Crap Towns.
June 10, 2003 1:30 AM   Subscribe

Crap Towns. 'We continue to be ... surprised at the dreadful quality of British life' writes The Idler magazine, in their on-going quest to disover 'the crappest town in Britain'. How many here have escaped from truly crap places to live, or are still trapped in them? (more inside)
posted by misteraitch (65 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My own crap hometown isn't listed, but the eloquent entry for nearby Merthyr Tydfil speaks for me:

"Sprawling housing estates, high unemployment, alcohol abuse and rampant stupidity suck the life out of people - till they resemble Morlocks, only with bluer skin, and fewer aspirations.

Park up a few tanks, and it could be East Germany. I grew up in Merthyr, and I still have a large bag of chips on my shoulder. Moved at 18, bags packed at 16."

posted by misteraitch at 1:32 AM on June 10, 2003

Great post, misteraitch. I had great fun reading through the nominations and their respective defenses. Brits are far too critical though.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:53 AM on June 10, 2003

Heehee, great post!

How many here have escaped from truly crap places to live

Yes! :)

Worst place in the world. Haven't been to most of the places in this discussion but some of the comments made me chuckle.
posted by plep at 2:01 AM on June 10, 2003

Good to see that my crap hometown (Coventry) is listed. Its utterly shite. I left 5 years ago, vowing never to return. So far, so good.
posted by influx at 2:52 AM on June 10, 2003

My own home town of Widnes is so crap they even spelt the name wrong and the link doesnt work. Having just returned from a rare weekend spent there I have plenty of bile to disgorge and will be making a submission to the idler by the end of the day, thanks for providing this excellent outlet misteraitch. Funnily enough all three towns I've ever lived in feature in the list - Coventry and Milton K are the other two - and I have to say that people there are dreaming if they think that they could ever compete with Widnes for sheer unremitting soul-crushing hellishness.
posted by biffa at 2:56 AM on June 10, 2003

Coventry is, actually, hell.

When you're growing up in a small town
When you're growing up in a small town
You say no one famous ever came from here
When you're growing up in a small town
and you're having a nervous breakdown
and you think that you'll never escape it
Yourself or the place that you live
Where did Picasso came from
There's no Michelangelo coming from Pittsburgh
If art is the tip of the iceberg
I'm the part sinking below
When you're growing up in a small town
Bad skin, bad eyes - gay and fatty
People look at you funny
When you're in a small town
My father worked in construction
It's not something for which I am suited
Oh - what is something for which you are suited?
Getting out of there
I hate being odd in a small town
If there stare let they stare in New York City
at this pink eyed painting albino
How far can my fantasy go?
I'm no Dali coming from Pittsburgh
No adorable lisping Capote
My hero - Oh do you think I could meet him?
I'd camp out of his front door
There's only one good thing about a small town
There's only one good use for a small town
There's only one good thing about a small town
You know that you want to get out
When you're growing up in a small town
You know you'll grow down in a small town
There's only one good use for a small town
You hate it and you know you'll have to leave

Lou Reed. It's better when you hear it sung, natch.
posted by Summer at 2:57 AM on June 10, 2003

I used to live in Coventry.
posted by plep at 2:58 AM on June 10, 2003

Note that we have two "I used to live in Coventry" posts but no "I live in Coventry" ones. ;)
posted by twine42 at 3:10 AM on June 10, 2003

Surely it'd have to be Slough.
posted by mopoke at 3:24 AM on June 10, 2003

I have frequently been sent there but never lived there. Good post the comments about liverpool made me chuckle.
posted by johnnyboy at 3:24 AM on June 10, 2003

oh and in case I forget lovely brixton
posted by johnnyboy at 3:27 AM on June 10, 2003

