Revealed: the top 100 'crap' towns in Britain


Terry Kirby
Thursday 25 March 2004 01:00

Edinburgh, Bath and Oxford may be many people's idea of fine cities, pleasant places to live and work, and much visited by tourists. However, to others they are simply, well, crap.

Highly regarded towns and cities such as Brighton, Stratford-upon-Avon and Windsor are now consigned to a new list of Britain's "Crap Towns", alongside more predictable and much-criticised inner-city and suburban destinations like Hackney and Basingstoke.

Their inclusion is based on the nominations by hundreds of members of the public for inclusion in a new book, Crap Towns 11: The Nation Decides, due to be published later this year. The book will reveal the winner from the shortlist of 100 undesirable places to live.

CT11 is a successor to the original Crap Towns, a surprise hit when published last October, and which has sold more than 120,000 copies. In that book, Hull had the dubious distinction of topping the table of 50 towns.

The compiler of both books, journalist Sam Jordison, says the inclusion of towns previously thought desirable places just goes to show that nowhere is exempt from being actively disliked by visitors and residents.

"I don't think its possible to find an ideal town. Everywhere has the capacity to make people pissed off. But I think that there's an element of affection in this for the places we know and have been brought up in. By describing somewhere as crap, its like saying 'this could be a nice place, if only they hadn't done this or that to it','' he said.

"I'm surprised we haven't had more nominations for some obvious places like Watford and Hartlepool, but there is still plenty of time. I think in the first book we only really scratched the surface of people's hatred of these places."

The idea for Crap Towns came after Mr Jordison wrote a short article for The Idler, a small magazine dedicated to the pursuit of leisure, criticising his home town of Morecambe in Lancashire for its "desolate" promenades. He was inundated with responses from all over the country and eventually edited them into the first book. Then, said Mr Jordison, people kept asking why, for instance, Luton had not been included, and so the second will be even more based on the nominations of the public.

These include such opinions as this angry contributor's verdict on Bath: "Essentially a retirement town with an unpleasant amount of students. The centre of this beautiful city is basically a concrete trench lined with McDonald's restaurants and vicious teenagers idly playing with lock knives. In the summer it fills to the brim with loud tourists who clog the narrow streets like the coagulated grease in a Scotsman's arteries. In the winter, the only escape is incest."

And another's description of Windsor: "The big thing about Windsor is that its townsfolk believe that, by living near the castle, they are more or less royalty themselves. Indeed, once Windsor women pass the age of 60, they seem to lose the plot altogether and convince themselves they actually are the Queen."

More out of the way places do not escape criticism. The town of Cleator Moor in Cumbria has "one long, infinitely desolate main street full of dangerous pubs, smashed up cars and heavily fortified shops ... the few bored inhabitants drift around like tumbleweeds"; while Thorpeness in Suffolk is "more of a golf club than a town ... the apotheosis of middle-England snobbery."

And the affluent suburb of Kew in west London is "populated by big bankers with receding hairlines and exploding girths ... the sticky cherry on top of affluent Richmond's already calorie-filled cake"; while neighbouring Hanwell is condemned for being the place where "Deep Purple first perfected their hard rock genius".

The winner, to be announced in October, will be decided not simply by the number of votes cast - that is because central London would win by a long way - but by balancing them against the relative size of the place. Mr Jordison adds: "It's all a pretty unscientific and arbitrary process, but I think it demonstrates that almost anywhere has the potential to be crap."

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