10 places that stand out in the census

By Brian Wheeler & Vanessa Barford
BBC News Magazine


All the important details have already been teased out of the first big release of census data.

But what about the more obscure factlets contained in this massive wodge of information about England and Wales. Here are 10 places that stand out.

Blackpool is the divorce capital

The Lancashire seaside resort has the highest percentage of people who are divorced - 13.1%, compared with the average for England and Wales of 9%. This also includes those whose same-sex civil partnership is dissolved.

Seaside resorts are often near the top of the divorce league - but no-one is really sure why.

Divorce expert Suzy Miller suggests people "might have moved to Blackpool to have a new start when their relationship is in trouble, when what they should have been doing is communicating better".

But some residents say it is more likely to be depressed economic conditions placing a strain on relationships. The resort was recently named by the Office for National Statistics as the least happy place in the UK.

Daniel Birchmore, manager of Fylde Coast Lettings in Blackpool, says he is "not surprised" by the divorce statistics.

"We have definitely this year had an increase in men splitting up with their partners and leaving the family home, whether it be for temporary accommodation or one-and two-bedroom flats," he says.

He blames "economic pressures" in a town which is heavily dependent on the flagging tourism industry.

"The whole town is much slower than it was five years ago," he says. "These are not great times across the board".

Miners in Kensington and Chelsea

More people in London's Kensington and Chelsea describe themselves as working in mining and quarrying than in Gateshead, according to the census. The figures - 207 and 151 individuals respectively - are not large.

The decline of the coal industry in England and Wales has been well documented. About 2,000 people now work in coal mines, according to the National Union of Mineworkers, compared with the more than a million at the industry's height in the early 1900s.

The mining and quarrying industry as a whole employs 46,478, according to the 2011 Census, down 12,913 on 2001.

The area with the highest concentration of workers - 2% (and 3.8% of men) - is Redcar and Cleveland, home of the giant Boulby Potash Mine.

But there are surprising numbers of people in smart central London districts, such as Westminster or Kensington and Chelsea, who describe themselves as working in mining and quarrying.

They may work in management or for large international mining conglomerates such as Rio Tinto, which has its headquarters in London, says Paul Hardman of the NUM.

"Unless some of the Kent miners have won the lottery and moved to the city," he jokes.

Another contributory factor may be the Royal School of Mines, part of Imperial College London. It is situated on the university's South Kensington campus and numbers about 350 undergraduates, 200 postgraduates, as well as lecturers. The majority live nearby, and some may class themselves as miners, a spokeswoman says.

There are more than eight times as many estate agents in England and Wales as miners - 384,499. But the biggest employment category is retail, wholesale and car repair with 4,220,124 workers.

Rushmoor is a beacon for Buddhists

A borough in Hampshire might not seem like the most natural nirvana for Buddhists.

But Rushmoor has the highest proportion of Buddhists (3.3%) of anywhere in England and Wales.

There's a simple explanation - former Gurkhas. The majority of Gurkhas are either Hindu or Buddhist. The council - which covers Aldershot - is a "lead authority" for Nepalese integration because of the area's historic ties with the Gurkha regiment.

More than 7% of schoolchildren in the borough have Nepali as their first language.

The Isles of Scilly shuns central heating

The Isles of Scilly are warmed by the Gulf Stream and have a climate similar to the Channel Islands, which may explain why 26.3% of the population there does not have central heating. The England and Wales average is a mere 2.7%.

But 47-year-old Anthony Godard, a builder who was born and bred on the islands, is baffled by the census findings.

"On the island I live, St Martins, there are about 100 residents and probably 90% or more have got some form of central heating, either Economy 7 electricity or oil-fired.

"We are milder than Cornwall. We don't get the harsh winter frosts," he adds. Transporting coal or oil from the mainland is "very expensive".

The Scillies also top the charts for the percentage of self-employed people - 26.7%, compared with the average for England and Wales of 9.7% - something Godard finds less surprising.

Tourism has been more or less the only industry since the Duchy of Cornwall, which owns the freehold on the islands and a third of the homes, allowed struggling farmers to build holiday chalets.

Islington has the highest number of single residents

Nearly 60% of people aged over 16 in London's Islington are not in a relationship, according to the census. That's the highest percentage (59.9%) of singletons - people who have never married or registered a same-sex civil partnership - in England and Wales.

The borough had similar results in 2001, taking third place.

And the pattern is repeated across other London boroughs - such as Lambeth, with 58.4% not in a relationship, and Hackney, with 57.5% not in a relationship.

The average percentage in England and Wales stands at 34.6%.

