves writing poetry.

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