In a world of global corporations and online giants, WW! celebrates our wonderful local, independent shops.  

Words: Neil Thomas. Pictures: Russ Davies 


The exciting countdown to Christmas is well and truly on.  

By the beginning of November, the well-prepared amongst us are already into their festive shopping. 

And, in turn, the retail industry is properly geared up for the season. Sometimes it really does seem like an industry, the relentless flashing of credit cards across the internet, of phones, cards and cash in big stores. 

There is another way, one that seems far less like oiling the heavy wheels of big business, one that is less like an industry and more like a lifestyle. 

A way of shopping that, thankfully, still holds an appeal for many of us. 

It is the old-fashioned way of browsing and buying at the small independent shops – the family firms and one-man bands – that add so much charm to our market towns. 

In Shropshire we are blessed to have a wealth of such shops. We at WW! Magazine have always banged the drum for such businesses with our ‘Love Local’ campaigns. So, we set ourselves the task of visiting as many of these independent stores as we could in Bridgnorth, Much Wenlock, Broseley and Ironbridge over two days. And we still didn’t get to them all. That’s what a wealth we have! 


Kimberley Warren outside The Christmas Shop in Ironbridge


They are many and varied but all have one thing in common – they are hoping for a bumper Christmas to help repair some of the damage caused by the lockdowns and restrictions of the past 20 months. 

For us shoppers, it is a simple choice – use it or risk losing it.  

It is the most wonderful time of the year, the song says of Christmas. And it is particularly magical for children, with dreams of Santa, sleighs and filled stockings. New toys and games to play with are so much a part of the fun of the season. 


Owner of The Toy Box, Vonny Symmons with her three year old grandson Rory


Which is where a charming shop in Ironbridge comes in. The Toy Box, at 34 High Street, is just a stone’s throw from the famous iron bridge that gives the place its name. 

The Toy Box is packed with colourful, exciting and imaginative toys and games – childhood treasures to learn from or simply have fun with. 

The business was launched last December by Vonny and Adrian Symmons, with a lot of help from the family. 

Vonny and Adrian know a thing or two about children – they raised seven. And their experience of building a family of happy, well-rounded youngsters is put to great use in The Toy Box. 


Owner Vonny Symmons in The Toy Box 


“Adrian and I shared strong beliefs that bedtime stories are a must, that playing outside and getting messy is vital, that choosing toys that spark imagination and creativity is so important, and that freedom to express yourself in an unhindered way is the most important gift you can give to a child,” Vonny says. 

“We don’t think you need many toys, but what you do choose should be made to last, and shared, and should be produced ethically and sustainably and not made by other less fortunate children around the world. 

“Our aim is to bring you a selection of good quality toys, books, crafts and games that fit that bill as much as possible. We’re not quite plastic free but we’re aiming in that direction.” 


“The Toy Box is packed with colourful, exciting and imaginative toys and games – childhood treasures to learn from or simply have fun with.” 


This December, in time-honoured fashion, Father Christmas will be visiting The Toy Box, giving out quality gifts in keeping with the ethos of the shop. 

The joy of independent shops is, so often, in the social interaction involved. By contrast, internet shopping is such an impersonal, soulless process.  

When we visited The Toy Box, we met the charming Evie Crosdil, who was only too happy to chat about the range of lovely toys on display and the excitement that always fills the shop on the run up to Christmas. 

Unfortunately, we missed meeting Will – musical theatre actor Woodrow Young – who helps out at the store, where he is a real showman and a big hit with customers. 

On the subject of local characters, I thoroughly recommend a visit to Memories Antiques and Collectables. This is a remarkable independent shop in the heart of Much Wenlock. It is packed – and I mean packed – high with an amazing collection of porcelain, china, glassware, furniture and general antiques. 

Proprietor Mary Nicklin and her assistants have assembled mountains of the most delicate tableware. This is quite a skill, to stack so many breakables so intricately that they are in no real danger of collapse while at the same time, to the amateur eye, look utterly precarious. They take some cleaning, but spotlessly clean they are. 

You have to visit this shop to believe it. There, Mary will be delighted to chat about antiques and her colourful business – and, in true antiques dealer’s fashion, there’s usually a deal to be done. 


Mary Nicklin and Steve Hartill outside Memories Antiques and Collectables.


For those with a love of the past – and an eye for the charming and unusual – this is the place to hunt for Christmas gift ideas. 

“A lot of our stock comes from house clearances but people bring in items as well,” Mary says. 

