Showing how Midhurst can tick everything on your Christmas list, Laura Cartledge rounds up the town’s quirky festive offerings and more.
Pictures by Louise Adams and Bill Shimmin
With Christmas so close you can almost hear the sleigh bells ringing meaning there is no doubt it ‘tis the season to do a lot of shopping.
But if the thought of the hustle and bustle of the high street makes you want to hibernate help is at hand.
Not only does Midhurst have all the glittering charm of a historic market town it is also bucking the trend when it comes to offering an alternative shopping experience.
In fact Mary Portas, ‘the queen of shops’, has even been reported as saying “it’s a town punching above its weight”.
“It’s such lovely place to be,” agrees Geoff Allnutt, chairman of Midhurst Town Team. “Almost all the shops are independent and while everyone is busy running their own businesses there is definitely a move towards championing and celebrating what a beautiful place it is.”
As the son half of watchmakers, clockmakers and jewellers J.E Allnutt & Son Ltd, in St. Johns West St, Geoff has called the town home for 28 years so knows it inside out – something he is using in his new chairman role.
“We need to keep the heart of Midhurst but look forward,” he explains. “For example we [J.E Allnutt & Son] have watch and clock makers in store but also have an online presence.
“We can adapt very, very quickly, and that is a great thing about independent traders,” adds Geoff.
“Elsewhere if you want to buy a gift at Christmas the staff often don’t have time so the shopping experience feels rushed.
“It is not a criticism of the big traders it is just the way it is,” he says. “Whereas we can offer a more enjoyable pace of shopping, we can get to know people’s tastes and what they are looking for.”
Extra special extras
A new feature this year is exclusive Midhurst wrapping paper which will be offered by many of the businesses.
“I love the idea of it being under people’s trees,” Geoff smiles. “These little ideas are really exciting and this will be the pilot year.”
If you want to send seasonal greetings with a personal touch then KerryType, found in Chancton House, The Wharf, can help.
The family run business can scan large or small originals and print them into a variety of paper weights. Perfect whether you want a copy of a one-off painting or picture as a gift or prefer to create your own cards.
Dietary requirements don’t have to stop the fun of a festive feast thanks to Down to Earth, Goldring, in West Street.
Alongside gluten-free Christmas puddings and other delicious treats it also boasts fair-trade goods and luxury organic skincare.
Something Different, 65 North Street, certainly lives up to its name, allowing visitors to shop the world in one place.
A complimentary gift wrapping service means any unique present will look beautiful inside and out.
Need some pampering to get you set for the party season? You’ll find the answer just outside of the town at Park House. This small, family-owned, luxury country house hotel offers a true haven in the shape of PH2O.
With luxurious facilities, indulgent treatments, stunning steam room, sauna and swimming pool the only problem is you may not want to leave.
Shoppers are in with the chance to be rewarded for all that buying and carrying with the Christmas competition which runs from the beginning of December until Christmas Eve.
“There will be stags of all different colours and children can find them and get stickers,” reveals Geoff.
“There is a cash price in vouchers to spend in the town.”
£100 of gift vouchers to be exact – entry forms can be picked up from businesses taking part.
For fashion highlights head to Truffle and Stepping Out, or designer boutique Me & Maya. For the men, there’s Frasers who offer kilt hire and more.
Not that we want to put a dampener on things but it could be worth noting with the winter weather that Rainmac sells classic and cutting edge waterproofs and accessories – plus if you quote ETC when you visit the store you get the added treat of a 15 per cent discount.
Home comforts can be found at Black Sheep, which prides itself on having the very best that Britain can offer covering a wide range of goods from clothing and home textiles.
The Stove House is sure to warm hands and hearts while The Upholsterer is the place to head if your soft furnishings could do with festive cheer.
A taste of Christmas
Midhurst takes spoilt for choice to new levels when it comes to food. Seafood fans should look no further than Seven Fish while the Bentleys Restaurant at The Angel Hotel serves up “well sourced, fresh, seasonal ingredients imaginatively cooked and simply presented.”
For a sweet treat the Exclusive Cake Shop & Vintage Tearoom is a must and has a snowman theme running throughout the Christmas period. Alternatively, to enjoy a traditional feast head to The Spread Eagle Hotel with its crackling fire and oak-beamed bar.
Festive events for your diary
December 6 has it all going on.
The annual Midhurst Town Council Christmas Street Party will take to Church Hill. “It’s always fun,” says Geoff. “It is not big but there is a real sense of community.”
Father Christmas will park his sleigh in West Street and join in the festivities, which run from 6pm until 9pm, with attractions, entertainment, Christmas lights, roundabout rides and carol singing.
While there will also be a chance to do some late night shopping with most staying open until at least 8.30pm.
Meanwhile The Spread Eagle Hotel’s annual Christmas fair, featuring local suppliers and producers, will be between 5pm and 9pm in its Jacobean Hall.
Along with sandwiches stuffed with leftovers Boxing Day has another tradition – sport. Forget the football this year and head to the Midhurst Rugby Club Boxing Day match instead.
It’ll be one for all the family, especially if your family is the Morgans, who run Midhurst Engineering. Not only are they sponsoring the event, there may also be five Morgans on the pitch – brothers Mike, Guy and Richard, and Guy’s sons Jack and Jordan.
J.E Allnutt & Son Ltd, West Street, 01730 813495;
KerryType, Chancton House, The Wharf, 01730 814441 www.kerrytype.com;
Down to Earth, Goldring, West Street, 01730 815133 www.downtoearthmidhurst.co.uk;
Something Different, 65 North Street, 01730 858151 www.something-different.uk.com;
Park House,Bepton, GU29 0JB, 01730 819000 www.parkhousehotel.com;
Truffle, women’s fashion, West Street 01730 812832;
Stepping Out, 2 North Street, 01730 817205 www.steppingout-midhurst.co.uk;
Me & Maya, 1 Knockhundred Row, 01730 814476, www.meandmaya.co.uk;
Frasers Menswear, North Street, 01730 813122 www.frasersformen.co.uk;
Rainmac, West Street, 01730 817778 www.rainmac.com;
Black Sheep, 8 West Street, 01730 812862 www.blacksheepmidhurst.co.uk;
The Stove House, Bepton Road, 01730 810931 www.thestovehouseltd.co.uk;
The Upholsterer,15 North Street, 01730 810284, www.theupholsterermidhurst.co.uk;
Seven Fish Canteen Bar & Grill, North Street, 01730 716280 www.sevenfish.co.uk;
The Angel Hotel & Bentley’s,North Street 01730 812421 www.theangelmidhurst.co.uk;
Exclusive Cake Shop & Vintage Tearoom, North Street, GU29 9BY www.exclusive-cupcakes.com;
The Spread Eagle Hotel,South Street, 01730 816911, www.spreadeaglehotelmidhurst.com