posted by plep at 3:29 AM on June 10, 2003

I do live in Coventry, and while I can find plenty to slag off, to say it is the worst town in the UK is ludicrous, and I refer you to my previous post concerning Widnes. Key differences; Widnes is Coventry without the 1.5 cathedrals, 2nd biggest arts centre in the UK, 2 universities, 2 large cinemas, any theatres, bookshops, (decent shops of any kind come to that), with a sixth of the population and with the added bonus that strangers getting off the train at widnes always enquire as to the smell because of a permanent stench from the chemical factories. The locals are bull-necked f**kwits devoid of any ambition to crawl away from their supturating hellhole and the only sources of entertainment are drinking and treading around the tender sensibilities of shell-suited thugs. The men are ugly and stupid and the women are stupid and ugly.
Widnes' only claim to fame is that Paul Simon once wrote a song on the railway station there about how much he wanted to get the hell out and back home.
posted by biffa at 3:39 AM on June 10, 2003

Why not just declare the UK a crap country and get it over with?
posted by fuzz at 3:52 AM on June 10, 2003

But fuzz, where's the fun in that? is always worth a look if you are interested in this type of thing, and unlike the Idler book, it is constantly evolving.
'Oh dear. Looking for a fun night out in Coventry? I wouldnt start from here.... If you like getting drunk and fighting, then most clubs in Coventry are for you'
Remember, there is still a chance to get your town onto the Idler list, as it is email vote based!
posted by asok at 4:02 AM on June 10, 2003

Well, I lived in Coventry between ages 0-20. I never had a problem with the place until I reached 16 or so and started spending more time elsewhere in the country.

I pretty quickly realised that Coventry is the worst place to live in the UK that I can imagine. It was a revelation to discover that a night out on the tiles in other towns don't end with you having your head bounced off Next's storefront window by some knuckle-dragging primate. The discovery that other cities of comparable sizes have these things called coffee shops and cafés was also something of a revelation.

Obviously I still have some affection for the place, as I can't help still sounding like I'm from Coventry. But I am never, ever going back there if I can help it. I visited for a couple of days a few months ago, and it was indescribably depressing. The big excitement in the city seemed to be the addition of a Gap to the city centre.

Abandon all hope, etc etc.
posted by influx at 4:15 AM on June 10, 2003

Oh, and I also once spent a fair bit of time in Telford, but thankfully never lived there.

That place is utterly bizarre, in an entirely soul-crushing fashion. I used to be forced to spend the night in a Holiday Inn, thereby being left to my own devices in Telford of an evening. The place makes no provisions for pedestrians at all. Telford has no pavements. A trip to the shopping centre (Telford's equivalent of a town centre) involves wading through muddy banks and 6 foot hedges. How people manage to live there, I'll never understand.
posted by influx at 4:18 AM on June 10, 2003

Walsall. Also parts of neighbouring Sandwell.
posted by plep at 4:27 AM on June 10, 2003

Bloody hell, I never realised there were so many MeFites with a Cov connection (or should that be Sky Blue Connexion?!)

Well I was brought up in Leam (ington) and it was only the footy that got me to Cov. Still does. Poor ol' Cov. A city with a great history, destroyed by Hitler & rebuilt by mad-eyed town planners on crack. Visions of the future that lasted until 1973. Ah well, it gave us the Specials & 2Tone and the Sky Blues so can't complain too much.

But there are far more hateful places and for me, Croydon always will be that special hell on earth. The complaints made against it are all true with no defenders.

Actually, the funniest bits of the site are where people are defending towns and being very serious following a particularly funny & vicious attack. My home town of Brighton (rightly) gets a good poke in the eye but the po-faced defences are hilarious.
posted by i_cola at 4:30 AM on June 10, 2003

yep. hull.

lovely people , terrible smell.
Is it really that difficult to close down those bloody factories that stink the place out ?
It doesnt take a genius to figure that one out, they could close them down, give out a few bob in compensation and hull would improve by about 2000 %.
The people are very lovely though and they have a cool wee venue called the adelphi where i saw jonathan richman play a blinder.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:31 AM on June 10, 2003

I've never lived in a town as bad as some that are decribed here, but yes, there are a few towns where I slipped out the back window on a night of full moon and ran through the briars and brambles just as far as my legs could carry me...

