Capital of Disappointment

For a small town (70k at the 2001 census) Nuneaton has punched above its weight, culturally speaking. George Eliot was born there and used the environs as the canvas for most of her novels. The Milby of Scenes of Clerical Life is a thinly disguised Nuneaton while the election day riot from Felix Holt actually happened in Nuneaton with a teenage Mary Ann Evans as a witness. The life of the town is thus woven into the work of one of the English language’s greatest novelists.

And how does the town commemorate this? By promoting her literature? No, it does it by naming every fixed structure after her.

There’s a George Eliot school, a George Eliot pub, a George Eliot hospital (in which your correspondent was born) and for the dying, a Mary Ann Evans hospice.

It’s nothing more than a label, the literary-civic equivalent of those mass produced Led Zeppelin t-shirts worn by girls who wouldn’t know Houses of the Holy if it bit them on the arse. You doubt me? The town didn’t have a bookshop until 1999.

That other proponent of realism, Ken Loach was also born there, but you wouldn’t know it at all from visiting. Mind you, Mary Whitehouse was also a Nuneatonite, but I’m glad no one really knows that.

Inhabitants of nearby locales refer to Nuneaton as ‘Treacle Town’. The etymology is obscure, but one popular explanation is that it’s because Nuneatonites are so thick. Charming, if not entirely unfair. Still, at least our accent isn’t as bad as theirs. Ours is more of a watered-down Brummie. For an example, think Pete Waterman. (But only briefly, please.) It’s not just the accent that is pitiful either. The days of mining and car manufacturing behind it, these days, the town is little more than a dormitory for the belt of industrial estates that surround it, making it something like the Little Middlesbrough That Couldn’t.



Lost It

We used to have this game called The Alzheimer’s Line. It was the only thing you would say to demonstrate to  your nearest and dearest that you no longer had their faculties.

The contest for the best line was won by: “The worst mistake I ever made was leaving Nuneaton to come to art school in the Sixties.”

Linda Grant



These lovely Nuneaton pictures come thanks to Adam Steiner.

You can find him here:

And on Twitter: @HereComesEvery1
Thank you Adam!

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6 Responses to Nuneaton

  1. hullablue says:

    There was a bookshop long before 99, next door to what is now the Indian Red. It was subject of the headline ‘Sex on Sale in Nuneaton’ in the Tribune when they stocked Madonna’s book, titled Sex

  2. Cibele says:

    haha! i agree with you!

  3. George Eliot says:

    We’ve just moved here from way up north and I have to say, in the summer with clear blue skies and a nice warm breeze it really isn’t that bad – although there are more than a few interesting specimens in town every time I walk to the bank (but let’s be honest, that’s Britain rather than just Nuneaton)..

    Good point about the George Eliot naming of everything however..

  4. Russo-Nunny says:

    I understand that this article is a satirical side-swipe at Nuneaton and how dreary the place is; I get it, I grew-up there. However, your derision of the Capital of Disappointment jars with me. Nuneaton had a bookshop for years in, fittingly enough for Nunny, ‘The Arcade’ on Abbey Street. Imagine ‘Acorn Antiques’ with more print. I have fond memories of placing a special order for (now prepare yourself to hold your hands to your face, à la Edvard Munch) a Russian-English dictionary for my key stage three Russian course that (brace, brace) Higham Lane School provided for students in 1994. A literary wasteland? I’m not sure your labels stick, although I did flee in 2000.

    • samjordison says:

      Lovely! We stand (partially) corrected! What was the bookshop called? If it’s still there, I’d be glad to give it a plug.

      • Roderick Grubb says:

        Reg Haddon’s was a bookshop when I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, used to get my Ian Allen books from there.

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