Why Hoddesdon is all about the people
PUBLISHED: 11:51 23 February 2009 | UPDATED: 08:57 21 February 2013
Sue Armstrong talks to some of the people who make Hoddesdon a great place to visit and a great place to live
Wherever you live, it's the people who make it special and the conservation town of Hoddesdon, in the east of Hertfordshire, is a fine example of enterprise and community spirit, both on the High Street and behind the scenes
On the High Street
Like many towns across the country, Hoddesdon has lost its much loved branch of Woolworths. But its high street is still thriving with a busy line-up of interesting independent stores and specialist shops selling everything from original ladies fashions from Paris to bridal gowns, dancewear and fishing tackle.
Elizabeth Harrington, one of the owners of Prestige Bridal & Menswear, says: 'My two sisters and I opened our shop five years ago - I look after the accounts and the business side of things and Vicky and Amy deal with the selling. We were inspired to open the shop when Vicky got married.
'Since then, Amy has won the accolade of Best Retail Salesperson in the British Bridal Buyers Awards in 2006. We all enjoyed going with her to collect the award in Harrogate - it was like being at the Oscars! And last year we were contacted by the producers of the Channel 4 show, Big Brother, to supply a bridal gown and bridesmaids dresses for the fake wedding. It was top secret and we had to sign a confidentiality agreement. It resulted in some local and national publicity for the shop and we're now known by many as the Big Brother wedding shop!'
Books@Hoddesdon opened its doors in the town to a warm welcome four years ago. The shop has been set up by Stephen Poulter and Alan Jeffery (helped by their Border Collie, Ellie), who share an interest in and passion for good books. 'We focus on providing a first class service geared to our customers,' explains Stephen, 'and work closely with the local community.
'With the Broxbourne Civic Hall on our doorstep, we've had the opportunity to expand our popular Meet the Author events beyond the shop itself so that many more people can enjoy them. The finale to our season last December saw over 550 people filling the Broxbourne Civic Hall to capacity, entertained by the multi-talented actress Julie Walters, sharing a wealth of hilarious anecdotes from her new autobiography That's Another Story. Actor Martin Clunes was also amongst our line up last year, telling entertaining tales from his book A Dog's Life. Our able assistant, Ellie, a rescue dog, was my co-presenter at the event and helped to raise over £1,300 for the Chiltern Dog Rescue Centre that evening - and she managed to get her picture in the local paper!'
The success of Books@Hoddesdon has led to Stephen and Alan opening another branch in Hertford and extending their events to other venues in Hertfordshire. Details about their 2009 Meet the Author season can be found on their website, www.booksat.com, along with information about their new venture into book parties.
A few doors along the High Street is Ripleys Butchers, established in 1888. Bob Fish has enjoyed running the business for the past seven years and says: 'Most of our meat is free range and mainly from a supplier in Burnham-on-Crouch, just over the border in Essex. The shop is 400 years old and has many original features going back to when it was a blacksmiths. A lot of my customers have lived in the town all their lives and some have been buying their meat from this shop for 50 or 60 years. Hoddesdon is a lovely town, with great people.'
For a small town, Hoddesdon has an outstanding selection of restaurants and pubs. Amongst them is Marconato's Italian restaurant with an extremely popular line-up of live performances most nights of the week.
Owner Adam Momoniat has always had a passion for food and for Italy. He decided to share his love for both with others by opening his own Italian restaurant here eight years ago.
'During the first year I concentrated on the food and the service and then added the extra ingredient of entertainment,' says Adam. 'Coming up soon we've got tribute nights to Abba, Elvis and Rod Stewart, a Take That party night and lots more.
'All my staff have been with me for a long time and our customers have got to know our waiters and chefs - it makes for a very friendly atmosphere. The people in Hoddesdon are fantastic and they've created a place for us at the heart of this close community. We have the privilege of a very loyal customer base and many come to us from further afield.'
A year round programme of entertainment can also be enjoyed at the Broxbourne Civic Hall, at the far end of the High Street. There's something for everyone with plays, films, exhibitions and community events.
Amongst those treading the boards are the Hoddesdon Players Amateur Dramatic Society who put on two performances here each year. Treasurer John Elson says, 'We meet every week to rehearse our productions and we also have a varied programme of play readings, sketches and songs. The Society was founded in 1898 and we believe it's the oldest amateur dramatic society in Hertfordshire. We have around 30 members and there's great camaraderie amongst us. I've been a member for 35 years but our Chairman, Mary Newton, beats my record - she joined the Society in 1946. Now aged 82, she still takes a very active part.
'A warm welcome awaits anyone who has an interest in drama and would like to join us - not just acting but making scenery, costumes, working behind the scenes, selling tickets or making the tea. We also need help in finding somewhere to store our scenery. The space we've been using for years is now needed for other things and we're not too sure how we're going to manage without it.'
Book your seats
The Hoddesdon Players Amateur Dramatic Society can be seen in action performing How the other half loves at the Broxbourne Civic Hall from April 2 to 4. 01992 460838