Jaywick: from seaside retreat to England’s most deprived neighbourhood

As it was in 2010, an area to the east of Jaywick, Essex, has been identified as the most deprived neighbourhood in the England according to the 2015 Indices of Deprivation published by the Department of Communities and Local Government. It confirms the inexorable decline of the former seaside resort into an area of limited prospects and impoverishment.

Run-down properties in East Jaywick, officially the most deprived of England's 32,844 neighbourhoods
Run-down properties in East Jaywick, officially the most deprived of England’s 32,844 neighbourhoods

Jaywick’s conception was one of optimism. Designed as an affordable summer retreat for working class Londoners on an area of salt marsh in the 1930s, it provided a welcome escape from the polluted and overcrowded inner suburbs of the capital. Holidaymakers were quick to take-up the offer and the village was a thriving seaside community in the years leading up to World War Two.

The emergence of Jaywick from salt marsh (l - 1923) to seaside retreat (r - 1939)
The emergence of Jaywick from salt marsh (l – 1923) to seaside retreat (r – 1939)
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Jaywick in the 1930s

The village was never intended as a permanent settlement, with the housing designed for temporary summer accommodation rather than providing year-round shelter. After the war, however, the housing shortage created by bomb damage and rapid immigration from Britain’s colonies led to Jaywick becoming inhabited throughout the year.

Its unsuitability for such a purpose was confirmed in 1953, when 35 people were killed in the village during the North Sea Flood, during which the sea wall was breached and several of the flimsy houses capsized. Since then, it is fair to say, Jaywick has never really recovered.

Jaywick under water, 1953
Jaywick under water, 1953

Whereas many similar seaside developments were demolished post-WWII, the village has persisted in a somewhat depressing limbo. With travel overseas becoming increasingly cheap and budget holidays abroad particularly popular with the working class, a summer sojourn to coastal Essex now has very limited appeal. This has understandably impacted upon the local economy, with little left but provision of domestic services to employ locals.

With the housing stock in a desperate state and the majority of businesses having closed, Jaywick resembles a ghost town. Alcoholism and drug abuse are prolific and, despite an enduring sense of community and an active residents’ association, there are few serious proposals for reversing the cataclysmic cycle of misery.

What originated as a plan to alleviate the relentless poverty and destitution of London’s working classes has sadly crumbled into a mirror image of the conditions from which Jaywick had offered a tangible escape.

Do not be surprised to see it top the list of deprivation in 2020…providing that it has not been abandoned to the unforgiving sea before then.

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Author: Stefan Lang

An interested observer of current affairs, researcher and writer

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