On a related note this great Washington Post article on the town they named "the armpit of America", orginally linked in this mefi post.
posted by taz at 4:33 AM on June 10, 2003

To compound my agony, not only am I from Coventry, I was born in Hull (moved to Cov at ~9 months).

Some people get all the breaks.
posted by influx at 4:35 AM on June 10, 2003

Agreed, i_cola. Coventry can't help being ugly and does rather well given recent history.

There are so many others - Stoke-on-Trent, Middlesbrough, Stockton, swathes of London...

Here's a timely piece by William Morris on London.
posted by plep at 4:36 AM on June 10, 2003

Hastings. (click on the dot)
posted by plep at 4:45 AM on June 10, 2003

I was having physio last year in Windsor and the lady tending me said "I'm afraid you'll have a new physio after Christmas."

"Really, why?"

"My husband has got a new job and we are moving to Coventry."

From Windsor to Coventry.

I cried for her that day.
posted by Frasermoo at 4:57 AM on June 10, 2003

Through endless Asia, through the fields of Cathay
or enslaved in pebble-dash grave with a kid on the way
If you're far over Africa on the wings of youth
or if you're down in some satellite town and there's nothing you can do. . .

You might live in a screen kiss, it's a glamorous dream
Or belong to a world that's gone, it's the English disease
posted by the fire you left me at 5:32 AM on June 10, 2003

Hull is great - my band used to play the Adelphi. Mind you, when I travelled up there on the train on a reconnaissance trip to see my chosen University, an old man sitting in the train carriage with me said "'Ull? What you going to 'Ull for? Second ugliest women in the world live in 'Ull" and spat on the floor. I still had a great time there though.

Walsall?? How can anyone say Walsall is horrible? Just take a look at Walsall Wonderland ("Our motto: "Walsall - not as bad as you'd think..." ).

But then, I live in Birmingham.
posted by Pericles at 5:48 AM on June 10, 2003

I'm astounded that Lowestoft isn't on there. It's a truly awful place, the most depressing town I've ever known. Sadly I can't find my copy of W. G. Sebald's wonderful Rings of Saturn, but in it he captured the soul-destroying atmosphere of the place perfectly. The town centre is a concrete jungle, yet somehow it manages to be worse than just anonymous... grimy, dirty, desolate and stinking. Everything, everything is coated in a thick, brown layer of scum provided by the seagulls and pigeons that swoop at you as you walk down the high street - literally a crap town. The salty sea winds that blow all year round don't help, either. In fact, the decrepitude of the place itself is only matched by the people who live there, who are without doubt the most unfriendly and mean I've ever encountered. Also, abandon any hope of a cup of coffee that doesn't come in McDonalds styrofoam.

(In the interests of fairness, I've also known several very nice people who live there. So perhaps it's not all bad. And I've never been to Coventry, which by the sound of things may well be worse.)
posted by zygoticmynci at 5:52 AM on June 10, 2003

Biffa - I came from Runcorn, and used to go over the bridge to Widnes for a drink because it was preferable, more fun etc.
posted by Joeforking at 5:59 AM on June 10, 2003

I live in London, does that count? It is crap in patches (like where I live - Manor House, and where I work - Streatham) and great in others, so probably not in the same league as the many *entirely* crap places listed. Streatham is possibly the crappest part of London, the high street seems to be entirely populated by shambling, hollow eyed junkies, mentally ill people, wizened crones and drug dealers. Every other shop is a fried chicken outlet - Dallas Fried Chicken, Tennessee Fried Chicked, Alaska Fried Chicken (probably)...and the rest are all charity shops and pawn brokers. But it does have Bingo and Ten Pin Bowling, so its not all bad, eh? I supose I am still in shock after ten years living in Cambridge, which is quite nice, really.

My vote for worst town would have to go to Nuneaton, an absolutely awful horrible shag-heap of an abortion, despite my grandmother living there. And I lived in Coventry for a bit, but that was better than Nuneaton.