Needless to say, television’s love affair with the antiques business – think of shows like Antiques Roadshow, Flog It and Bargain Hunt – have brought camera crews to Mary’s door.  

“We had Antiques Road Trip here with Jimmy Osmond and Catherine Southon,” Mary recalls. “In fact, Jimmy Osmond found some Osmonds’ memorabilia here, which he bought. We also had Nick Owen and Phil Serrell here,” she adds. 


“The joy of independent shops is, so often, in the social interaction involved.”


In Bridgnorth, we visited a store bursting with stylish gift ideas for him, her and the kids. Yes, there’s something for everyone at Hopskotch. 

And, as with many family-owned independents, so much work has gone into presentation. In a space like this, shopping is the pleasure it should be and not the chore it so often is. 

Set at the top end of Whitburn Street, just off High Street, everything about the layout of Hopskotch is easy on the eye. 


Julie Lloyd at Croft Design


Owner Michelle Ealey runs a business that would be a positive asset to any town centre. There are inspiring gifts and accessories for every occasion, plus gorgeous children’s clothing. 

Christmas shopping for the woman in your life? Hopskotch has a collection of pretty jewellery from the outstanding Joma Jewellery, Joules, Katie Loxton and Olia. There is a range of stylish handbags and purses, chic homeware and wonderful hats and scarves, with something for women of all ages. 

For the man in your life, what about country-inspired clothing and accessories from Joules? Muted tones and timeless designs provide looks to suit every wardrobe – impressive gifts and stocking fillers. And there is a choice of quirky socks – always a hit at the festive season. 

For the children, there are cute comforters and stylish clothing from Frugi, Joules and Sarah Louise, with wonderful choices for little ones from new-borns to 5-year-olds. Gifts for new babies include locally-made organic cotton sleepsuits, wraps and hats, while Beatrix Potter-inspired designs are always a firm favourite for new arrivals. 

Again, the individual service with a smile that so characterises shopping in the independents, was in evidence thanks to Hopskotch’s personable manager Charmaine Ellis. 

If you are searching for inspiration for Christmas presents that please, Hopskotch is certainly worth a visit. 


Ann and Mike Fraser at The Angel Gallery


Talking of enthusiasm, Mike and Ann Fraser are a delight. This hospitable couple run The Angel Gallery at the top end of High Street in Broseley. This is a wonderful space over two floors, filled with a striking collection of paintings and sculpture. It is a tranquil place, where you can get away from it all, relax and connect with culture. 

Ann – who paints under the name Maryann Fraser – is an award-winning artist. When young, her work was accepted for Annual Junior Exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Art on three occasions, and since her graduation from the Chelsea College of Art she has enjoyed an outstanding career, exhibiting her work across Europe. Her paintings, from fine detail portraits to broad landscapes, adorn much of the gallery. Mike is a talented framer who showcases his wife’s work to perfection, so between them they make the ideal team. 

The gallery also displays work by other talented local artists, all for sale. Add to that, the chance to buy an art class with Ann, and there is no shortage of imaginative Christmas gift ideas for art lovers.  

Nothing quite captures the spirit of time-worn tradition like a wool shop. Let’s face it, there aren’t too many around these days. Which makes it an extra joy to come across Ippikin, in Much Wenlock’s High Street. 


Sian Hurmson at Ippikin


If you want to add a splash of colour to your life, this is the shop to step into, with its wall-to-wall yarns of every shade and hue. 

This independent store stocks just about everything you need to create beautiful hand knits and crochet masterpieces.  

Most yarns are sourced from Britain, or are the finest you can get from the likes of Italy or Peru. All levels of expertise are catered for, from those who want to learn to accomplished craftspeople. There are books, yarn, ribbon, buttons and hand-made knitted items.  

There are also workshops and events, including classes and knit and natter sessions. 

Shopping can leave you peckish and, if you fancy a quick bite to eat before pressing on, there’s plenty to choose from at Pig and Pie in Much Wenlock. Delicious pies, pastries and cakes are the order of the day from this offshoot of the hugely popular Paddy Ryan butcher, which is right next door in High Street.


Kevin Evans at Pig and Pie


A timeworn phrase is ‘the true meaning of Christmas’, by which we mean its Christian origins. The nativity of Jesus is celebrated widely in Christian countries and multi-faith cultures of which Christianity is a part.  

And there is a charming, unusual store in Much Wenlock that articulates this devotion perfectly. Croft Design, in the heart of the town, is owned and run by Brendon and Julie Quinn.  


