Market Drayton, Shropshire
PUBLISHED: 20:29 07 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:54 20 February 2013
Culture, history and retail therapy make this town very saleable, By Dave Hancock
'Us small shopkeepers in Market Drayton are finding that high quality products and personal service make a business as recession proof as anything can be
History seekers should visit Market Drayton. Originally Drayton Magna, it gained its Market prefix in 1245 thanks to a Charter from Henry III. In 1459, the Lancastrians and Yorkists fought at nearby Blore Heath in a battle that began the English Wars of the Roses and is re-enacted annually in September. In the 1640s, King Charles and his army passed through the Market Drayton area several times but there is no record of a major battle here.
The year 1641 saw the Great Fire of Drayton - with the half-timbered buildings and their thatched roofs burning with a ferocity which presaged the Great Fire of London. The few buildings that survived were re-roofed with slate.
The next great event in the history of Market Drayton was the arrival of the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal in the 1820s - in the hands of Thomas Telford. Today, the Shropshire Union Canal brings trade to Market Drayton in the form of thousands of tourists a year.
Much of the town's history is recorded and on display in Market Drayton Museum. Housed in a 17th century listed building, the museum was established thanks to the hard work of members of the Drayton Civic Society and won the North Shropshire Tourism Award 2006 for the Most Promising Newcomer.
For cultural and other activities, Draytonians have the Festival Centre in what was the Primitive Methodist Church. There's a cinema, art gallery, meeting rooms and a caf. Events this month include 'An Evening with Blowers' for cricket lovers, 'Horszes Brawl' for Folkies and 'An Evening with Gervase Phinn' for everyone who has ever had or had anything to do with children.
From the steps of the Festival Centre, you can see the interesting weather vane atop the Town Hall given by the Mayor of Pzenas, Market Drayton's twin town.
Retail-wise, Market Drayton has a weekly market, some wonderful shops and one of the best coffee shops on the planet. We start in the last of these. Jones Caf in Green End is run by Carol Jones and her daughter, Katherine. Hubby, Martin, stays at home growing the fruit and vegetables they use in the shop and tending the recently planted vineyard. If the name Jones sounds familiar, Jones Coffee House in Whitchurch was their first caf with the Market Drayton version following about six years ago. Obviously a popular place with locals and visitors alike, the menu promises a tasty selection and they'll even show off by putting your initial on the top of a cappuccino.
Next door is the Dress Agency run by Debbie Debbner, whose mother used to run a clothes shop in Market Drayton. As well as many gorgeous frocks, she invariably has a good choice of other clothes and accessories - all at very reasonable prices. Debbie has many regular customers, some of whom travel some considerable distance.
Her husband, however, is just across the road. John Debbner and their son, Chester, run a removals and house clearance firm, displaying the best of their objets trouvs in the shop. As yet, he's had no paintings by Constable but there was a rather interesting 'Jacobethan' four-poster bed in stock at the time of my visit.
St Mary's Church is open every morning and worth visiting for its bookshop and Fair Trade stall as well as for its interesting interior. The Buildings of England, Shropshire by Nikolaus Pevsner (revised and reprinted in 2006) details the many features including several windows by Kempe, tiles in the sanctuary by Minton and a number of monuments. Outside, Pevsner writes that the west tower acts as a Stadtkrone - a City Crown favoured by German expressionist architects.
Visit Market Drayton on a Wednesday and you'll find a busy High Street with lots of interesting market stalls. I was tempted by the 'Alison's Homemade Treats' chocolate and raisin bars and was sold some by Alison Clegg-Jones herself, helped out by son, Nathan. If you're reading this Alison, they were delicious.
Saving the best to last, 2 Wilkinson Walk is the home of Tuesday's Fine Confectionery of Market Drayton. It belongs to Nicola Tuesday Docksey, named after actress, Tuesday Weld. Nicola sells only her own brand of confectionery and has a scrumptious selection of sweets and chocolates. Having to leave without buying everything, is mental torment for which compensation should run into millions. Fortunately, a dozen of Nicola's pralines don't cost a fortune and you can choose them thoughtfully to savour the selection process.
If that's not enough, Nicola also makes special cakes, sells exotic drinking chocolate in the winter months and Italian ice cream in the summer.
She says: "I'm not deterred by the credit crunch. Us small shopkeepers in Market Drayton are finding that high quality products and personal service make a business as recession proof as anything can be."
In celebration of this ethos, there will be a 'Keep it Local' week in Market Drayton from 30 March to 5 April. If you live in Market Drayton, shop there all week, if you don't, go there to shop.