15 min read

St Bees in Cumbria revealed as best place to live for families

Posted in: Research

Family Investments’ annual Family Hotspots report charts the top twenty locations for families across England and Wales.

  • St Bees, a coastal village in Cumbria, is named as the best place for families due to low crime rates, excellent school education and affordable housing
  • The number of Top 20 places in the Midlands and North of England has risen by 15% due to rising house prices in the South at a time of low increases in average salaries
  • Online tool makes it easy to compare Family Hotspots by postcode: www.familyinvestments.co.uk/hotspots »

The tiny coastal village of St Bees in Cumbria, has been named the best place in England and Wales for families to live, according to th e2014 Family Hotspots report, by family finance specialist, Family Investments.

The annual report, which was first launched in 2012, analyses postcode data across 71 different data sets from education, safety and childcare costs to local amenities, affordable property and green spaces – to reveal the top locations for families.

Located 50 miles from the Scottish border and with a population of just 1800, St Bees in Cumbria earns the 2014 top spot. A newcomer to the report, it owes its success to a low crime rate and a lower than average house price of just £139,000, as well as exceptional exam results at Key Stages 2 and 4 – a fact that might please Mr Bean actor, Rowan Atkinson, who is an ex-alumni of St Bees school.

In second place is market town, Wokingham in Berkshire, the birthplace of About a Boy and X-Men star Nicholas Hoult. Just 33 miles west of London, Wokingham was named the top family location in the 2013 Hotspots report, but has lost its pole position this year due to increasing house prices – an average two bedroom property now costs £254,000.

Faringdon in Oxfordshire is awarded third place due to its excellent provision of pre and preparatory schools with above average Key Stage 2 results. The town, which is located in the Vale of the White Horse, also holds the accolade of being the first Fairtrade Town in the South East of England.

Steve Ferrari, Head of Customer Insights at Family Investments, said:

“The rural village of St Bees is well deserving of its title as the best place in the UK for families. It has a heritage that stretches back over 1,000 years, the schools achieve excellent results, and locals tell us that it has a small but very close-knit community making it a great location for families.

“Deciding where to live is one of the most important financial and lifestyle choices families will make in their lifetimes. Our report is designed to help people navigate this decision by showing them how areas of England and Wales score on some of the major factors that play a part in everyday family life – whether that’s the quality of local schools or the area’s crime rates.”

James Davies, Headmaster of St Bees School, added:

“St Bees offers a safe yet stimulating environment in which parents and children can grow together – taking advantage of the breathtaking beach and the wonderful surrounding countryside. It is as familiar as it is familial – as everyone is known.

“Sustained by an active Priory Church, the village is further enhanced by two very successful schools – St Bees Village School and the historic St Bees Independent Boarding School, which has been privileged to have been at the centre of St Bees life for over 400 years. The village is an ideal place for families – it is a small, very safe area that is enriched by a diverse and extremely supportive community.”

Berkshire beating off the competition

As well as Wokingham’s second place position, two other Berkshire locations feature within the Top 20 Family Hotspots league table: Crowthorne and Woodley.

Woodley drops from 14th place last year to 20th this year because of a slight rise in the crime rate and a property price increase from £213,133 to £227,640, with very little change in median annual salary. Crowthorne also slipped down the list moving from second place to 14th in the league table due to a reduction in the number of child care services ranked outstanding by Ofsted.

A shift away from the south of England

The number of Top 20 places in the Midlands and north of England has risen by 15% since last year, as Family Investments’ report charts a shift away from locations in the South of England.

With 80% of local children achieving A* – C grades in Maths and English Key Stage 4 and nearly 43% of child care ranked outstanding by Ofsted, Swanland in East Yorkshire has reached fifth place in the list and is also the highest ranking northern location. Moor Row in Cumbria achieves a close sixth place due to excellent Key Stage 2 results and relatively low crime rates.

Top marks for the M6 commuter corridor

Four locations within the Top 20 are positioned along the M6 corridor between Birmingham and Manchester, making them convenient for commuters to those cities: Sandbach (Cheshire), Hixon (Staffordshire), Holmes Chapel (Cheshire) and Cheadle (Staffordshire).