However, to retain an iota of perspective, all crap English towns are pristine, paradaisical pleasure gardens when compared to the single most disgusting town I have ever had the extreme pleasure to catch dysentry in, this being Sonauli on the India-Nepal border. Boy was that ever a terrible, terrible shithole...

Vancouver is pretty shite as well. Only joking, it is actually the most wonderful city in the Universe. Is there a *great towns* list???
posted by rikabel at 6:29 AM on June 10, 2003

Joeforking - I know your pain. Runcorn is shit, (certainly worse than Coventry) but at least they've knocked down that legoland abomination of an estate and apparently have built a cinema and are building an arts centre (!) - somehow I can't see the people of Halton turning out for cutting edge performance art but who knows. At least widnes doesnt have that busway carving its way thorugh the town.
Perhaps the best solution is if runcorn/widnes enter the shittest town competition as Halton. An unbeatable combination.
posted by biffa at 6:30 AM on June 10, 2003

Naturally I meant widnes/runcorn, you scouse rejects want everything your way don't you?
posted by biffa at 6:32 AM on June 10, 2003

Surely it'd have to be Slough.

Ummm...that'll be me with a Slough postcode then...although I do have to agree with its crapness...

It does have its own museum though....
posted by mattr at 6:36 AM on June 10, 2003

Used to live in Streatham too.

all crap English towns are pristine, paradaisical pleasure gardens when compared to the single most disgusting town I have ever had the extreme pleasure to catch dysentry in, this being Sonauli on the India-Nepal border.

My choice - Hillbrow, in Johannesburg. One of the most dangerous places in the world outside of war zones.
posted by plep at 6:38 AM on June 10, 2003

Joeforking: I was surprised that Runcorn isn't on the list. The only time I went there was 1987 to visit a friend who lived on the Southgate Estate, possibly the most scary place in the universe. Somebody had been stabbed to death on his doorstep the weekend before I arrived. Apparently the bod who designed the place won an award for the amount of people he managed to cram in.

rickabel: Oh thanks! I'd managed to forget about Nunny Town until you mentioned it. And let us not the forget the bastard offspring of Coventry & Leicester: Hinckley *shudder*.

Gillingham. There's no entry for not-all-of-the-Medway-towns-are-cute-oh-no-Gillingham.
posted by i_cola at 6:42 AM on June 10, 2003

Oh God, Hinckley...let's just write off the whole midlands area and call it a day, shall we?
posted by rikabel at 7:08 AM on June 10, 2003

Also not mentioned, and less exciting even than Nuneaton, is Atherstone, an intensely uninteresting yet mildly spooky backwater where I once spent the better, or should I say longer part of a year.

The upper reaches of the South Wales valleys are home to at least a dozen crap towns, which all combine run-down grimness, nothing-to-do tedium, and a really nasty climate: to Merthyr and Blaenavon (already listed) one could easily add Ebbw Vale, Tredegar, Rhymney, Bargoed, Aberdare...
posted by misteraitch at 7:11 AM on June 10, 2003

Another Streatham escapee.
rikabel forgot to mention that at one time (still?) Streatham could proudly boast the worst air pollution of any UK street (narrow main street flanked by tall buildings with 24 hour diesel spewing traffic gave the air a special tang and an after-taste you can enjoy all day). It also has an alarming number of pharmacies. Is Caesars nightclub still there? I always enjoyed watching the local socialites forming a long queue down the street, waiting to get in, in their highly fashionable (I guess) socialite styles, revealing as much as was legally permissible the freezing rain of a November Saturday evening. The post-office was probably the epicentre of the crushing depression that is Streatham. Anyone who went in at all cheerful always left (eventually) with a hollow expression of resigned despondence.
Happy days.
posted by normy at 7:27 AM on June 10, 2003

