A FORMER mining village that resembles the “dark ages” is so dangerous locals are too scared to leave their homes at night and one family is moving to Australia in a bid to escape.
Ghost town Eston, on the outskirts of Middlesbrough, on Teesside, is eerily quiet with the shutters down on most shops and barely a soul around.
The silence is only broken when a balaclava-clad youth screeches along the high street on a motorbike while doing a wheelie.
Residents say the once proud industrial hub is now plagued by yobs who set fire to cars and shops.
There have been almost 7,000 reports of violent or sexual offences over the last three years, and around 5000 of anti-social behaviour since 2020.
Kayleigh Crane, 20, said: “It’s quiet now but at certain times of the year you see people setting things on fire and there are lots of break-ins.
“You see it happen to shops and cars. My grandad had his car parked in a nearby lot because he was getting the coach to go on holiday. But he got back and it was burned.
“He managed to get compensation but it was damaged.
“People are just used to it down here. They get on with their days.
“Some shops have been shut for years but nothing has been done to them since.
“I block it out and I’m used to the decline. The younger generation don’t know any different.”
The square’s well-kept memorial garden, which pays tribute to its mining heritage through a huge mural, is in stark contrast to the deserted high street it looks over.
One grandfather, who used to work in the steel industry but is now a local pub doorman, labelled the village’s plight a disgrace.
Wishing to remain, he said: “This place would look better if a bomb got set off on it.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful now. Eston used to be a great area and people used to want to come here all the time.
“But now look at it. There are five takeawaysto each other and another couple around the corner.
“It’s a state.
“The number of quad bikes speeding through the Square is unbelievable.
“We have a police station but it’s only open 8 am-4 pm, but criminals don’t work eight till four.
“So the police have got to come four miles from Redcar to something that’s happening up here
“This place has been abandoned. It’s a disgrace.
“Thankfully I’ve not been victim to crime because I’ve got a good guard dog.
“But we have lots of druggies and we know where they all are.”
One boarded-up unit used to be home to 20th-century supermarket Hinton’s, but has been left to rot for roughly 31 years.
Another derelict building carries a sign which warns: “There is no stock or money left on the premises. CCTV in action.”
But despite being in the shadow of the local police station, which is a stone’s throw from the square, locals admit they have to be on their guard.
Ian Stephenson, who sits on the committee at the social club, says his home is now a ghost town.
As we spoke to the 67-year-old retired steelworker, a speeding motorbike flashed past while pulling a wheelie.
He said: “The place has been crucified by the shops closing. It’s definitely a ghost town.
“There was rumour a supermarket was going to be put around the corner but that was 20 years ago and nothing has been done.
“There’s nothing for us here. If you want to go to the shops you have to leave the area.
“It’s not just the state of the shops though. Every single night you see these young people whizzing past on their quad bikes trying to show off.
“If they see someone on the path they’ll do a wheelie but it’s an accident waiting to happen.
“If they ever come off I wouldn’t have any sympathy.
“We used to have small groups who would plant flowers in the square and make it lookbut I think they got sick of stuff being vandalised.
“The whole place has declined. Even we have struggled as a pub since Covid.
“We used to be full but people are staying in the house more.”
Another woman who didn’t want to give her name, said her friend is taking drastic measures to avoid her child being brought up in the area.
The grandmother said: “Eston used to be buzzing with people and even on a night out you would come here.
But now it’s like the dark ages.
“But there’s nothing here anymore. The shops have closed down because a lot of people are doing everything online now.
“Rent has gone up and people have struggled. One shop has recently closed down because it sold illegal vapes.
“But I don’t think people feels safe here anymore.
“Where I live, people look out for each other but there are a couple of bad estates.
“I have a friend who is moving tobecause she doesn’t want her little boy to grow up around here.
“It’s not just Eston though, I think the crime and the high street problems are nationwide.
“I am too scared to go out at night. A lot of people are the same.”
Joanne Boal works at the village’smarket which has served the people of Eston for several years.
But the 48-year-old says she has to be on her guard when she finishes on a night time.
Joanne said: “It’s gone right downhill. The crime rate is higher and the shops are nowhere near what they were.
“It’s fine if you want a pizza, but is a huge lack of independent places.
“The decline has been bigger over the past couple of years. It used to be a thriving place.
“There are a lot of shoplifters and I know the Spar over the road gets targeted a lot by them.
“It’s sad to see but it’s the reality now. Every day you used to see a group of druggies hanging around the car parks but they’ve recently been moved on.
“It gets eerie on an evening. You are wary about walking around on your own. You don’t like to leave the house.
“It’s a scary world now. I have two grandsons and I worry about what theirwill look like.”
David Taylor, 56, who runs Eston Glass & Glazing, added: “It’s gone totally downhill.
“There was supposed to be £20million invested in the area but I heard four million was for a cycle path. That must be for everyone to escape Eston.
“There’s no fruit shops or butchers anymore but if you’re wanting a takeaway or your haircut then you’re laughing.
“It’s Armistice Day soon and the council will make sure it’s clean for that. “But I always used to joke and ask ifwas coming because that would be the only time it looked spotless.”
Neighbourhoods Chief Inspector Jon Hagen has said: “The town is a small urban ward which, like others across the country, has undeniably seen a downturn after the pandemic and due to the cost-of-living crisis as well as changing consumer retail practices.
He added: “Officers work with the local authority and residents to identify and deal with local issues and this year we have already seen an overall reduction in crime of 1.4%.
“Violence is down 4%, drug offences are 6% lower than last year, house burglary is down 12% and offences involving weapons have reduced by nearly 28%.
“These figures are a testament to the hard work of police, partner agencies and local people and businesses.
“There have only been two more reports of criminal damage this year when compared with last year (this equates to a 0.9% increase) and seven more reports of sexual offences compared with last year.
Chief Inspector Hagan later said: “Eston has a dedicated neighbourhood police team led by an Inspector, two Sergeants and seven officers, as well as a dedicated PCSO.
“They’re based at the town’s own police station until 11 pm, with some shifts on Sundays seeing officers present until midnight therefore it’s simply not correct that officers are not present or available.
“We will continue to support the law-abiding majority of residents while proactively targeting the minority who believe they can commit ASB and crime unchallenged.”
This comes after the UK’s most isolated town with two pubs and two graveyards and the closest shop 90 minutes away, but locals love it.
Or if you are looking to move, have a look at what fans call the ‘most magical’ town in the UK.