Report reveals top cities for families

Crime rates and less affordable housing keep cities themselves out of the Top 20 Family Hotspots in England and Wales. But for many, the cultural offerings, job prospects and amenities are an appealing proposition so the cities in England and Wales have been ranked in isolation by Family Investments’ report. The top three cities are Plymouth, Wolverhampton and Stoke-On-Trent.

No London location makes it into the charts for 2014, largely prohibited by the cost of property in the capital. However, as 13% of the UK population live in London (source ONS October 2013), Family Investments has also ranked the best locations in Greater London. The top three postcodes are DA5 (Bexley), SM7 (Banstead) and KT17 (Epsom) – unsurprisingly no inner-London locations made it onto the list.

Online tool and full report

An online tool has been created by Family Investments, which allows individuals to compare postcodes across England and Wales. 

Notes to Editors

The table below shows the top 20 ranked hotpots throughout England and Wales. The scores each location achieved for seven key criteria are summarised here in comparison to the national average. In total, 71 different sets of data were analysed for each location and this table is only part of the picture. The overall scores (out of a maximum of 30) represent each postcode’s overall aggregated score across every criteria.

The top 20 places in England and Wales

National Average 28.3 53.0% 16.0% 0.25 £185,202 £22,007 19.6%
1 St Bees, Cumbria CA27 29.8 78.0% 0.0% 0.11 £138,930 £27,243 22.9% 23.36
2 Wokingham, Berkshire RG41 29.46 69.5% 24.2% 0.08 £254,375 £28,647 22.90
3 Faringdon, Oxfordshire SN7 30.18 73.0% 28.6% 0.10 £188,309 £24,794 18.3% 22.34
4 Lower Earley, Berkshire RG6 29.54 82.0% 19.2% 0.11 £225,825 £28,647 19.6% 22.19
5 Swanland, East Yorkshire HU14 30.10 80.0% 42.9% 0.07 £167,413 £20,727 17.9% 22.00
6 Moor Row, Cumbria CA24 27.70 0.0% 0.17 £79,014 £27,243 22.9% 21.82
7 Sandbach, Cheshire CW11 28.92 69.5% 12.1% 0.17 £139,245 £21,944 20.5% 21.68
8 Longridge, Lancashire PR3 29.02 63.5% 20.5% 0.13 £165,671 £19,146 23.5% 21.56
9 Hixon, Staffordshire ST18 29.75 80.5% 18.2% 0.05 £175,273 £22,480 13.7% 21.48
10 Holmes Chapel, Cheshire CW4 30.70 73.0% 45.5% 0.10 £191,226 £21,944 20.5% 21.40
11 Wooler, Northumberland NE71 29.70 25.0% 0.12 £110,052 £19,640 20.6% 21.27
12 Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA15 29.00 61.0% 0.0% 0.22 £92,952 £21,351 22.9% 21.14
13 Church Crookham, Hampshire GU52 30.23 87.0% 36.4% 0.10 £254,039 £28,361 20.6% 21.13
14 Crowthorne, Berkshire RG45 29.9 86.5% 16.7% 0.08 £240,452 £26,775 20.9% 21.08
15 Sandhurst, Berkshire GU47 29.12 68% 18.8% 0.1 £219,595 £26,775 20.9% 21.03
16 Settle, North Yorkshire BD24 29.2 68.5% 11.1% 0.14 £163,601 £17,202 22.1% 21.03
17 Cheadle, Staffordshire ST10 28.71 74.5% 14.7% 0.1 £125,329 £21,247 13.7% 21.03
18 Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire HP18 29.46 58.0% 26.3% 0.08 £278,375 £22,885 19.1% 21.02
19 Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 29.79 74.7% 28.6% 0.21 £140,710 £22,417 23.5% 20.92
20 Woodley, Berkshire RG5 26.93 45.3% 21.7% 0.1 £227,640 £28,647 20.82