Prof Lynn Jamieson, from the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh, says Islington's single status is part of a wider pattern of people living alone in city centres.

And cities tend to have certain areas where singletons congregate, she says.

"Sometimes it's because of labour markets, with some occupations dominated by people who are career-focused. Some areas are more accessible, have more amenities, or families move away to get more green space," she says.

Islington is "full of young professionals and students", according to Islington Gazette's Jon Dean.

"There's London Metropolitan University, which has expanded loads, and City University. Aside from the council estates, the rent is really high here, so it tends to attract young people focused on their careers," he says. "The nightlife is also really good for young city people."

King's Lynn is a caravan haven

King's Lynn and West Norfolk has the highest number of households living in caravans - or other mobile or temporary structures - in England and Wales, at 5.9%.

That compares with 0.4% of households across England and Wales.

Jackie Duffy, from the National Caravan Council, says this part of Norfolk is renowned for the beauty of its rural and coastal landscapes, so is a popular choice for a permanent holiday park.

The east of England is also generally believed to benefit from warmer and sunnier weather than other areas of the UK, she says.

"Other factors that might encourage people to opt for caravan living in this part of the country include the opportunity to live with like-minded people in a place with a strong sense of community - older people especially might find comfort in the sense of security that having sociable and familiar neighbours close by can provide," she says.

Jon Boston, a spokesman for the British Holiday and Home Parks Association, agrees that older people are drawn to residential parks. He says 90% of the 200,000 people that live on residential parks are in or near retirement.

According to Boston, there are about 20 residential parks in West Norfolk, and 1,000 in total in the UK.

People work long hours in the Lake District

Image caption,
Many farmers have a long working week

People living in the City of London work the longest hours. No surprises there perhaps - banks are notorious for their long hours culture.

But farming areas in most parts of England and Wales also score highly when it comes to hours worked per week.

Eden, which includes some of the most rural parts of the Lake District, is 11th in the national long hours league table - 20.4% of its inhabitants work more than 49 hours a week.

So what is going on?

Rob Johnston, president of Cumbria's Chamber of Commerce, says: "Eden has very low unemployment. It is a very rural, farming community. A lot of people have multiple jobs. It is a very low-wage economy."

Blaenau Gwent has fewest passports

The borough of Blaenau Gwent in south-east Wales has the highest proportion of people without a passport. Almost a third (30%) of the population do not have the documentation for travelling abroad.

The national average for England and Wales is 16.9%. Blaenau Gwent boomed in the Industrial Revolution but is now in the doldrums.

"It's all about disposable income," says Nick Smith, Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent. "These are hard times and foreign travel comes down the list of priorities."

The substantial proportion without a passport does not signify lack of curiosity for the outside world, he adds. "People here would jump at the chance of a minibreak to Rome, especially if the rugby's on. But these are hard times for people."

Norwich is the 'godless' capital, again

Image caption,
Norwich has two cathedrals and 32 medieval churches

Norwich has the highest proportion of the population in England and Wales reporting no religion, at 42.5%, according to the census.

It is not the first time an area in the east of England has taken the title.

In 2009, a survey by think tank Theos suggested it was the most non-religious region of the UK, with almost half of those surveyed saying they believed the theory of evolution made God obsolete, and more than 80% disagreeing with creationism and intelligent design.

Andrew Copson, from the British Humanist Association, which ran a campaign to persuade people to tick the "no religion" box last year, says it's not easy to know exactly why Norwich stands out.

"We know that it tends to be more young people, whites and males that say they are non-religious," he says. "Norfolk also has a lot of free churches, and we know they tend to die out more quickly than other churches - so that might be a factor."

Norwich does have two cathedrals and is said to have more standing medieval churches - 32 - than any city north of the Alps.

Keith Morris, editor of Network Norfolk, which reports on the Norwich and Norfolk Christian community, says his experience contradicts the census findings.

"In the last year we have reported on a number of new church congregations, including those serving mainly Chinese and African residents in Norwich itself, " he says.

South Bucks has the most four-vehicle households

The Home Counties are Jag country. And South Bucks is the winner when it comes to multiple car ownership.

In this affluent commuter belt, 5.3% of households own four or more vehicles (cars and vans). This compares with the England and Wales average of 1.9%. The reason is likely to be a combination of wealth, commuting, and the area's suitability for driving.

It's sandwiched between the M40 and M4 motorways, with the M25 close by. According to 2008 ONS figures, the gross weekly pay for employees living in the area was £648.80, higher than the South East average of £523.20.

According to the 2001 Census, twice as many South Bucks residents travelled 20-40km to work as the national average for England and Wales.

Additional reporting by Tom de Castella

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