Thursday, 05 August 2021

The changing fortunes of village high street

IN 2014, a Wargrave dress shop closed less than a year after opening with the owner sayng the village was “dead”.

Janet Middleton-Stewart said the Willow Dress Agency in High Street didn’t have enough customers to be profitable and she could have ended up with a large debt if she had kept the business going.

She 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.” Mrs Middleton-Stewart had taken over the store from Lynne Day and ran it with her daughter Sarah Penny and friend Jane Martin, who ran a repairs and alterations service in the store’s second room.

The property later became an art gallery called Robin’s Nest, which is run by illustrator Jo Sinclair, who has lived in the village for 37 years, and sells hand-made pictures, sculptures and gifts.

Lord Remnant, whose family lived in Wargrave for more than 100 years, denied the village was “dead”. The former chartered accountant admitted high street shops had lost trade to supermarkets and the influx of commuters had changed the character of the village but said that Wargrave’s community spirit remained thanks to community groups and events.

He 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.”

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