Trading Places: Stanstead Abbotts
PUBLISHED: 01:17 25 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:32 20 February 2013
Traditionally an important Hertfordshire trading site, Stanstead Abbotts is still very much open for business, as Richard Young finds out...
WITH the River Lea running through it, Stanstead Abbotts, five miles from Ware in the south-east corner of the county, was for generations an important trade centre sending malt for the brewing industry down river to London.
Today much of the old maltings along the riverside have been demolished, but 300-year-old family firm French and Jupps carry on the tradition of producing malt from the countys rich supply of barley and export it to drinks and food companies around the world.
The company has also breathed new life into two of its three listed buildings, creating a business centre by dividing them up and letting them out to small and medium-sized enterprises.
Tenants include numerous new media start-ups including print and design firm ACP, virtual business company Just-A-Sec, and graphic designers Weaver Creative, The Brite Factory and WGG Associates. It is also a hub for beauty specialists such as Beckys Beauty Clinic, Hair Inspiration and Therapeutix Hair and Beauty Clinic. Life coaches Being On Earth and bespoke sports and leisurewear manufacturers Team Colours are also here.
The river, key to Stanstead Abbotts trading past, still benefits the village attracting day-trippers, walkers, cyclists and boaters of all kinds, some of whom permanently moor at Stanstead Marina to the south of the village.
The parish council has capitalised on the popularity of this stretch of the river, which is part of the Lee Valley Park, by creating the annual Riverside Festival. Sadly cancelled this year due to a lack of volunteers, the June event on Riverside Green attracts hundreds of visitors to the boat races, family games, live music and food and craft stalls. This gives a boost to businesses, including the nearby Jolly Fisherman pub just over the parish border in Stanstead St Margarets.
Visitors are also attracted to the pretty historic centre of the village. Many old buildings remain on the narrow winding High Street, which until the Stanstead Abbotts bypass was built in the 1980s was a major through road on the A414. Now with much less heavy traffic the street is a popular destination to eat and drink, with many of the villages restaurants and pubs here.
A former monastery dating back to the 16th century, The Red Lion is an impressive five gable roofed pub at the start of the High Street. Since 2006 it has housed the Coco de Mer restaurant serving freshly cooked, locally sourced and seasonal food, with a tendency towards fish dishes.
A few doors down is the Taste Of Raj Indian Restaurant, while The Abbots Spice Indian restaurant further up the street is in a pretty whitewashed building dating to the 17th century. The third pub in the village, The Lord Louis opened a Thai Restaurant in April while keeping its traditional bar.
While many residents commute using St Margarets Station to take the mainline to London Liverpool Street, the village is still a hub of activity in the day.
The High Street is busy all day with a post office in the Co-op, which is the local port of call for groceries, as well as a doctors, pharmacy, dentist and chiropractor, a solicitors, two newsagents, Lily The Pink Florists, estate agents Property File, Jonathan Hunt and Oliver Minton, and a choice of hairdressers and beauty salons, including Vintage Rock, Rehab, Win and House of Beauty.
Other businesses on the High Street include interior specialists Mode Lighting and Abbotts Stoves. Long-standing High Street firm Butler Motorcycles sadly moved out of the village to an industrial estate near Bishops Stortford in April. Holts, an abattoir serving the farms around the village, has been on nearby Marsh Lane since the 1980s.
Parish council chairman Fred Batten says the village of around 3,500 people is a very pleasant place to live, work and visit.
When I go to my local, The Jolly Fisherman, the standard comment is what a lovely place. Its very peaceful and theres very little crime. Its very friendly and open I guess because its relatively small.
All across the country high street shops are closing down, but we seem to have escaped the worst of it here.
Mark Kretay, who has been landlord of The Jolly Fisherman for just over a year, says trade is increasing.
We are doing really well. Weve built up custom over the winter and in summer its location, location, location. Weve got the river beside us and we will always do well. Weve got the Jubilee this year and we are going to have a garden party on the green.
The village is not doing too bad. We get a lot of walkers the over-50s use us from Ware. Youve got all the cyclists and then the boat people.
The boats moor here because theyve got the Co-op up the road and the restaurants.
Weve only got a few village idiots, he laughs. Ive had no anti-social behaviour here, Ive been here a year and seen none. Its mainly a family area.