Jaywick – a Fallen Seaside Town – 1


In this short series, I explore and investigate the unique English seaside town of Jaywick, famous for its poverty and negative appearances on Benefits by the Sea. It was named the most deprived area in England in 2015. 

A morose, Essex beach. Town in decay. Peeling walls and crumbling ceilings.


7.6.2013 15:45

Jaywick is a curious town; small detached bungalows work a grid over the land up to the sea wall and the desolate beach. Between the rickety shack bungalows run gravel roads, narrow and littered with rusted truck chassis, with lumps of rock and concrete chipped from bits of walls and bollards, old cars; a few usable, some serviceable, most wrecked or decomposed beyond repair.


Elsewhere you see burnt out caravans. Now a crumbling exo-skeleton. They sit lopsided at the side of the road or in trashed driveways like boulders; unlikely ever to be moved. In the time that remains they are left to erode. And just as biological matter decays back to the ground that spawned it, so too do the rotten, burnt caravans—structures soaked and melted by rain—decay back to their own industrial spawning grounds. As eventually the roofs and walls peel back until just a rusted frame remains. Then it sits at home amongst the detritus of Jaywick.


This is a seaside town that never recovered from the recession. I don’t mean in 2008. I mean in the forties. It’s the sort of place where people sell used fishing rods, sofas, VHS cassettes, garden ornaments, from fold-up plastering tables erected in their front gardens, with hand scrawled prices on note paper blu-tacked onto a stained tablecloth.


The shops that were open here when I was a kid are mostly closed now. Not only closed but boarded up and shedding flakes of paint, roofs swelling inwards from damp, weeds and nettles poking out through the gaps in unbagged rubbish dumped shoulder high in the back-access alleyways. The beach has changed too. It seems less picturesque and idealic and so more real. In that closeness to reality it finds greater beauty. And the less uniform something is, the closer to nature it is.




Long, dry grass grows on the beach now. It prickles your ankles and shins as you walk and rustles in the wind. The sand no longer has a soft decline towards the water. The gradient is different. Now the beach is made of small ridges with little channels of sea water runoff. Still there are the lines of black, crispy seaweed, dried in the sun and stinking of salt. There’s about four lines of weed up the beach, each one a different resting place of the tide.


The buildings here are almost all wood frame. They burn like small stars. Viewed from the sea a burning structure here would cast a flickering orange light across all the isolated roof tops around it. That sort of light suits the atmosphere of this town. Lots of people might observe Jaywick and call it a throwback, say that it is old fashioned. I think that a place this decrepit, with this many burnt out homes, that reeks this much of poverty and crime, can only be a taste of the future.

It is a town built upon fragments. Built up as fragments. The homes started as holiday huts before people lost their city houses and moved to those huts out of desperation. Then they started to add fragments—extensions—until all the rooms made a home. Many have only three; a living room with a kitchen and sink area, a bathroom and a bedroom.

Peopled salvaged what stone and other usable building materials came ashore and soon it’d be part of their front garden wall. History—literally—sits in the improvised walls of the residents.


The caravan itself bears describing. It says a lot of this town’s character. It is very old and un-roadworthy, probably from the seventies or earlier. The road-facing outside window is smashed and covered with a sheet of cheap wood. Once the exterior was a fresh summer cream. Now it is the off yellow of a chain smoker’s index finger. It is lined with dust, sand from the beach and dots of green and black mould.

The inside is small, consisting of a kitchen-type side unit at the front, next to a tiny toilet room, then two sofas facing one another that convert to beds. Around the ceiling and parting the two sofas are cabinets and draws. All of these units are covered with faded mahogany-effect panels. It tries but there is no hiding that this was always a budget caravan. The wallpaper, where wallpaper remains, is creased and full of tunnels of air. The paper itself has the lankness of grey flesh, moulded and peeling off in strips and tears.

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About Luke Smith

I travel around and write about it. When I'm not travelling around, I write about whatever seems meaningful to me at the time; these are usually meditations on current events, finding ways to survive the crushing existential grind of modern civilisation or vaguely philosophical musings.
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9 Responses to Jaywick – a Fallen Seaside Town – 1

  1. You write on your home page about practicing… are you practicing description or storytelling or both? I found your descriptions of life in this seaside town compelling. You offered images in words that coincide with the pictures but have the air of a writer searching for truth among the ashes. I enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, I appreciate your comment very much. I’m glad it hit well for you. I’m talking about the practice of writing generally, but the nature of what i’m doing here that does mean a lot of descriptive things. It’s a chance to try and not been purple at least… I try to use it work on many elements of the craft though. What have you found useful in improving your writing skill and moving forward as an author?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Definitely practice! I started blogging to write more, and to do it purposefully. My writing has improved. And my joy in it has grown exponentially.
        As far as moving forward in the publishing community, following other authors, staying in touch on trends, and following the bread crumbs in my path, leads to good things. Building authentic relationships has two-fold benefits. First, because people matter. And second, people know people–you never know what connection is THE connection that changes your life.
        I definitely don’t have an “I made it” story. But I do have a “when I do make it, it won’t be alone” story I hope to tell someday. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lana says:

    I have never been to Jaywick, but after your post I may just well retire here 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jaywickman says:

    I spent much of my youth there, my first child, my daughter, was born there, and I would love to retire there (yes, Lana!). There is more to Jaywick than Brooklands, much of which is now derelict but will one day be restored (or all washed away in a great flood like that of 1953! – which I remember). Anyone visiting should approach Jaywick first walking along the coastal path from Clacton past the Martello Tower, and and as well as walking along the Jaywick seafront should walk up Golf Green Road where the houses are much better – some very big and worth half a million or more these days. Then, of course, there is the “posh” Tudor Estate, which likes to pretend it is part of Clacton but is and always has been part of Jaywick.
    The worst thing is not the dereliction of some of the houses near the sea but the way the marshland surrounding Jaywick has been covered by caravan sites. Those caravans replaced the houses by the sea as cheap and desirable holiday accomodation – it is not true that the kind of people who used to come to Jaywick started going abroad, they are not people who enjoy such places as Spain, they want beer and bingo and fish-and-chips and Chinese take-away and rain and fresh sea air, all of which are there waiting and ready at the caravan parks.
    But worse, much worse, the caravan sites destroyed much of the natural marshland, home to so many birds and other wildlife. But there is still some left beyond all the caravans. Go and find it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your interesting and insightful comment. Much appreciated. There is definitely more to Jaywick than Brooklands, but even there, despite its look, there is a charm. You see things in Brooklands you won’t see anywhere else. The walk you describe into Jaywick from Clacton is one of my favourites. I’ve heard about the Tudor Estate and its soreness about being associated with the goddamn common rabble of the rest of Jaywick. I find it very amusing.

      You make very thoughtful points about the marshland and the caravan sites which I think most people don’t consider. In a later post I will explore some of the marshland beyond Jaywick, a very beautiful and remote area.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Homelessness and Poverty – Cruelty and The Cold in Pre-World War 3 Britain | Journeys Through Pre-World War 3 Britain

  5. Pingback: Jaywick – The long walk back – 4 | Journeys Through Pre-World War 3 Britain

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