Tucked away from tourist hot spots, in a quiet corner of the western Cotswolds, is the market town of Stroud. The area has a strong earthy bohemian energy to its rich heritage, which is readily tapped into by the numerous well know artists, sculptors, designers and writers who live close by and are inspired by their surroundings. Over the last few years, this historic town has become a mecca for all things antique & vintage and those in the know, like to keep it quietly under their hat!
But thankfully, Rebecca Black owner of Strangeness & Charm Vintage decided to launch the “Stroud Town Centre Vintage Shopping Trail” - a free natty pocket map which is available at the many local independent shops, cafes and markets – revealing all of these tucked away boutiques for vintage and antique finds. The trail snakes around the town in a very leisurely fashion, with everything accessible within minutes, and with each turn, it opens up beautiful new vistas to the surrounding villages and woods perched high on the hills.
Not surprisingly, first on the trail is its founder, Strangeness & Charm Vintage, an amazing boutique of authentic 19th and 20th century clothing, accessories and costume jewellery, reflecting years of collecting experience and a true love of genuine vintage clothing. The shop frontage alone is enough to confirm that there can only be good things within.
Next on the map, is Haberdashery Twist - an eccentric mix of vintage haberdashery, china, and homewares, but best of all, bespoke lampshades are made to order from the wide range of colourful fabrics and trimmings on show. Further along the road is the Blanket Box, an incredibly knowledgeable, high street upholsterer full of excellent advice and always with one or two very tempting gems for sale.
Heading up the High Street we pass Inprint, whose authority on antiquarian and second hand books is second to none. Even if you are not a huge fan of these types of tomes, this shop has a really fascinating collection of the most beautiful books and maps imaginable, you may leave converted! Inprint is quickly followed by Time After Time, two floors filled to the rafters, with vintage fashion and accessories and one of only a handful of shops outside of London to have had the privilege of being listed in The Telegraph’s 50 best vintage fashion boutiques.
Close by is Wild Boar, an extremely eclectic mix of taxidermy, religious pieces, antiques, lighting and very individual pieces of jewellery, plus terribly kitsch illuminated shrines by Kelly Kitsch - seeing is truly believing! Wild Boar really is the essence of individual and unique interior styling. Just a little further down the High Street is Trading Post, a considered collection of new & used vinyl and just for good measure, it has a record player for you to play and test them out on. From here, we head to the Black Book Cafe for delicious homemade food, possibly the best coffee in town and floor to ceiling second hand books. Closely followed next door by R and R Books with their collections of original Penguin classics, Ladybird books to name but a few, comics, photographs and vintage knitting patterns.
We now turn a few corners and reach The Old Clock & Gramophone Shop, stepping back in time to a workshop full of clocks, gramophones, toy railways and other mechanical toys with the motto that everything can be fixed. Next door to this is Duffle, a very large shop full of iconic 1960's & 70's furniture and fixtures, set out in inspiring little room settings, along with vintage fashion clothing. Finally along this stretch we reach the very respectable Mann Jewellers, the oldest trader on the vintage trail established in 1741, with the largest collection of second hand jewellery in Gloucestershire.
Stroud has several different markets, which can be a little confusing at first. Friday is the historic Shambles Market day, with a good mixture of traditional local food stalls, set amongst the medieval Cotswold stone buildings. At the far end is the vast, legendary Vintage Mary, a one-day wonder and a haven for all things vintage, including china, linen, cutlery, glass, haberdashery and many other wonderfully quirky objects. Every week there is new stock, so you never quite know what you are going to find and there is plenty of opportunity to have a good old-fashioned rummage. Indoors leads to a fantastic array of costume jewellery and a whole host of other stalls.
On Saturday the Shambles Market continues, with different stalls and is accompanied by the award winning farmers market held in the Cornhill. Launched by stylist Isabella Blow and designer Jasper Conran, this was one of the very first farmers markets in the country. The creative pair both had local connections, and it sums up the essence of Stroud: everything is done with tremendous style! Adjacent to this is the Threadneedle Street Flea Market, here you can find a good selection of galvanised and enamel items, wooden sledges and a mixture of cutlery.
Stroud has a diverse and colourful independent cafe culture, with lots of outside seating – perfect for resting your feet after following the trail! I recommend the delightful Upper Lock Cafe by the peaceful canal. Also worth a visit is Britain's first, totally organic cafe, Woodruffs established in 1998. Good food is simply everywhere!
Full of incredibly friendly and welcoming folk, the town has a warm and charming atmosphere, the perfect destination for a vintage lovers ‘staycation’!
Getting to Stroud is very easy, the train station is in the town centre and a direct train from London Paddington takes approximately 1.5 hours. The town is very close to the M5, junction 13 and has a wide variety of car parks very close to the town centre.
For more information visit the Strangeness & Charm website.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY KASIA FISZER FOR 91 MAGAZINE