The town exists because of a split, a void: the railway junction between the London – West coast and Oxford lines. This void seems to infiltrate all aspects of the town.
Didcot was created in the 1950s with the then (and still) novel
town-planning concept of a one-sided high street. Empty shops on one side face houses on the other, which ensures no atmosphere on the high street and no privacy for the residents.
Didcot has in recent years been the subject of large-scale, completely un-planned expansion. A developer sprawl of orange brickwork and fake Victoriana (which, having been created in the C20th, Didcot otherwise completely lacks), with no connection to the dead high street but easy access to the out of town superstore.
There are no cultural facilities.
Didcot’s saving grace (and she is graceful) is the power station, a cathedral scale beacon in the old flood plains of the Thames, with elegant and beautifully laid out cooling towers. Fortunately this can be appreciated for miles around and there should be no reason to visit the town itself.
Didcot was not created in the 1950s – it dates back as a hamlet to medieval times, although its expansion came about when the people of the town of Abingdon (then county town of Berkshire) refused to allow the Great Western Railway to go through their own town. Brunel built a station in the then-village of Didcot. Were it not for that decision,
Abingdon would not have faded into obscurity, losing its county-town status and eventually even its former county in the shuffle of county boundaries in 1974.
Didcot expanded during the 1930s with a whole estate of tiny houses with huge gardens being built at the south side of the town for the Welsh navvies then working on the railway, and then in the 1950s the awful town centre (well, the Broadway) was built, as well as a couple more large estates to the west side of the town. In the 1980s, the Fleet Meadow estate was built on the east side of town, with the Ladygrove estate being built on drained marshland to the north of the railway line – ever a prominent feature of the town.
The power station can be seen for many miles around, and can be seen from the air for many tens of miles around on a clear day, due to the flatness of the area surrounding it (apart from the Downs to the south).
A large proportion of the people who now live in Didcot are not here during office hours, as they only moved here because house prices in London (or Reading) are so high. This has in turn pushed the price of property in Didcot to be ridiculously high for a town where you wouldn’t live if you had any choice in the matter.