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.
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.
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!