diamond geezer

 Thursday, January 14, 2021

Thanks for letting us know the largest English town you haven't been to.

Collectively it's Liverpool, but you have to dig deeper into the data to make proper sense of it.

120 of you provided an answer to the question, cheers, and 16 said Liverpool was the largest place they'd never visited. It is on the coast, i.e. somewhere you'd normally only visit on purpose rather than pass through, which may be why some of you have missed it. Equally Liverpool's an iconic World Heritage City packed with interest, unlike say Birmingham which only stumped 8 of you, which makes its omission all the more surprising.

n.b. This doesn't mean 16 of you haven't been to Liverpool (because if you hadn't been to Birmingham you wouldn't have got this far down the list).
n.b. It also doesn't mean Liverpool is the least visited English city. I bet far more of you have never been to Bradford, but that was further down the list and half of you never got that far.

Importantly this was a self-selecting survey open to a global audience, so foreign visitors could (and did) skew the upper reaches of the statistics. Also we mustn't assume that everyone is a sightseeing nomad with a budget to match, nor has had the opportunity to scour the country over several decades. I'd have given a very different response to this question twenty years ago.

Here's how your responses tallied for England's fourteen largest cities. Three-quarters of you stumbled within this range.

12Kingston upon Hull10
13Newcastle upon Tyne0

» Everyone's been to London.
» England's second city, however, is less of a draw.
» Bristol stopped a lot of you, and Sheffield even more. Both are fantastic cities and I would strongly recommend a visit.
» Manchester performed strongly, as befits a cultural behemoth.
» Bradford halted several of you, even those who'd been to neighbouring Leeds.
» Hull's peripheral location strikes again!
» Well done to Newcastle, the first zero after London.
» Stoke-on-Trent tripped up 11% of all those who got that far.

After Stoke only two other towns stopped as many as four of you. One was Northampton in 21st place and the other was Bolton in 29th. These aren't typical tourist towns, nor anywhere you'd normally head on a whim, but are none the less fascinating for that. I still reflect on my day trip to Stoke which completely changed my view of the place.

Nine of you got further down the list than I did. I stopped at Sunderland (32nd) and one of you stopped at Warrington one rung lower. Poole (37th) and Telford (39th) halted a few football fans who regularly travel to away matches. Philip got as far as Blackpool (43rd) helped by "a career in retail". Paul swept all the way down to Sutton Coldfield (66th) courtesy of "being a bus spotter when younger". Colin's interest in transport incredibly got him to St Albans (90th), while Jo W was very put out to discover she'd never been to Redditch (98th). But our winner is Man of Kent who's been to every single one of the 100 largest towns in England, travelling so widely that he fell off the bottom of the ONS's official list.

I was so intrigued by the geographical distribution of the 100 largest towns and cities that I knocked up a Google map. Here's a thumbnail, and if you click on it you'll get the full zoomable scrollable experience.

The two black blobs are the two cities with over a million inhabitants, that's London and Birmingham. The nine dark brown blobs are all the other cities with a population over 300,000. With the sole exception of Bristol they're all in the North and the Midlands, approximately following a big arc around the Peak District. The lighter the colour the lower the population, down to the 26 yellow blobs with a population between 75,000 and 100,000.

Lancashire and Yorkshire have the greatest concentration of blobs, while the coast does particularly well in the south and the east. Such is London's primacy that it's surrounded by light-coloured blobs rather than darker ones. But my eye is really drawn to the areas with no blobs at all. Once you pass Bristol and Bournemouth the southwest really only has Plymouth and Exeter. Norwich is the only large settlement across much of East Anglia and the Fens. North of York there's nothing other than a cluster of big towns in Tyne and Wear.

England is a fascinatingly diverse country with so much in reach, whether your taste is urban or rural, historic or modern, upland or coastal. If and when you get the opportunity, I heartily recommend exploring as much of it as you possibly can. Don't be the blinkered one saying "I haven't been to most of those cities, because, why would I want to?"

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