Christmas shopping in Shrewsbury
PUBLISHED: 10:11 01 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:01 20 February 2013
Christmas shopping a joy? Bah! Humbug! But in Shrewsbury it can be, says Sarah Hart
The place for up
Christmas shopping a joy? Bah! Humbug! But in Shrewsbury it can be, says Sarah Hart. Photography by Anna Lythgoe
November is the month when we turn our minds towards Christmas in earnest. The shops are festooned with colourful seasonal decorations and cash tills jangle as we break into our present-buying stride.
Shrewsburys wealth of independent retailers always comes into its own at this time of year. From food and drink to gifts and decorations, they offer shoppers a wide selection of quality and originality all wrapped up in a pleasurable shopping experience.
Twenty six years ago Shrewsbury morphed into the snow-carpeted streets of Victorian London for the filming of Charles Dickenss A Christmas Carol. Follow those same historic streets, from The Square along High Street and Wyle Cop up, through Dog Pole to St Marys Place, and youll find most of these beautiful independent shops.
Among Shrewsburys iconic buildings to feature in the filming was the former Royal Salop Infirmary. Its grand, 19th century, Greek Renaissance style architecture lent itself perfectly to playing the part of a stately home. Today its The Parade Shopping Centre, an enclave of fascinating individual shops. But sequestered away in St Marys Place it is, perhaps, not as well known by shoppers as it should be.
From mens tailoring and womens boutiques to handmade leather shoes and bags, jewellery and crafts, The Parade is worthy of exploration, especially at this time of year when it looks like it has jumped straight out of the pages of a Victorian Christmas novel.
Among the most recent and exciting additions to The Parade are clothing, gift and accessories designer Jo Bloodworth and Templeton Jones Shropshires ultimate destination for classy winter tweeds.
The Parade is worthy of exploration, especially atthis time of year when it looks like it has jumped straight out of the pages of a Victorian Christmas novel
A sewing machine purrs gently in the background as shoppers cast an eye around the glorious handcrafted bags, clothing, fashion and home accessories neatly displayed in Jo Bloodworths light and airy little shop situated immediately opposite the grand Portico entrance area to The Parade.
Many of the items she sells are made by her, and there she is busily sewing Christmas bunting and decorative hearts in time for the seasonal rush.
She has been in business for a year now, but 31-year-old Jo is not new to the world of fabric and design. She has a First Class Honours degree in fashion and design plus a Masters with Distinction in fashion and textiles. The singer Bjrk is the proud owner of a snazzy dress from Jos Masters collection, bought after the star saw it in a magazine.
For a number of years Jo made one-off couture pieces for fashion boutiques before becoming a designer and manager for Shrewsbury-based Hunky Dory Bags. But a passion always burned inside her.
I always knew I wanted to set up my own business, and I have always been in love with Shrewsbury, she says cheerily.
With business start-up support and a small loan from The Princes Trust she achieved her dream in November last year.
That first year has been successful. She has gone from strength to strength, launching an online boutique and expanding with
many new ranges. She now has a following of 500 members in her Facebook group.
My aim has always been to create unique, beautifully-made and affordable garments, accessories and gifts, she declares.
Jos own ranges include pretty peg bags and aprons, funky handmade corsages, home decorations and bohemian-style dresses. She also stocks ties, T-shirts, handbags and accessories by other makers.
Jo will celebrate her first year in business on Saturday November 13. Shell be launching her Christmas range and offering customers a 20 per cent discount off any purchase on the day.
It only seems fitting that a former National Trust house steward and conservationist should choose an historic building in which to open her own elegant clothing boutique.
Charlotte Shute was house steward at Powis Castle until six years ago when she left to concentrate on her two young children. Once they started school she decided to turn her love of fashion, art and design into a business.
It was partly because I couldnt find the sort of clothes I loved to wear in Shropshire, she says.
My friends seemed to have the same difficulty and so wed trek down to London once a year to buy them.
Charlotte made inquiries with some of her favourite clothing companies and it happened that they were looking for a suitable retailer in Shropshire. And so Templeton Jones was born, opening just over a year ago in The Parade. I loved this building. It has a great feel to it, and at Christmas time its really special, muses Charlotte who has designed the shop to echo the grand hall of a Scottish shooting lodge. Its the perfect backdrop to her voluminous stylishly decorated Christmas tree.
Templeton Jones is for the discerning country lady or townie with traditional tastes looking for quality British-made garments. Its a sweetie shop for Harris Tweed lovers, stocking traditional and contemporary styles, from makers such as Dubarry of Ireland, Really Wild and Liberty Freedom. Its the place to go for women searching for a warm, winter, tweed skirt or a beautiful winter coat.
