Sunday, 13 December 2015

My Town...

I thought I'd write about something different in this post: my home town of Stroud in Gloucestershire. A hidden gem of quirkiness and wonderfully unique shops.

Ram sculpture commemorating Stroud's historic wool trade

Stroud is a small market town with a rich history based on the wool-trade and industrial revolution. The high quality woollen cloth produced here in the various mills and cottages was used for military uniforms, and the swathes of cloth dyed either scarlet or blue were were set out on tenter-hooks in the fields to dry. This is depicted in the town's shield where the 'fields' are divided by the meandering River Frome that was so crucial to Stroud's industry.

The 'river' always reminds me of ric-rac!
Locally Stroud is known for being 'different' and rustic in comparison to its glossy, chocolate box cousins of Cheltenham and Cirencester, and Stroudies revel in this contrast. Its a very creative, alternative place with a bit of a reputation for being feisty. Its seen its fair share of public disputes ranging from rioting weavers to protesters sitting and sleeping in trees to protect them from being felled for commercial development. Stroudies aren't scared of voicing their opinions and protecting both their cultural heritage and local biodiversity.

So onto the shopping...

When it comes to independent shops and cafés Stroud has it down to a 't'(ea)! It does have its chains like Costa, 99p shops, Boots, New Look and the like, but the indies more than compensate for the 'big boys' presence. Here's a few for you:

We have 'Sew & So', which is filled to the gunnels with all sorts of haberdashery; 'R&R Books' - a second-hand bookshop that is a joy to browse through and I challenge anyone to leave empty-handed!

And there's more for book lovers - another second-hand bookshop called 'Inprint', which has been in Stroud since the 1980s and is still going strong. Its also based in one of the town's most attractive buildings with its original tiled original shop-front.

Being a historic wool town, Stroud just has to have wool shops and indeed it has three, with 'The Bluestocking Wool Shop' being newly opened and full of lovely wool to tempt us knitters!

It also has three vintage clothing shops too, which is unusual for a small town. One of them is 'Strangeness & Charm' run by Rebecca Tomlinson and has two floors filled with 'proper' vintage clothing and accessories. You can see from the photos that its chock-full of vintage and also a healthy dose of humour too. 

Also, Rebecca is also one of the instigators behind 'Stroud Town Centre Vintage Trail', which promotes the plethora of vintage (not just clothes, but books, housewares and collectables) shops present in the town. 

There's markets held in the historic Shambles and the Friday one has an intriguing stall run by 'Vintage Mary'. A rummage around her stalls is a Friday morning ritual for many as its a treasure trove of mix n' match crockery, housewares and all sorts of curious bits and bobs. 

The Shambles maket

Here's another one of my favourite shops, 'Sprauncy's Antiques'. With its shelves stacked full of crockery, this tiny shop is a kitchenalia fan's dream and is where I brought this year's Pyrex haul from.

I love this shop front, it has so much character

Stroud doesn't skimp on the charity shops either, having eight with the RSPCA being my (and my Mum's as per my recent post here) favourite. Like all chazzas, Stroud's can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to finding those bargains, but I've had a few nice surprises here.

After all that shopping, a coffee and slice of cake is always welcome and like the shops, there's plenty of choice when it comes to cafés; Stroud has a great café culture. 

Off the main shopping stretch are hidden gems that are so easily passed by like this ghost-sign:

...and the painted-over vending machine with its brass plaque that reminds me of childhood walks into town when I used to pass it  regularly. I think that these were used for dispensing cigarettes and matches.

Last but not least, I'll end with a place where I spent a lot of my time watching bands before I passed my driving test and started travelling further afield. It's the town's former music venue and den of iniquity, The Marshall Rooms, where bands in their infancy like Iron Maiden and U2 played long ago. In the 1980s which is when I used to go, it was a hang-out for heavy metal fans and bikers to watch local bands. The venue had a bit of a reputation too as its audience weren't adverse to throwing a beer glass onstage if the band wasn't performing to the expected musical standards!

I really should have taken the photos back in the summer and not on a rainy Friday in December, but don't let the overcast pics put you off from visiting if you're ever in the area. 

I've only just scratched the surface of Stroud really, so I'll follow this up with another post next year - hopefully when the weather's better!


  1. You have the knowledge of your town and now we have too. Sounds a lovely place - apart from the beer glass throwing!!

  2. Stroud looks really great! Interesting history and buildings, vintage and charity shopping, what's not to love?! The painted sign and vending machine are fabulous. xxx

  3. We drive past the sign for Stroud so often and I've never been. It looks lovely, lots of quirky architecture and indie shops. I follow Strangeness & Charm on Facebook, I didn't know they were there. xxx

  4. I think I have only ever been through and never stopped, I must try and rectify that soon. x

  5. Oo this looks like a day out option next year! Not been to Stroud for years, it was for work so I didn't get to browse. Thank you for the tips xx

  6. I've lived in the area for 5 years now, but I'm not a proper Stroudie!!!!!!! I love it here too.

  7. I have only been to Stroud once, that was when our son got married at Kingscote Barn in 2010, we thought what a lovely town it was. They got married on a Friday and We spent the Saturday morning in the town, it was market day and we bought some splendid fruit to take with us for our mini break in Bath the following week.
    Julie xxxxxxxxx

  8. How pretty it looks, I particularly love Woodruffs, what a lovely building. We have oodles of independent shops here too, along with the usual suspects x

  9. This place looks so lovely - the old vending machine is amazing! Any town that has that many secondhand shops in all their forms looks like somewhere I want to visit... (Google Maps has informed me it's 5hrs 45mins away. Maybe too far for a day trip. Damn.)

  10. We've driven through Stroud and always commented on how nice it looks, but now you've *really* made me want to stop off there. Perhaps I shall talk the Mr into driving out there in the spring. Such a nice town!

  11. Like a lot of people I'm guilty of only having driven through there, but after your tour I'm up for visiting now (in the Summer) I especially like the window of the 'inprint' bookshop's posters.

  12. Like a lot of people I'm guilty of only having driven through there, but after your tour I'm up for visiting now (in the Summer) I especially like the window of the 'inprint' bookshop's posters.

  13. I immediately feel I need to visit Stroud now! It's great when little towns can still hold on to their individuality/identity despite the infiltration of costas, new look etc. Not that the latter shops are bad, but it's great when there's a comfortable balance between the two.

  14. Absolutely one of my favourite places. Worth it for R&R Books alone!

  15. How did I miss this? Where have I been? I love Stroud but I've not been in years. That is some fab shopping there. I do fancy a visit.
    Ah, canning/glassing the acts of stage. I can well remember bottles flying past to hit the stage! I can also remember when plastic 'glasses' were brought in to discourage that kind of thing!xx

  16. Thanks for all your comments and if you're ever in the area and fancy meeting up, feel free to drop me an email.

  17. what a lovely place to live


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