Originally published in Swasdee Magazine for Thai Airways.
I am sat quietly sipping a flat white, avidly listening to the banter between a local and the café owner, informing me that the table my saucer rests on is the source of a small fortune. The rustic looking table in question used to belong to the boutique jeweller ‘Annette Gabbedey’ a few doors down and if they just plane the top, the sawdust would be full of gold.
I have only been here for a few hours and the community spirit is clear, everyone knows everybody here. Owner Chris Woodage in his rockabilly styled Café ‘Crocker and Woods’ greets every customer like an old friend, frequented throughout the day by his neighbor storeowners and steady stream of customers, stopping for a chat and leaving, coffee in hand. For him, the personal service is the reward:
“I’m not friendly because I want people to come back, I’m friendly because I want to be, when people return it’s because they appreciate the effort I give on each and every one of them”
A mere stones throw from the capital, 2 hours by train, is the Somerset border town of Frome and the artisan quarter of St Catherine’s Hill with its 17th century streets dripping in history. Behold a wholly independent string of boutique stores lining the stone cobbles, each more interesting than the last as they stretch up the slope to where the perspective converges. Blending a rural aesthetic with a modern albeit vintage style, this has fast become a very fashionable place to spend your time. Endorsed by a steady stream of ex-urbanites seeking the country life. The Times recently voted Frome the sixth coolest place to live in the UK.
At its peak, St Catherine’s Hill is home to its star attraction ‘Deadly is the Female’ specializing in 40s and 50s Hollywood styled fashion with racks stocked by regular trips to the U.S and garments adorning the famous, filling the columns of fashion journalism country wide.
For the men, ‘Shop Assembly’ deals in vintage menswear, home wear and lifestyle, recycled and upcycled to cool perfection, the brainchild of another former Spitalfields Londoner, Anthony Hicks. BOHO, on the other side, began life in Frome, a self-proclaimed combination of a French boutique and London style without the pretense of high-end shops. Its popularity has since seen the small shop expand, opening a second location in the nearby Georgian city of Bath.
In the Café and gold dust aside, anticipation was building for the Frome Supermarket, a popular event created to celebrate the very best of Frome’s local food and drink, craft, home ware and fashion, where local artists, designers and makers show off their talents in a mini festival of culture that happens on the first Sunday of every month and has grown into a well respected attraction. Not to be outdone, St Catherine’s Hill comes alive during this time, incorporating an Artisan market, and an excellent opportunity to peruse through beautiful craft and vintage curiosities presented by this thriving community.