Spotlight on… Sherborne
PUBLISHED: 10:25 03 November 2008 | UPDATED: 15:34 20 February 2013
This fab town is always a joy to visit, and even more so at this time of year when everyone is in the mood for fun, fireworks and festivities. Words: James Kingston.November 08
November, with frequent dull days and grey skies, can sometimes feel like a seasonal no-man's-land where warm summer days have drifted away into distant memory but winter hasn't quite enveloped us with its frozen fingers. But, don't despair. All is not lost. As the festive season draws inexorably closer, the delightfully mellow North Dorset town of Sherborne will be filled with uplifting music, classical concerts, amazing fireworks, traditional fairs, tempting markets, and hosts of brightly illuminated shops inviting us to take shelter inside, away from the gathering gloom.
Looking ahead, here are a few chances to pick up some Christmas presents that'll be a refreshing change from bubble bath and slippers. At the Church Hall in Digby Road, the monthly Book Fair is on Saturday 15th November between 9.30am and 4pm, and the Antiques and Flea Market is on Saturday 22nd November between 9am and 4pm. Talking about antiques, you might like to visit Charterhouse in Long Street on Friday 14th November when they're auctioning antiques, silver plate and jewellery.
Entertainment and Culture
Top of Sherborne's entertainment list is the 'Remembrancetide Concert' at Sherborne Abbey on Saturday 8th November at 8pm. Director and conductor William Slogrove is the proprietor of The Dorset Music House in Cheap Street. Before coming to Sherborne, he was Director of Music at King's School, Bruton. In this, his fourth remembrance tide concert in Sherborne, the Chorus and Orchestra will be performing Karl Jenkins' deeply-moving Requiem and In these stones horizons sing, and David Fanshawe's The Lord's Prayer and Dona Nobis Pacem.
After Saturday 1st November, Sherborne Museum comes to the end of its season, but they'll be opening to visitors on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10.30am to 12.30pm or by appointment throughout the winter. Together with regularly changing displays, Sherborne Museum is famous for the 'Sherborne Missal', its early 500-year-old medieval service book which is 'the unrivalled masterpiece of English Book production in the 15th century'. Lavishly illustrated, the book encompasses subjects ranging from the music for celebrating Mass to 48 naturalistic depictions of birds. There are also portraits of Abbot of Sherborne Robert Bruyning who commissioned the work, John Whas the main scribe, and John Siferwas the chief illuminator. The original is in the British Library, but the Museum's touch-screen 'Turn the Pages' presentation allows you to study the Sherborne Missal without worrying about damaging it.
Sherborne is home to many independent retailers, so shopping is more of an exploration than a chore, especially with Christmas almost upon us. Fashion boutiques and shops selling unique and unusual items for personal adornment or home decoration crowd Cheap Street, but don't miss the shops hidden away in Half Moon Street, Hound Street, Digby Road, Long Street and The Swan Yard. Every Thursday and Saturday, the open-air market draws visitors to Cheap Street, and the farmers' market will be selling fresh local produce there on Friday 21st November.
Shopping in Sherborne should always be punctuated by sustenance breaks in one of the excellent inns, restaurants, tearooms or coffee shops in and around Cheap Street and Digby Road but, if you need an instant energy boost, search out the chocolate shop near the top end of Cheap Street.
Exploring the Area
At the foot of Cheap Street, where the twice-weekly markets are held, there's an ornate hexagonal building which looks like a small market-cross. It has, in fact, served as a market house in the past but, apparently, it's also been a reading room, a police station and a bank. But its original purpose was as a lavatorium, a wash-house for the monks of Sherborne Abbey, located in the Abbey cloisters. Known as The Conduit, the building was moved here after the Dissolution in 1539.
Along Newland, off the top end of Cheap Street, there's a hidden gem opposite Sherborne House. Few people are aware of Sherborne's beautiful walled Paddock Garden which was officially opened by Alan Titchmarsh in October 2005 to celebrate the 1300th anniversary of Sherborne's foundation by St Aldhelm in 705AD. Now nicely maturing, the garden is a pleasant blend of hard landscaping and colourful herbaceous borders, with sculptures and an open maze, all with a delightful view over the town centre's rooftops to Sherborne Abbey.
Last year's Fireworks Extravaganza at Sherborne 'Castle attracted a near-capacity crowd of 15,000 people who enjoyed hosts Orchard FM Radio's compèring of the entire event. There were fair rides, stalls, food and a bar, and two live bands maintained the pace of entertainment on the Eventscrew Stage. This year, the gates open once again at 4.30pm and, 30 minutes after the bonfire is lit, the spectacular 20-minute 'Fireworks Extravaganza' starts at 7.30pm. The organisers suggest you get there in plenty of time, saying 'We will be firing on time, so don't be late'.
I suppose the following should really be under the 'Culture' heading, but anyway, the fabulous, as in fabled, Yetties will be presenting their traditional Christmas Singalong Concerts at The Digby Hall on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th December this year. It might still be November, but it's not too early to book your seat.
For Your Information...
Car Parking: Long-and short-stay parking behind The Swan Yard, and short on-road spots in Newland, St Swithins Road and Digby Road.
Public Transport: Digby Road Rail Station provides excellent South West Trains and First Great Western links, whilst buses include Sureline X37 between Yeovil and Weymouth and South West Coaches 7 from Bournemouth and Poole.
Details from Sureline (01305 823039), South West Coaches (01963 33124) and National Rail enquiries on (08457 484950).
Tourist Information: (01935 815341) and www.westdorset.com
Sherborne Abbey: www.sherborneabbey.com
Sherborne Abbey Remembrancetide Concert:
Tickets from The Dorset Music House, (01935) 816332.
Fireworks Extravaganza: Tickets (01935 815341) or www.eventscrew.com
Yetties Singalong Concerts:
Bookings (01935 814611) or www.theyetties.co.uk
Book Fair, Digby Road: (01803 613356).
Antiques and Flea Market, Digby Road: (01963 250108).
Jayson Hutchins Photography: (01935 817008) and www.freewebs.com/jaysonhutchinsimaging
Charterhouse Auctions: (01935 812277) or www.charterhouse-auctions.co.uk
Sherborne and South West in Bloom:
www.sherborneinbloom.com for full results.
Sherborne's summertime flower displays always add a colourful dimension to the mellow streets and gardens of this lovely town. With the part played by community involvement being a major factor, Sherborne was spectacularly successful in last year's South West in Bloom competition. Not only did the town win the Gold Cup in the SWTA Cup section, awarded to the town with less than 7,000 inhabitants, but it also won the Gordon Ford Trophy for the Best Market Town. This year, we've just heard that the town has won a Gold Award, the Clem Preece Memorial Cup, and the Michael McGahey Trophy.
Have you any favourite places in Sherborne? If so, why not share them with us via the forum at www.dorsetmagazine.co.uk