For years, the “numbered streets” in Horden have inspired dread among even the most hardened of local residents. Plagued by endemic crime and chronic poverty, some villagers are even afraid to venture onto them in daylight.
So, when a new community centre opened last month in the middle of the 13 numbered terraced streets, no one quite knew what to expect. Within days, a melancholy truth emerged: living conditions in Horden – a former mining village in County Durham and one of the most deprived places in Britain – were even worse than had been thought.
Paula Snowdon, who runs the Hub House, a converted end-of-terrace community centre on Seventh Street, describes malnourished families begging for food. “Most had received benefit sanctions and were basically starving when they came to us,” she said. Others turned up wanting little more than a chat. “We had individuals who hadn’t spoken to another person for days, sometimes weeks. Solitude is a major issue.”
Some asked only to sit on the Hub’s sofa; private landlords lease homes without furniture in the numbered streets, forcing many tenants to live without the luxury of settees. Some arrived seeking refuge from the network of drug dealers that has infested the village: one resident on Eleventh Street counts six dealers among its 54 red-bricked properties. Yet what astonished Snowdon most was the prevalence of mental illness.
“The actual way of life around here causes problems. I would say that 85% have a mental health illness such as anxiety and depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Children are born into deprivation and high unemployment: people feel forgotten about.” The Hub was created by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust (CRT), an agency tasked with improving the quality of life in former mining areas.