Trading places in Knebworth
PUBLISHED: 14:27 24 August 2015 | UPDATED: 13:59 07 September 2015
From the Domesday Book to some of the world's biggest concerts, Knebworth has kept itself in the history books. The village's businesses, packed into the area around London Road, have also stood the test of time and it remains a vibrant trading centre with lots on offer. Julie Lucas visits
Award-winning butcher’s shop Trussell’s was the first retail shop to open in the village on London Road back in 1888. Paul Elleston, a fourth generation butcher, took over the business a century later. Last year, he added the premises next door doubling the size of the shop and meat is now complemented with a good selection of cheeses, pies and olives. ‘People are returning to a traditional butcher,’ Paul says. ‘I think they are waking up to mass produced food and want something more natural and healthy.’ Judging by the queues often seen out the door, the bigger shop has proved a success. You could complement Trussell’s cheese with freshly baked ciabatta from Simmons Bakers. The independent bakery has been going since 1838 in the county, and serves fresh produce every day of the week at its London Road shop.
For those with a sweeter tooth, the huge appetite for cupcakes shows no sign of abating, and the Sugar Boutique on Station Road creates little masterpieces. Pop in for one of its mini-cake treats and you will probably leave with a boxful. Adults will love this stylish boutique’s Alice in Wonderland-inspired afternoon tea, aptly named Down the Rabbit Hole. Cakes are available to order too.
Arif Tosun took over the Caffe Vero coffee shop a year ago and believes in locals helping locals. He gets his meat from Trussell’s and champions local produce. Try Coasters for its breakfasts and Raja Tandoori for its excellent Indian food. Up the hill in Old Knebworth, the free house Lytton Arms is a favoured destination for real ale buffs; on a bench out the front, facing Knebworth Park, is a good place to be at sunset.
Art and design has a strong presence. St Martin’s Church was designed by eminent architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (who also created the gardens at Knebworth House) and there are plenty of places to indulge in creativity. Art Van Go on London Road not only sells art supplies but people come from as far away as Naples for its art classes. Go online for a list of courses and to see if an artist is in residence. Nearby is family-run Homebeads, which holds jewellery-making courses. ‘People come in, sit down and forget about the outside world. It is so therapeutic,’ says assistant Mary Hukin. The shop also hosts jewellery-themed ladies’ evenings and children’s parties.
Tucked away at the back of Station Road in a bright airy studio, Potstop offers pottery painting from little ones indulging in messy play through to ladies’ nights. ‘We like it to be a home from home,’ says part-owner Amy Gammon.
‘We have made it very child friendly which is not what people expect from a pottery shop.’
For family photos, studio A2Zoom Photographic offers stunning portrait and corporate photography.
Long-established salon 4 Hair has been styling hair in the village for 28 years. Sue McDonald has been a customer of the London Road salon for the past 20 of these, ‘I feel I am coming round to a friend’s house to have my hair done,’ she says. For a traditional barbers service, Boys2Men, also on London Road, specialises in wet shaves while Lords and Lads across the street describes itself as conventional barbers shop offering a contemporary service. Need to de-stress? Soothe and calm your senses with a facial at the New Orchid Wellbeing Centre or try The Beauty Box on Station Road for hand and feet treatments or turn those unruly brows into something more high-brow. For some pet pampering, across the road Scruffs will prettify your pooch.
For a refreshing take on women’s clothing, Miss Boutique stocks original clothes, shoes and gorgeous accessories that won’t break the bank. Owner Daisy Sinfield buys one-off pieces, so beware of hesitating - once it’s gone it’s gone.
You can’t drive through Knebworth without noticing builders’ merchant Chas Lowe and Sons. The company has dominated the high street here for more than 60 years, but the family has had a presence in the village going back generations to when Peter Lowe’s great grandfather ran an ironmongers. ‘People blame us for some of the traffic but a lot of businesses do well from the people that come through our doors.’ says Peter. He believes the key to the company’s success is that it covers all aspects of supply from the cement that goes into footings at the start of a build to the paint and finishes at the end. MDM Blinds on Station Road and Magnus Shutters, Blinds and Curtains on London Road will make masterpieces of your windows, while Gower House has been making soft furnishings since 1987.
Roy Saunders Carpets may not have a big showroom but you will find carpet samples packed to the ceiling.
For those who love vintage, head out of the centre of the village to The Vintage Barn at Swangleys Farm. This is a treasure trove of retro, vintage and upcycled furniture and gifts.
Keeping it in the family, Roy Saunders’ brother Colin runs nearby Saunders Motorcycles - another Knebworth institution, while Jeff Jackson, owner of Jackson’s Garage of Knebworth, says ‘I was in short trousers when I first came here.’ During Jeff’s 42 years in business in the village, he has dealt in all aspects of the motor trade – and today specialises in classic British bikes and scooters.
Jeff believes his success is down to customer service. ‘We are a garage with old fashioned values, we don’t have a plush reception area but like to think we have the expertise and can offer good value for money. In return people support us. For me it’s about being part of the community.’