The town of Petworth
PUBLISHED: 16:51 18 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:49 20 February 2013
The town is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It is probably best known for its stately home, the National Trust's Petworth House, but there are other treasures too. Clive Agran went to enjoy a day of browsing and shopping
Rugs of Petworth
Alex Rees regularly travels the world in search of beautiful rugs and carpets. Nepal, China, India, Turkey and Pakistan are just a few of the exotic countries he has visited since opening Rugs of Petworth in June 2008. I love the designs, the colours and the fact that they are all handmade. Carpets are just a beautiful product to deal in.
Although his shop on East Street stocks a bewildering range of rugs and carpets of all shapes, sizes, colours and designs, you might still not be able to find precisely what you want. Dont despair because Alex and his latest computer software can conjure up whatever pattern, colour and size you want. Having taken photos of whichever room you wish to carpet, he can show you exactly what it will look like in situ so that you can be sure it wont clash with the curtains.
After youve decided on how many knots to the square metre and whether its to be pure wool or contain silk, Alex emails his man in Kathmandu and the rug is air freighted to England just two or three months later.
Follow your nose and the fragrant odours wafting up New Street and youll easily find Artful Teasing, a shop full of wonderfully smelly potions, ointments, creams and washes. Most of the toiletries on offer have been concocted by shop owner Kate Sanders and her husband who, rather handily, happens to be a chemist. We use pure essential oils and all our products are paraben-free, claims Kate.
To give you an idea of how imaginative the former geography teacher has been when creating new lines, Kates current best seller is Pink Grapefruit, Geranium and Lemon Grass Lotion.
Since opening three-and-a-half years ago, the sweet smell of success emanating from the shop has reached customers as far away as Devon. Our products are in quite a few smart hotels and restaurants and so we pick up orders from all over the country, explains Kate.
Between them, Kate and her husband test all the products on themselves. Forcing baby wash into my eyes to see if it stung was difficult. But it was a more successful experiment than her husbands attempt to put moisturiser on just one side of his face, which he eventually had to abandon.
Peter Hughes Country Property
Having been an estate agent for 27 years, the eponymous Peter Hughes knows better than to try and predict what will happen to property prices this year. But I think we can feel confident that weve seen the worst of the big falls. The market here is certainly less fragile than a year ago.
Prices, apparently, have held up particularly well in what is colloquially known as the Golden Triangle, which is the area between Petworth, Midhurst and Haslemere. It lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is full of pretty villages and highly desirable hamlets, which Peter confirms are property hotspots. Partly because of the presence of several large estates, development has been restricted and the area around Petworth is both more rural and quieter than most.
Traffic is a bit of an issue inside Petworth itself where the A272 runs east to west on its way from Heathfield to Winchester while the A283 goes south to the coast. Although visitors can take advantage of the famous free parking that Petworth proudly promotes, residents can struggle to find a convenient spot.
Geoffrey Spriggs has been selling flowers for more than 60 years. He began from the back of a pony and cart that trotted along the highways and byways of Hertfordshire. It was only comparatively recently 30 something years ago that he opened his now famous flower shop in Petworth.
An irrepressible optimist, he has no intention of retiring. Business is good; life is good why should I stop doing something I love? To retire is to die, says the 77-year-old as he puts the finishing touches to an attractive bouquet.
Its a family business. My wife works here, my son is the designer and my daughter is in charge of logistics. Me? Im just the general dogsbody.
Presumably the general dogsbodys duties include maintaining close contact with suppliers as Geoffrey regularly flies to Holland, the source of most of the plants and flowers the shop stocks.
His favourite bloom? Thats a tough question because all flowers are gorgeous. But I am particularly fond of fritillaria, aconitum and hardy cyclamen. But even the hardiest cyclamen is surely less resilient than Geoffrey.
The Petworth Bookshop
Were extremely lucky, admits Steve Howe, proprietor of the Petworth Bookshop, Petworth people are very literary. They want to support us and we, for our part, dont want to disappoint them. So instead of great piles of the latest blockbuster, Steve opts for a more enlightened stocking strategy and fills the shelves with books he believes his customers will want.