“If you want to add a splash of colour to your life, this is the shop to step into, with its wall-to-wall yarns of every shade and hue.”


The business makes individual vestments for the clergy and lay helpers as well as altar cloths and other religious items. High quality, unique design is at the heart of what the business does, showing reverence to the religious past while embracing contemporary ideas and technology.  

At this time of year, its designer Christmas card collection certainly strikes a chord. 


“The nativity of Jesus is celebrated widely in Christian countries and multi-faith cultures of which Christianity is a part. And there is a charming, unusual store in Much Wenlock that articulates this devotion perfectly.”


Manager Charmaine Ellis at Hopskotch.


As mentioned already, art and craftwork always make for great gift ideas. Another port of call, then, is The Linden Tree, an independent gallery in Much Wenlock’s High Street, which is also owned by Brendon and Julie. A champion of our county, The Linden Tree promotes and offers work for sale by Shropshire-based artists, creatives and makers. 

The loving exchange of presents and other tokens of affection are, of course, a fundamental part of Christmas, so a shop just across the road from Croft Design is surely worth a visit. 


Francine Coulson-Joy at The Linden Tree


Penny Farthing has a prime spot in The Square in Much Wenlock, where it has been a well-known and much-loved gift shop for more than 20 years. 

It is another of those independently-owned shops that is a pleasure to browse in, so neat and attractive is the layout and so beautifully showcased is its range.  

Penny Farthing stocks an extensive choice of gifts for him and her and a collection of fabulous greetings cards, individually selected to offer something a little different to the standard designs offered in chain stores. 

Penny Farthing is one of the few shops in Much Wenlock to open on a Sunday, giving customers even more flexibility – particularly useful in the run up to Christmas. 

So successful has the Much Wenlock store been, in fact, that a second Penny Farthing has now been established in Shrewsbury’s High Street. 


Polly Langford at Penny Farthing


The Christmas party season looks set to make something of a comeback this year, after dropping off the social calendar in 2020. It’s always uplifting to dress up and add a touch of glamour to the world. So, places like Salon Ten, the award-winning hair and beauty salon in Much Wenlock, will be in demand. 


Emma Goddard, senior stylist at Salon Ten


Set within a stunning Grade II listed malt house, at one end of High Street, Salon Ten has three dedicated hair and beauty floors offering a complete range of hair styling, hair extensions, beauty treatments, wigs and hair enhancement services, all within an eco-friendly and sustainable environment. 

Professional hairstylists, beauticians and therapists combine with state-of-the-art facilities and ecological credentials, to create an exciting experience for each customer. 


Debra Harris and Sarah Fennell-Fox at The Bolthole


If a trip to Salon Ten is about capturing the feelgood factor, much the same can be said of surrounding yourself with colour and creativity. Which means The Bolthole store, in Ironbridge, might be worth a visit. Here you can explore a world of fabrics, furniture and handmade homewares. ‘Tester Pot’ workshops reveal some of the secrets behind these creations and give you the chance to have a go at creating beautiful things for yourself. 

Interior designer Debra Harris and textile designer Sarah Fennell-Fox are passionate about introducing people to traditional and heritage crafts and encouraging the re-use of beautiful, well-made vintage pieces. They have curated a unique collection of vintage furniture, fabric goods and heirloom pieces, each selected for their authenticity, integrity and style. These sit alongside gorgeous artisan homewares sourced from independent makers across the UK, and unique Bolthole creations including Sarah’s contemporary fabrics and Debra’s sensitively restored furniture. The Bolthole also has a café where its latest artwork is exhibited.  

While strolling along nearby Tontine Hill in Ironbridge you’ll come across an independent store that perfectly captures the time of year – The Little Christmas Shop. It does what it says on the tin – inside there is a wide range of items with a festive theme. 


Becky Ray at Urban Angel


Fabulous footwear, stylish clothing and striking leather bags, showcased with panache, make Urban Angel in Bridgnorth’s High Street, a favourite with the ladies. If you are struggling to think of something to buy for the woman in your life – and let’s face it, we gents often are – then this little shop might just hold the answer. And gift vouchers mean you can leave the choice to your loved one! 


Deborah Meredith outside Tea & Roses


We at WW! can personally vouch for the coffee and cake at Tea & Roses, having called in at the delightful shop and café in Bridgnorth High Street for a break – much-needed during this exhaustive retail research project to highlight some of our best independent businesses. 

Tea & Roses is up there with the best of these businesses – a proudly independent store in the heart of this bustling market town. 