Exclusive to Templeton Jones this autumn/winter is the Highwayman Coat, designed and made in association with Beaver of Bolton the makers of the Liberty Freedom clothing label. Available in midnight blue or Nesscliffe Check tweed, it has been inspired by the legend of Shropshires own Robin Hood, the highwayman Humphrey Kynaston who, with his horse Beelzebub, sheltered in caves deep in the forest at Nesscliffe. The woodland green and ruddy red sandstone of this rocky ridge are evoked in the Nesscliffe Check colour tones.
Charlotte also stocks quality boots and leather jackets, exclusive Yvette Jelfs hats; stunning, country-inspired, leather bags made by Matt Fothergill of Shropshire and ladies country sports attire including wax jackets, shooting coats, breeks and riding breeches.
Yvette Jelfss statement couture hats, regularly seen gracing the heads of celebrities and royalty, are perfect for Ascot and weddings. Theyre only available at Templeton Jones and the designers own Scottish boutique.
In spring/summer Charlotte stocks covetable linen garments, and next season will also see the introduction of Dubarrys new spring/summer collection.
Gift hunters can find a wide selection of ideas here, starting at 39 for one of Matt Fothergills nifty leather Pub bags.
The enticing smell of freshly ground coffee beans hits you in the street before you get to Aromas delightful old shop in St Marys Place. What proprietor June Turner cant tell you about coffee probably isnt worth knowing.
Shelves are stacked with jar after jar of different blended coffee beans all roasted from selected quality beans by husband Andrew at Aromas roasting factory a few miles away.
Customers come in, choose their favourite blend and the required amount is freshly ground, if required.
And tea lovers neednt despair, for almost half the shop is dedicated to a wide variety of teas, including Aromas own Shropshire Brew and herbal teas.
Aroma stocks all manner of tea and coffee accessories from coffee grinders and cafetires to teapots and traditional Black Jack tea tins.
Gift hunters can make up their own tea and coffee gift sets or hampers to include coffee or tea accoutrements and added extras such as chocolates, Christmas puddings, quality biscuits, jams and chutneys.
Stubbs & Co
Women looking for unusual quality fashion and something a bit different to wear during the party season should take a peek inside Stubbs & Co, just opposite the entrance to St Marys Church, in St Marys Street.
The smart little boutique opened in March and marks the return to the fashion world of founder Pat Stubbs who previously ran her own clothing shop in Shrewsbury from 1993 to 2000.
I left to help out with my husbands business, but I missed having my own shop so much that I decided I would take the opportunity of having one last chance at it before retirement, she says.
Pat has an eye for quality but less well-known Continental labels, such as German names Oska, Rundholz and Privatsachen and French design house Lilith.
Next door to Stubbs & Co is the pretty-as-a-picture card, gift and home accessories shop Ocacia, opened by mother and daughter Jenny Carson and Vanessa Whale six years ago. It stocks a good range of handmade Christmas decorations, gift ideas and an extensive selection of cards, including designs by Jenny herself, a trained illustrator.
Appleyards, the traditional delicatessen at the top of Wyle Cop is as divine as it looks. Its a Shrewsbury institution, a tribute to real food heaven and a cheese lovers paradise. The cold counter heaves with a dazzling array of monumental rounds of continental, British and regional artisan cheeses. The pungent aroma tingles the nostrils as soon as you step through the door.
Then theres the great slabs of ham, Appelyards delicious own recipe sausages and home cured bacon and Reg Mays famous pork pies.
Real ale lovers have a huge selection of British real ales to choose from, including Shropshire brews. Appleyards beer gift sets make ideal presents.
New to the shop this year are Shropshires melt-in-the-mouth Bonbonnire organic gourmet chocolates and beautiful quirky cheeseboards handcrafted from seasoned oak wine barrels by The Old Wine Barrel Company, of London.
The cheese boards make ideal accompaniments to the festive food gift hampers that proprietor Nita Ling will rustle up to order all neatly topped with a pretty bow.
Christmas time is the most magical time of year for Cornucopia, a gorgeous little home and gift shop on the corner of Wyle Cop and Milk Street.
We really go all-out for Christmas, says Hannah Walters who manages the shop with her mother Megan Arnold. Megan founded the business 29 years ago. Were renowned for our big display of wonderful Christmas decorations, says Hannah.
This year we have Scandinavian inspired decorations from traditional Nordic to glimmering silvers and golds. Well be having some amazing candelabras, table decorations, and candles.
Cornucopia is an enchanting destination for gift hunters all year round with its big selection of Cath Kidston bags and home accessories, Emma Bridgwater ceramics and Jellycat soft toys.