Haverhill is the name of a town of approximately 25,000 population in the county of Suffolk, England, which shares its name also with a town in the US state of Massachusetts. It's about 15 miles to the east of Cambridge, 20 miles south-west of Bury St. Edmunds, and about 50 miles north of London. A market town with some industry (including dartboard manufacture, meatpacking, biotechnology, and the largest toothbrush factory in Europe), it is now notable primarily for being a rather ugly London overspill town. It is twinned with the far nicer Pont St. Esprit in France, and Ehringshausen in Germany. It has the dubious honour of being the second largest town in the UK with no railway station, most likely because nobody wants to go there.

And as a former resident of Haverhill, well, at least until the age of fourteen, I can authoritatively state that the town is pretty awful, as it happens.

For instance, there is one particular eyesore known as the Clements Estate. Built in the 1960s to contain the London overspill, the town planners who came up with this area were, apparently, rewarded for stuffing the most residences into the smallest space possible without resorting to blocks of high rise flats. They managed this feat by virtue of the town's rather hilly landscape, building terraces which were attached by their "long" sides, rather than the ends, side to side, as if the development had been emptied down the hill, so to speak, like a morass of leftover, variable-quality cheap housing. This was considered rather a good thing at the time, but the declining state of the properties in question since then has rendered them into what certain individuals have called a slum-like condition.

The town centre is pretty awful as well. Aside from the usual smattering of lower-end high street places, there is yet more grey concrete, brown concrete, and that particularly odious type of concrete with loads of small pebbles in it. In a half-hearted attempt at rendering the town centre a wee bit more beautiful, the council, in one of their neverending jollifications and junkets, decided to install an authentic (it was originally in Haverhill in the 1920s but was moved, for some reason, to Wood Green in London at some point) circular turned granite horse trough. Except it transpired that one of the trough's eight legs had broken off in transit. So rather than commission a replacement leg to be built, the council, in their infinite wisdom, moved all the other legs round so it looks like it was meant to be seven-legged originally, but instead makes it look fucking stupid. There's also the usual smattering of pubs, which are the best places to go of an evening if you like the idea of being glassed or places where the bouncers are employed to keep out the over 18s. And the obligatory nearby dodgy kebab emporia and suchlike. Apparently, Haverhill now has a nightclub but by all accounts it's not very good; and rumours abound that it also has plastic glasses.

One individual has remarked that the best bit of Haverhill is the large dual carriageway bypass, so one doesn't have to go through it, but even this has been spoilt by the addition of a laser-lit "work of art" atop one of the roundabouts which resembles a wire-frame toilet roll, or a crashed rocket, both of which aptly sum up the town in my opinion. The bypass also brings into question the sanity of the town council; they commissioned it, started building it, then ran out of money 2/3 of the way round. Oops. There is also a rather large industrial development on the south side of the town, where various chemical and biotechnology plants can be found, some of which give off particularly choice smells which waft down to the rest of the town on certain days.

Haverhill, Massachusetts I have never visited, so I can't really comment on it. It can't possibly be as dull and foulsome, though, as Haverhill, Suffolk. Seriously. There is really nothing positive I can really say at all about Haverhill, sadly, apart from the road that leads out, which is a place of outstanding natural beauty. To be fair, I partially blame the borough council, who pour all their money into their own home town of Bury St. Edmunds and so the poor Haverhillites end up with the short end of the stick. Even the hanging baskets they put up there were second rate to those in Bury.

In short, the town is a characterless, attraction-less, concrete-laden pile. It's not inherently rough or deprived in that certain areas of inner London are deprived, just deeply, deeply, dull. If East Anglia was the Garden of England, Haverhill would be the chipped concrete gnome in the corner with its trousers down.

The Debutante tells me I forgot to mention the prison, HMP Highpoint. Now while it may seem a little short-sighted not to mention the town's institute of higher education, in my view this fine establishment is nearer to Newmarket.

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