Best shops in Battle, WI exhibition in the museum

Our neighbouring little town of Battle is always good for a wander. Battleaxe has blogged about Battle before, focusing particularly on ‘Mad Cat Lady’ (MCL) clothes shopping, not forgetting Tweedy Horsy Hiker (THH), Pagan Priestess (PP), and Dynasty Revival with Added Gold (DRAG – love it!) etc. Maybe I’m getting a bit MCL/PP myself. Maybe the shops have toned themselves down. Whatever it is, I no longer seem to notice off-the-wall clothes so much….. worrying.
      There are touristy tack shops in Battle, but also plenty of interesting ones, housed in attractive old buildings, either on or just off the High Street. There is ample parking just off the High Street, and plenty of pubs and cafes for taking a break.
      This time, we started by visiting the auction house, Burstow and Hewett, to view the picture sale. There were three original watercolours by local artist Annie Rae. We already have one of her big drawings of St Leonard’s, and left a bid on one of the watercolours.  We like Annie’s work, but she keeps a very low profile. All I could find for a link was a video of her talking about a past exhibition of her work at the Arts Forum.
      The walk from Burstow’s to the town centre passes the church and the long wall round Battle Abbey. We’ve visited the Abbey once, with some old friends, but if I’m totally honest, I didn’t find it that interesting. Loads of ruins, and the supposed site of the Battle of Hastings. No trace of the battle has ever been found, and there is still dispute about where the battle actually took place. All you see is an empty green hillside, and I found it hard to get any sense of historic resonance. Still, it’s a massive tourist draw, so others must feel differently.
     The High Street runs straight from the Abbey gatehouse. Traffic is a problem for Battle, the High Street is always clogged.  Pavements are often overflowing with slow-moving elderly persons.

Battle Abbey Gatehouse

     Had a coffee in Costa before hitting the shops. Why Costa, you may ask, when there are so many independent cafes nearby?  Because I am on a low-fat diet, and could not face the temptation of Jempson’s buns and doughnuts. Because I know I can get a good quality skim milk latte at Costa.
      As well as the buns and doughnuts, Jempson’s has a nice outdoor seating area, but it always seems to be full of Battle’s oldest citizens, and the loo is horrible.  There are other cafes near the Abbey – a bit touristy?

Pilgrim’s Rest, by the Abbey. Touristy?

      So, shops.  There are few junk/antique shops, but Battle Bygones, just up from the Abbey, is worth a look.

Battle Bygones

      Nearly opposite, Farrago is one of my favourite places. It deals mostly in women’s clothes, but also stocks bags, baskets, cards and some homewares. Labels are very Battleaxe friendly – Seasalt, Mudd and Water, Braintree, White Stuff, Great Plains.


       Close by, Enigma is slightly MCL/PP, but I like it for holiday clothes. Stocks Nomad, and lots of floaty silk and flowing linen – some of which is quite pricy.  It also has bags, jewels, and really funny greeting cards.


       Next, Penny Royal, a high class gift shop that also has branches in Hastings and Rye. Think Cath Kidston…..
       On  the same side, Woodcocks, a very up-market interiors shop, is worth a browse. 
       Opposite, there is Steamer Trading, a good kitchen shop with many branches in up-market towns, mostly in the South-East.

Steamer Trading

       Can’t avoid mentioning the butchers just up from Woodcocks. Shame about the spelling but those Battle bangers look good.

       Slight deviation off the High Street now, to Abbey Court and Sussex Framing .  As well as being excellent picture framers the shop stocks original paintings, prints and greeting cards. Well worth a visit.
       Back on the High Street, don’t miss British Design British Made.  This stocks vintage and new china, craft work, jewels, knitted things, original clothes, cards, smellies – all sourced from British makers, naturally. The stock is beautifully displayed, there are really beautiful, covetable items, but many of the prices mean that purchases can only be for special presents or very special treats.

British Design, British Made

      I always spend time in Raggs Boutique, across the street. Now, I swear that place was MCL with touches of DRAG a few years ago, but to my eye now, they have an excellent selection of women’s clothes. The ladies in there are very friendly. It stocks Masai clothing, which I like a lot.  I tried on a sale Masai dress but it was simultaneously sack-like and too tight. Clever….


     Further up on the same side we have Webbs Home and Garden Store, which stocks just about everything on the planet in a really small shop. It is a branch of Webbs in Tenterden, which sadly burned down a few years ago.

      Opposite, the high-class Saffron Gallery stocks original paintings, pottery, sculpture etc. Near there, we have the cool-looking DapperM, for menswear. Philosopher says that he’d never go in a shop with ‘dapper’ in the name, so we’ve never been. Then White Sails, another women’s shop. It looks good but always seems full of the proprieter’s friends, yarning busily, so have never been there either.
      Opposite, there is Shire Country Clothing. Total THH.
      Round the corner, heading for the Car Park, past the flower shop, there is the Battle Wool Shop, and what is now the Corner Shop Gallery. It used to deal exclusively with the work of  artist Stan Rosenthal – he produces bright pictures of local views, but the gallery also now stocks a range of pottery. Stan’s designs are also made into lovely cushions – we have one of the Seven Sisters.

Lovely flowers

      Anyway, by now I was fed up of shops, so headed for the museum. Sorry for any shops I have missed – there are two good shoe shops and the Battle Deli, for example.
      On the way, I passed Barbarosa, the original DRAG shop from the previous post. Sorry, not for me. But look, are those Tweedy Horsy people standing outside? Red jodhpurs? What are those classy country boots called? Dubarry?

    I’d gone to the museum to photograph the ‘original’ Hastings Battleaxe.
    Outside, I was surprised to see a scarecrow dressed up in WI/suffragette clothes.

WI scarecrow lady

      Anyway, I discovered that this ‘lady’ was promoting a display in the Museum, commemorating the WI centenary, and curated by the local branch of the WI.
     (Isn’t it strange that ‘curated’ seems to be the word of the decade? Anything can now apparently be curated. I could curate the Battleaxe collection of spaghetti poodles. Ideally, though, I’d need a celebrity ‘guest curator’. The other essential word is ‘sourced’. I see I have used that word above, non-ironically).
      Turns out the original Battle WI was founded very early on in the movement’s history, in 1918. The modern group is called Saxonwood WI. I’d never heard of them and don’t know anything about them, but they are obviously quite enterprising. Smaller than our mob, with 43 members. I don’t think the WI region does that much to promote links between WI’s.
      There was quite an interesting little display. Our WI was only founded in 2011, so it will be many years before our items appear in museums!



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