Tea & Roses stocks a range of interesting furniture, gifts and homeware, carefully chosen and painted by owner Deborah Meredith. 

Her aim is to create a visually exciting shopping experience that changes seasonally and creates a fun place to visit, browse, buy and socialise. It’s fair to say she has succeeded. The friendly staff are eager to help – a consistent thread that runs through these small family businesses. 


Mark Carter and Steph Wilson at Tanners


The lovely little coffee shop, tucked away at the rear, is a great place to socialise, or take a break from your shopping endeavours, with a choice of delicious homemade cakes, light lunches and speciality afternoon teas.  

For many people, nothing adds that extra sparkle to Christmas quite like a glass of nicely-chilled fizz. And the first port of call – and indeed the first call for port – is often Tanners, Shropshire’s every own award-winning wine merchants. 

This is a truly-independent family firm with origins in the 19th century and with headquarters in a fine period building at the bottom of Wyle Cop in Shrewsbury, with wonderfully atmospheric cellars. 

Its Bridgnorth store, prominently sited on High Street, has all the old-world charm you would expect from a former coaching inn. The aesthetic beauty of the building adds to the enjoyment of the shopping experience, while racks and bins are packed with the wide choice of international wines for which Tanners are renowned. Knowledgeable staff are on hand to offer friendly advice, as you search for the right wines to match with your Christmas lunch, festive canapés and other celebratory occasions.  


“The lovely little coffee shop, tucked away at the rear, is a great place to socialise, or take a break from your shopping endeavours.”


So, you’ve sorted out the drinks – what about the food? A turkey or goose is often the centrepiece of Christmas lunch, but plenty of people opt for beef or another meat. Traditional pies and cold cuts invariably make up lunch on Boxing Day or other days of the holiday. With the dominance of supermarkets in recent decades, good independent butchers aren’t easy to find but the family firm of Beaman & Sons in Bridgnorth certainly falls into that category. 


Mark Stubbs at Beaman & Sons


Established in 1890 in Low Town, it has been serving quality meat and produce, locally sourced, for more than 130 years. A true independent! 

Nothing says ‘I love you’ quite like a stunning bouquet of flowers, or so they say. It means that floral gifts are an integral part of Christmas. 

What’s more, a vase of beautiful blooms or a colourful, exotic plant brightens up the festive feast table a treat. 

Blooms of Bridgnorth is another delightful independent, a family-run business in High Street with a passion for providing floral excellence. 

It specialises in beautiful, fresh flowers with the helpful team creating bespoke gift bouquets and arrangements for every occasion. And what more joyous occasion is there than Christmas? 


“Nothing says ‘I love you’ quite like a stunning bouquet of flowers, or so they say. It means that floral gifts are an integral part of Christmas.”


Abi Rowley and Becky Bratt at Blooms of Bridgnorth


Just along the way in High Street is Parker Taylor. We’ve highlighted two or three shops with festive gift ideas for the ladies. Now here’s one for the gents, with an attractive range of menswear. Though it’s fair to add that Parker Taylor stocks women’s outfits too. And the staff, as ever with independents, are friendly and helpful. 


James Hales at Parker Taylor


The relentless search for gift ideas takes us around the corner from Parker Taylor and Blooms to Roobarb. This shop in Waterloo Terrace is a proper one-off and certainly adds a splash of colour and variety to your shopping day out in Bridgnorth. 


“Home-grown local businesses are the lifeblood of our towns and villages. In some cases, they have been there for us for decades.”


First of all, Roobarb is a gift store – always a plus when you are looking for gifts! It stocks a range of quality products, including homeware, soft furnishings, lifestyle and special one-off presents, ladies fashion items including bags, clothes and scarves, plus fashion jewellery and accessories. 


Marcia Dale at Roobarb


There perhaps aren’t too many small independent stores where you might find children’s gifts, skincare products, ceramics, candles and reed diffusers under the same roof. 

Kevin Bellwood and Marcia Dale launched Roobarb in May 2014 using fresh new suppliers to try to offer something different to everyone else. 

It’s fair to say the venture has been a success. Just three years after opening, Roobarb won the Bira (British Independent Retailers Association) Independent Retail Team of the Year award for 2017.  

And that is a very apt point at which to round things off. For the award seems to be a towering endorsement not only of Roobarb, but of the role of local, family-run, independent stores in a 21st century world of multi-nationals. They prove that small IS beautiful. 

Home-grown local businesses are the lifeblood of our towns and villages. In some cases, they have been there for us for decades. Now, this Christmas, we can be there for them. 


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