...and I forgot to mention (or maybe surpressed the memory) the smack-head who lived next-door to our basement apartment who'd cheerfully (one supposes) launch used needles from a second-floor window, often just as I was arriving home, or more often than probability might suggest. But by some twisted logic, this always seemed preferable to the prostitutes who considered our dimly lit front-step the ideal business premises.
Strangely, I don't miss the place.
posted by normy at 7:47 AM on June 10, 2003

Having been to a great deal of the places listed, I think we seem to have left off one of the most obvious choices. While Hull and Coventry would have to rank (and rank is definitely a word I'd use for both) I still think my vote lies elsewhere. Somewhere between a rotting hulk of a closed Birmingham mill and a Welsh slag heap lies the concrete block gem that is Wolverhampton. I was actually told once on one of my trips into Snodonia that it was better to go all the way up to Liverpool and then to Conwy and down then to have to change trains in Wolverhampton, turns out they were right. The only way to describe Wolverhampton is gray, gray buildings, gray skies, gray faces, even the trains are gray. Wolverhampton doesn't even have the "bombed out by Nazis" excuse of the coast, they've done this to themselves by their own choice.

Now with that said, I don't understand how Tiverton even holds a flicker to some of these more obvious crap towns. Tiverton compared to Portsmouth? Come now! If you must pick a Devon town, how about Bideford? Where else has the river caught fire? What other town can wish so much to be Barnstable and yet fall so short?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:48 AM on June 10, 2003

Wolverhampton.... noooo!

I was born there. ;)

I still think Sandwell is worse.
posted by plep at 8:11 AM on June 10, 2003

UK-filter :-)

I lived in Walsall (OK, the posh part) till I was 18, and yes, it's utterly crap. Wolverhampton is much the same, only a little bigger.

I now work near Didcot, and it makes Walsall look good. No amenities, no facilities, no shops, just field after field of commuter-ville. And a whopping great power station.

By these standards, Coventry is a paradise on earth.
posted by salmacis at 8:15 AM on June 10, 2003

Don't knock Didcot.

It keeps trainspotters away from the rest of us.
posted by monkey closet at 8:19 AM on June 10, 2003

leicester is the nicest place i've lived in (beats edinburgh, cambridge, santiago and ties with la serena). great place. thriving local arts scene (exhibitions in the gallery regularly), good independent cinema, excellent market 6 days a week, near enough to london, lots of bike lanes, good running route along the canal, cheap housing, far enough south for decent weather, loads of cafes, good restaurants (excellent indian food of course, but also spanish and italian).

so there. and it's near coventry. you should move.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:19 AM on June 10, 2003

It may not be as obviously crappy as the above places, but Northampton will destroy your soul and crush your spirit as fast as anywhere...
posted by monkey closet at 8:21 AM on June 10, 2003

No Swindon?
posted by twine42 at 8:50 AM on June 10, 2003

It occurs to me, that if we all wrote to George Bush and told him that there are Weapons of Mass Destruction in the west midlands, he'd come and bomb shite out of it all, and then reconstruct it to look like somewhere better, like Cleveland Ohio, or DeadSquaw Wyoming.
posted by Pericles at 8:55 AM on June 10, 2003

As the joke went earlier this year..

An earthquake centred on Dudley struck last night, causing £50 million worth of improvements..
posted by salmacis at 9:08 AM on June 10, 2003

Pericles - we could do it anyway and just watch as they improve the place. Salmacis has already done that joke? Well tough, I'll do it anyway. ;)
posted by twine42 at 9:11 AM on June 10, 2003

Surely it'd have to be Slough.

All I know about Slough, I've learned from The Office. In case any other Yanks were looking for a hook here...
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:42 AM on June 10, 2003

I'm glad my hometown of Barnstaple's on there.

"Hemmed in between Exmoor and the Atlantic Ocean, its occupants develop a "frontier" attitude to the rest of the country. Anywhere outside of the North Devon area might as well be on Mars."

