Friday, 17 September 2021

Village has changed character but it’s not ‘dead’, says peer

WARGRAVE has altered but it’s not “dead”, says a man whose family lived in the village for more than 100 years.

WARGRAVE has altered but it’s not “dead”, says a man whose family lived in the village for more than 100 years.

Lord Remnant says the high street shops have lost trade to supermarkets and the influx of commuters has changed the character of the village but that its community spirit remains with a range of active groups and events.

He spoke out after the owner of the Willow Dress Agency in High Street closed her shop and left the village, claiming there was not enough trade to make the business viable.

Janet Middleton-Stewart said: “The footfall in Wargrave is awful as there’s nothing in the village for people to come for. On a normal day most of the shops are closed it’s just dead.”

Lord Remnant, an 84-year-old former chartered accountant, said: “Aspects of Wargrave life have died but that doesn’t mean to say the village has. Wargrave is not dead and the fact that all these clubs exist and have grown in influence is a demonstration of that.”

His grandfather, the first Baron Remnant, was a politician who moved to the village in 1902. Lord Remnant and his wife moved to Bear Place in Bear Lane in 1967 and then to neighbouring Bear Ash in 1980 before moving to Northfield End in Henley six years ago.

He captained Wargrave Cricket Club for 15 years, is president of Wargrave Local History Society and is a patron of St Mary’s Church, helping to appoint the last two vicars.

Lord Remnant said: “The culture of a village grows up over a long period. Before the war Wargrave was effectively run by the owners of the half a dozen â??big houses’.

“Now they hardly get involved in the community at all and it’s run by about 30 families, which is much more healthy.

“We have a good leader at the cricket club in Ken Clark and the growth of the club is typical of the best in Wargrave. The number of players has grown because the cricket club is well-led. If an individual in Wargrave is inclined to make a contribution to the community he’s likely to be able to do so.”

Lord Remnant said the village once had a bustling high street with hairdresser and tobacconist Charlie Lunn and fishmonger Tony Shaw.

However, trade declined as Wargrave attracted people who work in London but don’t want to live in the capital.

Lord Remnant said: “I think the priorities for Wargrave have moved from those that included a very active high street to something which is nearer to a dormitory town for London and non-local businesses.

“I’m not sure being a commuter village has affected the community spirit in Wargrave but it has changed the  character.”

He blamed supermarkets for taking away trade from villages like Wargrave.

He said: “People go there to buy products that are as good quality but cheaper than those you can buy in the village. If we were prepared to pay a premium to keep the village shops open we should do so but we aren’t.

“There are good Waitrose stores in Henley and Twyford so why buy stuff in Wargrave if you can get everything in those locations?

“I don’t believe Wargrave to be dead but it’s certain that there’s an element of the dead in the high street.”

On the positive side, Lord Remnant highlighted the biannual Wargrave Festival, with three weeks of shows, exhibitions and events in June. There was also the village library, three schools, the annual Wargrave and Shiplake Regatta and the allotments.

He said: “There is more in Wargrave than those organisations which have ceased to exist. The village has changed but any vibrant community has to move with the times.”

l What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email letters

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