Shopping in Shrewsbury
PUBLISHED: 19:38 07 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:28 20 February 2013
Take time - and a deep breath - when you're shopping in Shrewsbury, it's a place where you need your eyes, ears and mouth wide open
It takes a little exploration on foot to reveal the delights of this medieval town
Take time - and a deep breath - when you're shopping in Shrewsbury, it's a place where you need your eyes, ears and mouth wide open, says Dave Hancock
Trappist monks hate shopping in Shrewsbury. It's not the 700 shops (Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent has only 330), the 660 Listed Buildings, teashops, restaurants, bus station, railway station, Park and Ride, museum, castle or river they don't like. It's the people!
In Shrewsbury, shopkeepers talk to you. Fellow shoppers chat. Strangers in teashops converse. Look in a shop window and a passer-by will advise you how nice it is inside. Try on a hat and you'll be given opinions and asked for yours in exchange. This is civilised retail therapy, not credit card escapism.
We've explored Shrewsbury in these pages before and will do so again. So, we need a theme for this journey. It's out-of-town-centre shopping. Staying with the loop of the River Severn (we'll look at Frankwell and cross the English Bridge on other occasions) but avoiding the nucleus, we're perambulating peripatetically on the periphery. And, oh, what joys we discover...
The Village is run by Lister Interiors and situated between Mardol and Hill's Lane. It's an undercover haven of furniture, soft furnishings and attractive and unusual gifts with walkways identified as (for example) Bugle or Greendragon Lane. Manager, Michael Eratt, says most of the furniture, be it in antique or modern style, is manufactured from reclaimed timber. Don't worry if you hear running water - it's not the Severn flooding but an indoor fountain. Use the aqueous aura to guide you to Le Caf - good coffee stop.
Now join the stream of crafters, quilters, seamstresses, dressmakers and tailors heading Severn-wards along Mardol. Watson and Thornton is their destination. Run by Colin and Caroline Thornton for many years, this haven of materialism offers a wide range of dress fabrics (especially those suitable for bridal or evening wear) as well as fat quarters for quilters and ostrich feathers for the festive. There are loads of buttons, heaps of ribbons, a well-stocked haberdashery section and everything for the home dressmaker. With 47 years in the trade between them, the only question likely to stump Colin or Caroline is what is the meaning of life?
Howard Jones might shed some light on that one (ho, ho). He runs Timothy's lighting shop, which faces Smithfield but is entered from Mardol. As well as a large range of lamps and lights, from the cheap and everyday to the expensive and collectable - think Wedgwood and Moorcroft - Timothy's also sells the occasional one-off. Timothy's offers a handmade shade service in fabric you chose from a catalogue or supply yourself. So wide is the range and services available that the shop features in The Guardian Directory.
The bottom of Castle Street is at the other end of town, by the railway and bus stations. Schmugggles used to inhabit a little shop in Meadow Place but has moved to Castle Street with a new name: Shrewsbury Eco Shop. Andy and Jo Berry run it and alongside 'green' products from Natracare (organic feminine hygiene products) and Lavera (organic natural skin care and make-up) there are fun things such as a cardboard rocket to play in. Bring your empty Ecover (environmentally friendly cleaning products) containers to refill them here.
Across the road, more or less, is Wild Thyme Wholefoods well known and loved by foodies in Shrewsbury. Janice Oliver stocks a wide range of culinary and medicinal herbs as well as the usual wholefoods. It is a good place to find gluten-free products as well as local organic bread, eggs and vegetables. Among other local products is the Pimhill range of flour and oats.
Heading for Wyle Cop via St Mary's Place, pause at the door of the Original Aroma for your nostrils to be assailed by the wonderful smell of coffee. Sheila Middle is your bean counter and can also serve you with teas as well as various tea and coffee accessories - including empty coffee sacks for racing in. There are also chocolates made in Wales (how much does Sheila pay to work there?) and you could start with Preseli Peak and praline-filled Welsh hats.
Hungry now? For a wholesome bite, the Good Life coffee shop and restaurant in Barracks Passage off Wyle Cop has interesting salads and delicious quiches. Choose the savoury potato with salad and you'll only want a light dinner.
If you've forgotten where you planned to go next, maybe you need some Ptychopetalum Olacoides - a traditional Amazonian nerve tonic. Cross Wyle Cop to The Herbarium for this and many other herbal or homeopathic remedies for allergies and other ailments. There will be a trained natural health advisor to assist you and maybe it will be Paula Tite M.I.C.H.T. - member of the International Council of Holistic Therapists.
Also in Wyle Cop, the Period House Shop is full of useful things for your period house, most of which are made in this country though anything in Bakelite comes from Australia and the Liberon polish is from France. For 15 years the Period House Shop has been offering brass window fittings, old-fashioned light switches, and everything else the period homeowner needs. Farrow and Ball colour swatches are the real thing - actual paint on card, a point much appreciated by Nicola Barone as she chose a colour for her kitchen.
Further down Wyle Cop, Stacey Hill owns two shops - one either side of the road. In Oberon, she sells fashionable clothes for the over-thirties. "Nothing teeny boppy or mutton dressed as lamb," she says. Instead, Stacey has the latest styles from Sandwich, Noa Noa, Great Plains, Out of Exile, Nougat and many more well known, if strangely named, fashion houses. Suitably clothed, 'shoed' and 'handbagged', cross the road to Stacey's other, more bijou, Oberon shop where Carol Green will help you choose from a huge range of jewellery.
In 1872, William and Henry Tanner founded what is now Tanners Wine Merchants in Wyle Cop. Enter round the back and prepare to be impressed - with the building and the stock. A museum is being created and photographs on the walls show some of the history of the company - including when parts of A Christmas Carol were filmed in the building.
This year, Tanners won the International Wine Challenge Large Independent Wine Merchant of the Year, Direct Wine Merchant of the Year and West Central England Wine Merchant of the Year (this last award having been won on 10 previous occasions). Informal wine tasting events take place on 12 and 13 November starting at 6.30pm. You'll get to see the Tudor Clive Tanner room and try up to 35 wines, beginning with Champagne. Telephone 01743 234455 for your ticket (17.50).
Across town in Roushill Bank (beside Caff Nero at the junction of Pride Hill and High Street) is the place for 'fashionistas' to pick up the handbag. Designed by Sara Kileen and Jo Bloodworth, the bags and purses are made in Vietnam and sing with jolly colours and interesting shapes. You can also find Jo Bloodworth belts and T-shirts. It's only been open for three years and already the young and fashionable have worn a groove in the paving outside.
Now head up St John's Hill for the perfect shop for Traidcraft foods, Tearcraft and New Overseas Traders (NOT) crafts and jewellery. Fairtrade clothes and interesting gifts abound. If you have not heard of NOT, like Traidcraft and Tearcraft it specializes in Fairtrade products but is also committed to achieving a low carbon footprint.
Chasse a little further up that hill of St John's to meet Viv Kelly. Together with her daughter, Viv teaches dancing, puts on two musicals in Shrewsbury each year, makes costumes for the pantomime and even finds time to run this dancewear shop. On the ground floor is mainly ballroom attire while the first and second floors are more strictly ballet apparel. Viv's costume store is so extensive that you should definitely contact her if you plan to stage a show.
Daisy Davidson came in to try on a pair of ballet shows and readily agreed to be photographed for these pages. Indeed, as you can see, all the amateur models for this feature proved remarkably photogenic. It's just a question of talking nicely to people.
Now, are you Cistercian monks from the order founded in La Trappe ever going to shut up about Shrewsbury?