Rightmove’s annual ‘Happy at Home’ index came out yesterday, naming Hexham, a leafy market town in Northumbria, the happiest place to live in Great Britain. Residents scored highest on ‘happiness factors’ ranging from a sense of community to feeling safe, outperforming more affluent towns like Harrogate and Richmond-on-Thames, which came second and third.
In fact, it seems that Hexham’s happiness has very little to do with wealth at all. Average median household income in Hexham is £38,000 and house prices are nearly £50,000 below the national average, according to Rightmove. Though not poor, Hexham’s rank seems to be driven more by the town’s amenities than individual income: crime rates and pollution levels are low; A&E waiting times are among the lowest in the country, schools are mostly rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ and there is a lot of space (roughly three hectares per person).
It’s almost as if Hexham’s beauty lies in its banality. Beyond its touristic appeal, there isn’t much to distinguish Hexham from any shire town around England. As our UnHerd Britain survey shows, it is a broadly pro-monarchist, socially conservative town, not especially religious — all of which may not be surprising given that only 2% of residents are non-British nationals.
It all sounds like the Brexit voters’ dream, a kind of distilled perfect version of everything Nigel Farage could hope for.
Except for one detail: it voted Remain in 2016, by 55% to 45%.