The top 10 cities

1 Plymouth 28.0 63.6% 13.4% 0.27 £131,976 £19,562 20.9%
2 Wolverhampton 27.5 54.9% 8.6% 0.23 £105,768 £19,365 16.1%
3 Stoke-on-Trent 27.5 37.0% 15.7% 0.26 £78,928 £19,578 14.9%
4 Newcastle upon Tyne 28.3 48.4% 17.0% 0.30 £107,321 £20,426 25.8%
5 Coventry 27.7 50.8% 14.6% 0.29 £103,367 £21,263 16.1%
6 Bristol 28.2 44.1% 15.8% 0.32 £172,851 £24,314
7 Derby 27.9 62.2% 14.3% 0.32 £104,331 £21,445 20.1%
8 Birmingham 27.6 47.9% 15.0% 0.29 £107,291 £20,761 16.1%
9 Sunderland 28.1 53.3% 13.8% 0.53 £86,579 £19,193 26.6%
10 Leicester 27.9 48.2% 10.3% 0.45 £112,439 £18,507 20.3%

How the Family Hotspots Report was compiled

The purpose of the Family Hotspots Report is to identify the best locations in the country for families to live. The research identifies the locations which, according to our analysis, offer the ideal mix of family factors such as availability of high quality education and affordable childcare, low crime rates, access to amenities and affordable housing.

The first stage of the research involved gathering data and processing it to build a model to analyse all the different factors. The range of data we use is very wide, but can be grouped into six categories or attributes which, in our experience, are most relevant to families: education, safety, property, population, amenities and childcare.

All of the 71 attributes, especially when combined together, provide a strong measure of how desirable an area might be to families. Twelve months is a short time but across the country new data on school performance, the affordability of property and local crime information has been published which paints an ever evolving picture.

The second stage of the analysis involves our scoring system. The scoring system allocates points to each postcode district depending on the performance against each attribute. Any factor considered desirable to families was given a positive score, while undesirable indicators were given a negative score. For example, in the education category, the presence of a school with high average Key Stage 2 results was seen as an indicator of desirability.

Another important factor for families is the presence of affordable family-sized housing in an area. To examine this we looked at a range of factors including the cost of a two bedroom property and a comparison of this to average salary in the postcode.

In total, over seventy indicators both positive and negative were prepared for almost 2,400 postcode districts across England and Wales. We chose postcode districts because the boundaries of postcode districts are clearly defined and provide an accurate way of pinpointing exactly where the best places for families are across England and Wales. Postcodes without a residential population such as business parks and warehouse areas were discounted from the final results.

Using postcodes also allows us to make meaningful comparisons between areas that are roughly the same size. The final stage of the analysis involved aggregating the scores to identify the top 20 postcode districts within the country, which means that this report provides perhaps the richest and most accurate picture of the best places for family living across the whole of England and Wales. Finally, because of the differences in the way data such as crime and education statistics are reported and collated in Scotland and Northern Ireland, we unfortunately couldn’t find an accurate way of including Hotspots findings for both countries.

About Family Investments

Family Investments has nearly 40 years’ experience of being the trusted provider of financial solutions for families. We currently look after more than £5.4 billion of family money for more than 1.9 million people in the UK, but we’re not just financial specialists – we’re family specialists too and we think we understand the needs, challenges and desires of families better than most.

As a mutual society we are also owned by our customers, which means we are directly answerable to them. Our expertise on financial products for families is widely recognised and trusted, which is why we have won awards for our Child Trust Fund and Junior ISA products and why today we manage more than 1.3 Child Trust Fund accounts for children and their parents who are saving towards their future..

You can find out more about us at www.family.co.uk and you can also find further details about this year’s Hotspots report at www.family.co.uk/hotspots

About Calnea

Calnea Analytics is a leading provider of property market analysis and data to all sectors of the UK economy – including government institutions, mortgage lenders, surveyors, estate agents and the general public. They offer a recognised expertise, through their application of technology, and research into improved statistical methodology. Calnea Analytics is the official statistical consultant to the Land Registry. Calnea is a subsidiary of Landmark Information Group.

References and Acknowledgements

All education data was supplied by Ofsted:


Childcare affordability data taken from our existing report commissioned through SQW an economics consultancy:


Population data provided by the Office of National Statistics:


Crime data was obtained from the local crime and policing information service for England and Wales:


Property price data and average salary data was provided by Land Registry analysts Calnea Analytics. Local property information is available from their consumer website: