A honey-coloured hive of activity

Somerset Life|April 2020

A honey-coloured hive of activity
Castle Cary is a thriving market town and a perfect place to visit for a spot of window shopping, discovers CATHERINE COURTENAY
CATHERINE COURTENAY

With its honey-colored stone buildings and famous Market House standing proudly at its centre, Castle Cary makes an impressive impact on the first time visitor.

Its shops are clustered around the Market House, adding to the appeal and making it a great destination for a spot of window shopping.

First though, it’s worth visiting one of the town’s iconic buildings. Just up the hill from the Market House is a small circular tower, the Round House, an old lockup prison dating from the 18th century. You can borrow the keys from the information office in Market House and look inside. It’s one of only 12 such buildings in the country and you can even get married there.

Not far away is another impressive building from 1767, which houses the Post Office and next door is a lovely library, a pretty little building which, since threatened with closure in 2018, is now run by volunteers as a community library.

The town has a thriving bookshop, the Bailey Hill Bookshop, which is one of many independents in the town and has been around for more than 40 years. To have so many truly local shops indicates that the town’s retailers are doing an impressive job and fighting back against online competition. The bookshop for example, as well as being staffed by knowledgeable booksellers, can order a book for overnight delivery.

Another long-running business is Needful Things. Although it has a Georgian façade, the shop is in a building that dates back to 1633. It used to be the old bakery and has a pretty courtyard at the back.

John and Ally Lawrence have run their business here for 20 years and live above the shop. It sells an array of gifts, homewares, ladies’ fashion and it has a curtain-making business. Until recently that ran in a separate property on the other side of the street, but with a lease coming to an end, they decided to move everything back under one roof.

“It’s great having the team back together,” says John. The rooms of this lovely old property are filled with gorgeous items and as regards the bespoke curtain making, they have an incredible 400 pattern books to choose from, ranging from traditional to the latest designer collections.

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April 2020