Most of what you know about Widnes today can be seen in the “Widnes Eye””


(Thanks Peter Smith to for that photo!)

In the meantime, as a bonus, here’s the entry on Widnes from the first book of Crap Towns:

It claims to be in Cheshire but was once in Lancashire yet should really be in Merseyside: which goes some way to explaining why its inhabitants have the most horrible accent in the world.

There is no town centre, just a couple of main streets that are half terraced houses half shops. The Widnes–Runcorn Bridge, as seen in Merseybeat, is often the last place on earth that its many suicide jumpers see. The place is constantly under the shadow of the great big vapour clouds coming from the Fiddlers Ferry power station. The rain it brings when it mixes with all the chemicals in the air must be the main reason why everybody from Widnes looks like an extra from the film Deliverance.
Widnes. the place where the majority of the carcasses from the foot and mouth epidemic were incinerated.

Simon Barker

And another sterling demolition of the town:

The home of the Victorian chemical industry, Widnes was left with pollution bubbling under the surface of huge tracts of land, some inhabited, some not.

The uninhabited parts can be experienced from the municipal golf course – and your ball will dissolve in most of them. Alternatively, you’ll notice the state of things by observing any of the roads that so pointedly bypass the town. They all start always start bucking months after they open. You see, it’s not earth you build on here, but ‘Galigoo’- Widnesians’ own name for the noxious chemical waste that was dumped everywhere up until the start of the last century.

The inhabited parts still seem to be growing too, over 100 years after the dumping stopped, as residential areas are reclassified as contaminated land. The inhabitants of one of the poorest boroughs in the country are expected to pay to remove themselves.

So that’s the history, then there’s now. Sure there are still some chemical factories which give Widnes it’s bracing and ever changing smell and help Widnes perform respectably in the air pollution charts. But this is the place that in the recent years they have decided to build Europes largest coal fired power station, incinerate all the ‘sewerage sludge’ i.e. heavy metals etc that cannot be recycled from human excrement, for the whole north west of England (18,000 tonnes a day), and site an animal rendering plant that disposed of all the foot and mouth infected carcasses in the UK – after they had stopped burning and burying them on safety grounds. Basically, send your shit here, because we are used to it and we don’t care.

Mercifully, life in Widnes is short. With the one of the highest mortality rates in the country, particularly from cancer and heart disease (read the reports, it’s all there), it would be easy to blame the industry if the people didn’t live on chips, beer and fags, but that brings us back to education. Guess what, it’s crap. And my school field had an asbestos tip on it. They’ve put a fence round it now. Future generations are safe!

Mark the Nark

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7 Responses to Widnes

  1. Linda Grant says:

    I’m delighted to announce that in my forthcoming novel, Widnes will feature in several chapters. I started my career as a junior reporter on the Widnes Weekly News

    • samjordison says:

      That is indeed delightful! Do you have good Widnes stories? All will be gratefully received. More importantly when is the novel out?!

      (For those Crap Towns readers who don’t know who Linda Grant is, lookee here. Her previous book, We Had It So Good received a glowing review in the New York Times. The one before that The Clothes On Their Backs was shortlisted for the Booker. They are both wonderful.)

  2. samjordison says:

    I’m getting lots of comments on Twitter about how unsurprising it is that the town inspired Paul Simon to write “Homeward Bound”… I had assumed that was an urban myth…

  3. Mich says:

    I actually got to this page via someone on Facebook. However this person lives in Warrington. People in glass-houses………etc……etc…..etc…..

  4. Paul Clark says:

    Widnes has the finest and kindest people in the world, and nowhere else would you come across people who are so loyal to their neighbours. I moved to London 30 years ago, and oh, how London people could learn a thing or two about kindness.

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