Many of us ‘happy shoppers’ still rely heavily on high street shops for our retail therapy fix – but look past these super-shiny and over-preened shop fronts away from the high street to less conventional locations and you will find an eclectic and unique array of independent and inviting outlets that will be able to satisfy even the most ardent of shopaholics.
One such shop, one of many, is located on the busy A49 which runs happily between the hills of Little Switzerland (aka Church Stretton) at Leebotwood (known by the locals by its old name, Lebotwood). Wilstone House and Gardens has occupied this former mechanics garage for the last 5 years.
Wilstone House and Gardens – simply put is an Alladins Cave. We all know there are many of these shops dotted about – but this one is the one. The exterior of the building belies the interior, but the minute you walk through the door your senses are blown away! Crammed, stacked, leaning, in baskets, in pots, on shelves – unusual, odd items simply everywhere.
We all know that if you needed to buy, for example, oil for your car – you would head off to a certain well known chain store whose name begins with ‘H’, and stock up.
Would you know that if you needed to buy a camel saddle you would come to Wilstone, or if you needed a ship’s wheel, an ox cart, hand turned wooden ghee or butter pots, old brass tea urns, wooden jugs for goats milk, and that is just the beginning!
Wilstone was set up by Christo McKinnon who’s roots lay firmly in the antique business, until he and his milliner wife Kate decided to buy a rambling Georgian house with dilapidated barns amid the glorious Shropshire Hills. The McKinnon’s had previously spent many months travelling Asia and found a myriad of interesting and unusual items that they felt would enhance homes and gardens within England.
Christo and Kate regularly travel to India and source items of interest that are then shipped back to England in huge crates. Each crate represents a possible logistical nightmare, with many suppliers having to coordinate production and packing for the shipping date. But, once the container arrives, having been precariously driven around the tight lanes inhabited by the fearless chickens of Wilstone, where the main warehouse is located – it is like Christmas.
Hundreds of boxes and crates, miles and miles of brightly coloured shredded paper wrapping Cobalt blue ceramics, hand crafted stone troughs, jali panels in all shapes and sizes, fountains made of shiny white sparkly marble, old market cart wheels, symbolic shrines and temples that would have been disregarded on the streets of India, delicately hand carved wooden panels of all shapes and sizes depicting Peacocks, traditional floral designs, horses, Indian Gods and Deities and many carvings stemming from the period of the Raj. Victorian Tiles, taken from their original setting and turned into Coat Hooks. Iron Gazebos shrouded in bubble wrap, a pair of stately looking hand carved Lions, Stone benches shining a pale golden yellow in the afternoon sunlight.
In a small hamlet, amid the hills of Shropshire, there are busy people organising and planning for their next trip abroad, to bring back many, many more fascinating and unusual things to delight and enhance the homes and gardens of Shropshire.