The town that’s cruelly been dubbed the ugliest place in Britain to live
Hertfordshire is home to some of the wealthiest residents anywhere in the UK.
On average, people there earn slightly more than £45,000 — more than in the “posh” county of Surrey.
Yet, it appears that wealth doesn’t necessarily equate to the Queen’s etiquette, and neither is it evenly distributed.
One town in particular has caught attention in recent years and was once voted the “ugliest” town in Britain.
Hemel Hempstead sits in the country’s west, near St Albans and just 24 miles away from London.
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It is a relative baby when compared to other towns around the country, developed as part of the ‘new town’ drive after World War 2 — although a settlement in the area has been around since at least the Anglo-Saxon times.
In 2013, the publication ‘Crap Towns’, held its final annual survey asking its readers to cast their votes.
Back then, Hemel Hempstead came out on top, followed by Luton in Bedfordshire — the winner of the previous two votes — and Slough in Berkshire.
A lot can change in 10 years, and towns up and down the country have transformed themselves and their reputations.
Up-to-date information about Hemel Hempstead suggests otherwise, however.
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Late last year, Hertfordshire Live travelled to the town to find out whether it had changed, meeting one resident who succinctly said: “Hemel Hempstead is not a s*** hole itself, it’s mainly the people that have made it s*** hole.
“You will find with the people here they are absolutely nuts, popping out babies at a young age, not knowing who the father is and smoking weed.”
Another person, who had lived in Dunstable — the most dangerous medium-sized town in Bedfordshire — for 11 years said they “didn’t think it could get much worse.”
The publication gave its own verdict: “There are many towns worth exploring around our beautiful county, big and small, which are full of diversity and their own communities. However, the difference between the old and new towns in Hertfordshire’s Hemel Hempstead is truly something worth seeing.
“The new town was a world apart from the oldy-worldy cobbled streets, traditional pubs and old English buildings of just 100m behind me.
“The old town felt like Hertfordshire, this felt like London. The buildings were covered head to toe in scaffolding and seemed run down and full of people. The town was also busy with people enjoying the sunshine.”
Today, Hemel Hempstead is the second safest major town in Hertfordshire, although is the 21st most dangerous overall out of 140 towns, villages, and cities in the county.
The crime rate isn’t much better, with 69 crimes committed per 1,000 people, a figure which compares poorly to Hertfordshire’s overall crime rate, coming in 12 percent higher than the average total.
Among the worst crime is burglary and shoplifting, although the most common crimes are violence and sexual offences, with some 2,745 related offences being committed in 2022 alone.
Despite this, the town does have a lot to offer. There’s Marlowe’s indoor shopping centre filled with independent shops, cafes, pop-ups and high-street names.
In the heart of the new town is the New Town Square which hosts regular events on a big screen that shows films in the warmer summer months. There’s also a stage that holds regular performances on the square.
Markets make up Hemel Hempstead, Wednesdays offering residents and visitors antique goods, while the latter half of the week plays host to your classic British market, with anything from fruit and veg to handbags on sale.
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