True. I told a farmer I was moving to Cheltenham, about 100 miles from Barnstaple. He asked me where it was and I said "just above Bristol." "Above Bristol!" he replied. I'm sure he had no idea there was anything above Bristol.
posted by hnnrs at 9:47 AM on June 10, 2003

OF course, if we asked George Dubya to take out Nuneaton and Coventry, he doubtless would. After all, he'd probably not know the difference between bomberizing the middle east and the destructification of the east midlands..
posted by Pericles at 9:57 AM on June 10, 2003

A friend of mine just moved from Coventry to Streatham.


Words fail me.
posted by influx at 10:00 AM on June 10, 2003

Lay off the West Midlands you bunch of bastards. ;-)

Birmingham: it's not shit, featuring the fabulous b3ta song.
posted by squealy at 10:18 AM on June 10, 2003

Billingham, woohoo.

They make it sound better than it is, though. "Soul-less estates" are what you get in the better areas — if you're unlucky, you can find yourself walking down some deadend street with hovels which look like they came straight out of some third world country stretching off into the distance.

But hey, we have broadband, reliable services, and low costs of living, so I suppose it isn't all bad provided you avoid most of it…
posted by Freaky at 10:33 AM on June 10, 2003

Normy: Oh yes, Caesars is still going strong, I am sad to report...and as for the post office - it seems to be frequented solely by lunatics...
posted by rikabel at 10:35 AM on June 10, 2003

Basingstoke. Modelled on the fifth circle of Hell.
posted by riviera at 10:46 AM on June 10, 2003

i_cola and biffa - I left Runcorn a long time ago never to return, I am one of the original inhabitants, from before we had all those scousers dropped on our heads. The creation of the newtown effectively destroyed the place where I spent my chidhood, hence the lack of desire to go back there. From what I hear Widnes & Runcorn are pretty much the same now, so a vote for Halton sounds good.

Also Southgate was not a good place to do acid.
posted by Joeforking at 11:22 AM on June 10, 2003

Points for anyone who (as I have) has spent any time at all in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex. Simply horrendous.
posted by Dan Brilliant at 11:27 AM on June 10, 2003

hnnrs, the last time I was in Barnstable, I was waiting for a train sitting drinking a morning cup of tea, a very nice old lady asked if she could share my table. She proceeded to carry on and on in a half hour one sided conversation with me which I, being a damn dirty yank, had very little idea of anything she was talking about, between her poor English, slang, bad oral hygiene, thick accent and general unworldliness. She even asked me where I was from and when I told her she asked, I kid you not, if that was near London. She was too well mannered, clean and had a paid ticket to Exeter to be an complete loony. I've often wondered if, because of my accent and speech, she could understand anything that I was saying to her in return? Anyway, as I said, Bideford wishes it had the posh amenities of Barnstable! Remember you can't spell Torridge without t-o-r-r-i-d.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:43 AM on June 10, 2003 [1 favorite]

Barnstaple, damnit! Sorry, I've been over here too long!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:47 AM on June 10, 2003

i work and used to live in andover, hampshire. it's so pathetic it doesn't even get onto the map. and why? the people that live there are so uncultured that they wouldn't even know what a PC is let alone to connect to the interneweb.

to call them luddites would be flattering, because at least a luddite has a cause and a mind enough to try to prevent change. people from andover would be apathetic if they could spell it. but instead just repeat their forefathers mistakes before dying alone on one of the sprawling council estates.

god, i hate the place.
posted by triv at 11:54 AM on June 10, 2003

Felixstowe, the arsehole of Suffolk.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 11:58 AM on June 10, 2003

didn't churchill stand by and allow coventry to be bombed to dust in ww2 to protect the secrecy of the enigma device? apparently then, he also stood by and allowed it rebuilt...
posted by quonsar at 2:30 PM on June 10, 2003

Basingstoke. Modelled on the fifth circle of Hell.

Fifth is probably a bit charitable...

Local traffic measures are so roundabout-centric that the official webring is the Basingstoke Roundabout.

Half the place was recently bulldozed and redeveloped. They topped a £30 (?) million pound development with this.

Nothing but class here.
posted by PeteTheHair at 2:57 PM on June 10, 2003

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