Theres no point in us trying to take on Amazon. Independent booksellers cant compete on price but we are knowledgeable and efficient in a way that bigger retailers cant be.
Steve, who devours two or three books a week, dismisses depressing prophesies of the death of reading and is upbeat about the future. People are reading more than ever, he claims. With 14,000 different titles in stock, he is well placed to keep the pages turning and isnt unduly perturbed by the supposed threat posed by eReaders. Books are so different to music. The physicality of books is important. You can have 160 books on an eReader but you can only read one at a time.
His favourite author? Will Self.
Selling to Tesco was unrewarding and expensive, recalls Rowland Kenny. And so I started this butchers shop about four-and-a-half years ago when Petworth had been without one for a couple of years. Rowland still farms in the area and now enjoys the added satisfaction of selling his own meat directly to the public. Getting feedback from customers is great and its very satisfying selling meat that youve reared yourself.
Although Rowland opened just too late to benefit from the popularity of the high protein F-plan diet, because his meat is all locally sourced, concern about food miles has been a noticeable help. TV cookery programmes do us good because the chefs always advocate buying the best ingredients. And they often say Get your butcher to do such and such. Rowland is always happy to oblige.
As well as a straw boater, he wears another hat in his capacity as Chairman of the Petworth Business Association. Petworth is thriving entirely due to its own efforts. Theres a rich variety of shops, which give both local customers and visitors everything they want. Its also a town to browse around and the free parking is a huge help.
Coco Caf and Sugar Lounge
Petworth is full of surprises, none of which is more appealing than the Coco Caf and Sugar Lounge. An extremely popular haunt that serves stellar hot chocolate, the concept is the brainchild of American owner Nichole Peet. Whats a girl from San Francisco doing in Petworth? I married an Englishman and decided that if I was going to live in this country it might as well be somewhere beautiful and charming, a description that could equally well apply to her.
What about the title? I tried to get everything we do into one name. Originally my plan was to open one in the States but it never quite happened. Americas loss is Petworths gain.
Business has been exceptionally brisk since the Coco Caf and Sugar Lounge opened in July 2008 and there are rumours that others might soon be popping up in other parts of the county. Meanwhile, the next move could well be for the Lounge to start making its own chocolates.
Final question whats the secret to staying slim with so many fattening things around? Dark chocolate has less fat and sugar, Nichole reveals with a sweet smile.
Although the name hints impropriety, Guilt is a perfectly respectable lingerie shop with an exceptionally respectable owner. Georgina Willis bravely opened the business three years ago and enjoyed instant success. We encountered nothing but goodwill and everyone has been incredibly supportive, she reveals. With a range of lingerie for almost every conceivable occasion presented attractively in a cosy boudoir-like atmosphere and with trained experts on hand to offer advice, Guilt evidently strikes precisely the right intimate but friendly note.
With an extraordinary talent for marketing and promotion, Georgina grabbed everyones attention and a few headlines when she put live models in the window to brighten up a pre-Christmas display. Although it resulted in one poor man being hit over the head with his wifes handbag for staring too intently, it was an unqualified success.
Many women wear their new lingerie out of the shop and leave smiling, transformed and radiating new confidence. Lingerie can, and should, be life changing, claims Georgina. Its certainly changed her life as she has just opened a second shop in Chichester.
Ive actually sold my own art and I have to say its the most wonderful feeling in the world, claims Leslie Martin. Now part artist and part retailer, Leslie was formerly a builder before opening Stringers Gallery on East Street two years ago. Eager to turn his artistic hand to anything from wood-carving to photography, hes also happy to supply the necessary materials and equipment to fellow artists.
We provide a service to individuals and art groups and carry a good range of fine quality and student grade materials and surfaces. We stock canvases, ready-made frames and make stretched canvases to order.
A lot of local artists call in hoping that the gallery will sell their pictures. To be honest, its hard to sell art but were getting there.
A popular and successful innovation has been the introduction of art classes. Mounted with the help of local artist Toby Meader and costing 200, the ten-week courses are proving immensely popular. They offer practical help, talks on artists, trips to galleries, termly projects, critiques and one-to-one tuition.