The people of Bromyard
PUBLISHED: 11:26 09 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:36 20 February 2013
Sharon Chilcott meets the townsfolk who make Bromyard tick
Sharon Chilcott meets the townsfolk who make Bromyard tick...
Dr Who wouldnt need his Tardis to journey back though the decades in Bromyard, even though the time-travelling machine is conveniently to hand in Andy Glazzards science fiction museum in the towns main street.
In a strange juxtaposition, which somehow underlines the appeal of this historic Herefordshire settlement, the independently-owned Time Machine Museum, with its collection of modern-day TV sci-fi memorabilia, is only doors away from a traditional clock repairers, where the trade is carried on announced by an enormous 18th century church clock in the window.
This is one of many intriguing displays by tradesmen around the town. The old-fashioned washday implements in the window of the laundrette, the vintage cast iron bath used as a planter outside the kitchens and bathroom store, a life-size dummy of a horse on display at Gilberts Hardware store are all other reasons to stop and muse about the inhabitants sense of history or sense of humour.
There is a special personality about the place and if you bottled it and put a name on it, it would be called Bromyard people. Its streets and many of its shops may be quaint and charming, but this town is no rural backwater its enterprising townsfolk make sure of that. Theres a busy year-round schedule of events in this town of festivals, where people are not short of ideas and reasons to celebrate everything from scarecrows to the hop-growing heritage. And theres no excuse for a dull moment, for as John Silver, owner of The Falcon Hotel points out: There are more clubs and societies in Bromyard than you can shake a stick at. At a conservative estimate, there are at least 100 clubs and societies catering for a wide spectrum of interests, from walking and a whole range of sports to bell-ringing, poetry and floral art.
Horologist Martin Dallosso who sells and restores clocks from The Old Curiosity Shop in the Square says its the people who make the town tick. It is a very village-like place. Bromyard people will keep it in the community and all help each other.
Martin and his wife Barbara Miller, who restores antiques, have been renovating their historic town centre property for three years. Living in Bromyard is like living somewhere in the 1950s, says Barbara. The comparison can easily be made the Bromyard and District Local History Society just happens to be staging an exhibition celebrating that decade in the Local and Family History Centre in Sherford Street. It runs until July 2013. Some local businesses can even trace their history in the town back to the 50s like the old-fashioned bakery Lamings, winner of the 2012 award for Best Bromyard Business. It has been in the same family since it was established in 1959.
The town is characterised by independent shops, cafes, pubs and businesses. There are traditional butchers, bakers and greengrocers alongside boutiques, antique shops and a haberdashers. The country market on Thursday mornings is regularly attended by a fishmonger who travels from Grimsby and Legges of Bromyard sells fresh meat and lots more local produce besides from their shop in Tenbury Road. Theres not much a shopper cant find here. Theres even a bijou bridal salon in the St Michaels Hospice charity shop in Broad Street, stocked with donated dresses.
When it is time for tea, many locals take a leaf out of Elizabeth Darcy Joness book and join her as one of the regulars at Flowerdews tea shop in the Square. As Britains tea poet and author of Distinguished Leaves, Elizabeth has even written a poem about the shop, which owners Ray and Molly Flowerdew are proud to display. A relative newcomer to the town, she is already so attached to the place that she was inspired to write a poem about Bromyard for the Jeremy Vine show when, in April, he asked listeners to write to him about why they love where they live. I just had to write a poem and I was absolutely staggered that I got it on Radio 2, she says. Ultimately there will probably be a little book of Bromyard poems, especially as Ive now also done Loafers, the bakers and the Velcro twins, the haberdashers Topstitch and the shoe shop Footprint who share the same premises at 55 High Street. Meanwhile she is working on her next volume of tea poems, Distinguished Leaves Too.
Flowerdews atmospheric tea room is housed in one of Bromyards prettiest and most historic buildings, which is graced by the somewhat risqu Millennium Clock, built to commemorate the year 2000. Ray, a trucker, and Molly, a florist, moved to Bromyard from Buckinghamshire five years ago, finding the place quite by accident. They intended to buy a bed and breakfast, but changed their plans when they found the 420-year-old former art gallery, which needed quite a lot of restoration. We wanted a project and Bromyard found us, says Ray. They opened the tea room a year later and have become firmly integrated into the life of the town. Bromyard people and the people who have moved here all make it work for the town. There is always something going on and we all get involved in one way or another, said Ray.
You are never going to be very restful in Bromyard, unless you want to be, echoes Peder Nielsen, Bromyards town crier and the 2012 Champion of Europe. There is always something happening. Peder has helped make sure of that by organising the Bromyard Town Criers Festival, a colourful event which attracts criers from all over the UK. It now takes place every two years on the first Bank Holiday in May the next will be in 2014.
Peder, who moved to Bromyard from Norfolk 10 years ago, says he took over the role of town crier unintentionally. I had been plied with too much claret by my predecessor, who was leaving the area, and when I got home my wife, Jan, said I had volunteered! A highlight of Peders year has been receiving a 2012 Bromyard Distinguished Citizens Award, which was introduced by the town council 15 years ago to acknowledge the amount of voluntary work carried out by people in and around the town.
Among other winners were John Silver and his wife Sylvia, who took over the Falcon Hotel nine years ago, turning it from a business which had been operating as a pub with rooms into a fully fledged hotel and converting a derelict building alongside into a function room, now called The Mews, where Sylvia, an English teacher specialising in performing arts, stages supper theatre and other productions with the Falcon Players. The pub has hosted Bromyards jazz festival for the past two years, although said John: It was a fantastic success socially but not financially, so although it is not dead we will probably miss it for next year.
A mine of information about what is going on in Bromyard, the community magazine Off the Record is published monthly and in December it celebrated its 10th anniversary at its annual coffee morning at The Conquest Theatre. Editor, Mary Seldon, has been responsible for the publication since January 2007 and this year she was also a recipient of a Distinguished Citizens Award. Moving to Bromyard from Twickenham, with her husband Alan, she says what struck her most about the town was its amazing community spirit. It was not long before she got the volunteering bug, which seems to be catching here, and more recently she decided Bromyard did not have enough festivals, so she introduced another the Marmalade Festival, which in 2013 will be held from March 1-3, in aid of St Michaels Hospice and Midlands Air Ambulance. I saw there was a Marmalade Festival in Cumbria and I thought we could do that in Bromyard because I love making marmalade, she said.
Volunteers are also the lifeblood of the towns Conquest Theatre, which celebrated its 21st year in its present location at the end of 2012. Jenny Shortland is one of many she is in charge of the costume department, where more than 1000 theatrical costumes are available to hire. They have either been donated or made by Jenny or one of her team of helpers for a production. I have been responsible for the costumes since the theatre opened here in 1991, but I have been involved with the theatre for the past 25 years, she said.
Patty Rimell, who runs the box office, has been a volunteer with the Conquest since 1978 and is responsible for putting together the programme of entertainment. It is great fun because it is so diverse, she says. The Conquest, which presents variety, musicals, operetta, ballet, pantomime and concerts, also has its own amateur theatre company and a vibrant youth theatre.
Bromyard is skirted by the A44, which links this beautiful part of Herefordshire to Worcester and the West Midlands, so it would be easy to pass by without a second glance. However, welcoming signs with tasters about what you can expect to find do their best to encourage drivers to make a detour. Next time be enticed you wont be disappointed. Meanwhile, we have left the last word to one of its residents, poet Elizabeth Darcy Jones.