Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published January 23rd 2014
The Festival Town of Britain
The name Ulverston derives from the Old Norse word, Ulurestun, which literally translates to 'Wolf Warrior Village'. I don't recall mention of there ever being wolves in England, even back in the eleventh century, but it does give this otherwise gentle town a rather heroic presence.
A market town in the Lake District, Ulverston descends from a maritime community that began when the canal opened in 1796. They exported copper, slate and linen around the world.
Laurel & Hardy Statue
It has been the birth place of many noteworthy people, including test cricketer, Norman Gifford, Francis Arthur Jefferson, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the Battle of Monte Cassino in World War Two, Sir John Barrow, and Stan Laurel.
Mr. Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe
Ulverston calls itself 'The Festival Town' because the the sheer number they hold each year. These include everything from your typical beer or comedy festival to more unque events such as the breastfeeding Festival and Dickens Festival. Their most famous is the Lantern Festival; hundreds of residents make their own lanterns out of willow or tissue paper, they parade around the town, making a beautiful conga line of light. The event ends in Ford Park with a fireworks display.
What I love most about Ulverston is its character. The cobbled pavements, old buildings, and little side streets all make it feel like the setting for a magical fairytale. It is the perfect place for a day trip,with many interesting place to visit, and quirky shops to explore.
Laurel & Hardy Museum
Laurel & Hardy Statue
Recently relocated to the Roxy Cinema Complex, the Laurel & Hardy Museum commemorates Ulverstone's most most famous member of the community, Stan Laurel. Born in 1890, the comedian later hooked up with his partner in crime, Oliver Hardy. The museum was founded by Bill Cubin, whose entire collection of memorabila is available to see: letters photography, furniture, personal items, and all day cinema featuring classic Laurel and Hardy films.
Only a block away stands a bronze statue of the duo outside Coronation Hall in County Square.
Sir John Barrow was a naval administrator and traveller born in Ulverston in 1764. His attempts to find a northeast passage through the Canadian Artic led to Cape Barrow being named in his honour. The four hundred and fifty foot Hoard Monument was built in 1850 on Hoard Hill; it is a Grade II listed building modelled on the Eddy Stone Lighthouse in Devon, and has a spiral staircase leading up to a pseudo-lantern chamber.
Ulverston may only be a little town but it has lots of little shops to go with it. A bargain hunter's dream, you can't go wrong; it has over half a dozen charity shops, outlets, gift shops, unique clothing stores, and many cafes.
Pretty Things Boutique
After a run of success at the charity shops, my mum and I popped into Pretty Things Boutique on King Street, which sells unique knitted clothing. Designs include patchwork woollen tunics, flowing tops, stylish leggings, and garments made from mohair. These things are reasonably priced to begin with, but there was a sale one when we went, which means even better value.
When I go clothes shopping, it is usual without much expectation. It is so hard to find things in small sizes, especially really nice looking stuff like this. Pretty Things Boutique had loads of stuff in my size and loads of things I like, including designs by Stella Morgan.
Mum also hit the jackpot when she saw three scarves and a cardigan. We went to the till to pay, and the woman told us that because we had spent over so much, we were entitled to a free scarf. I had to laugh, but Mum was happy because there was a fourth one she had been 'uhming and ahing' about anyway.
Adjacent to Pretty Things Boutique is Chippy Bank an old fashioned fish & chip restaurant with all the trimmings - including netted curtains.
In between these two shops is an alley way which has been brightened up by a long colourful mural depicting Sir John Barrow of the Admiralty's Life & Times.
Down this dwelling you'll find Agate House, a faith and jewellery shop specialising in gemstones. The owner has two lovely golden retrievers who like to take it in turns to sit on the counter.
There is also a tea room and Phoebe's Boutique; she sells exclusive designer labels such as Olsen, Jensen, and Frank Lyman.
The Original Factory Shop
By Ulverston's car park on The Gill is The Original Factory Shop, established in 1969. Open seven days a week, you cannot only get cheap bargain buys that you might find at a pound shop, but also big brand names such as Tefal, Marks & Spencer, Next, Philips, Vax, and Adidas. These can be bought at about half the RRP price.
This shop has just about everything in it; sweets hang at the entrance, next to shelves of DVDs, which were going two for £10. I bought myself two Scooby Doo DVDs as an inexpensive treat.
A bit further along you enter cooking paradise, with slow cookers at half price and baking accessories that are too good to pass up. I got a piper and cupcake corer for £1 each.
There are lots of fashionable shoes to try on, starting from £5, and big fleeces to keep you warm. It is well worth looking here before shopping in the main department stores; you'll save yourself a lot of money.
Returning to Market Street, we were disappointed by the measly offerings on the outside market. There were only about four stalls there, so I don't know what happened to the rest. Fortunately the shops on the high street were much more exciting.
Chinaware is a family run business retailing china, crystal, and gifts from leading manufacturers. Their main themes include Beatrix Potter, Winnie The Pooh, ad Disney figurines. I love watching all the statues go round inside the rotating display case. Upstairs they also have cutlery, aprons, china sets and such.
A bit further down on the opposite side of the road, Sutton's Bookshop sells both new and used books. The middle room is dedicated to children's books and in the front and back rooms there are old fashioned fireplaces. Built in 1800, the narrow building is Grade II listed and has steep, narrow staircases. You have to take care climbing up, but once there, you can relax on the couch and leaf through books.
By far my favourite shop in town is Brambles. Why? Because they sell Charlie Bears. And they just happened to have a sale on. It was a siren luring me in. I was doomed.
As well as bears they also sell homeware such as cushions, blankets, soap, and children's gifts. There was one fun idea in which you mix and match up to thirty disks of scented soaps to create your own fusion of scents. They are more for perfuming a room than using as actual soap.
Not far from Brambles is Gillam's Tea Room, where Mum and I went for lunch. You must go there.
The Book Shack
The indoor market was much more inspiring. Upon entrance I was faced with yet more books, and then one along, a man selling cigarette cards. My dad collects cigarette cards so I riffled through this man's stash like nobody's business. It was so hard to choose because I couldn't possibly buy them all.
Across from here, Deborah Jeane sells Wiccan and occultist goods. I always like to visit her stall when I come to Ulverston. She has an interesting range of things, such as dream catchers, incense, jewellery, and a book on vampires. My favourite piece was a birch wand made by a local artist. She wraps fabric, copper wire, and gemstones around different types of wood. The one on display is an example of her early work, but Deborah Jeanne said that she has improved since then, and now includes a card explaining the power behind each type of wood.
Ulverston does not yet have a supermarket - although they are considering building a Tesco - so local produce stalls still have the opportunity for good business. The market has a green grocer and deli. There were some interesting choices available, such as dry cured bacon flavoured with treacle Guinness and a goat's cheese that I can't remember the name of, but looked worth trying.
On the bus journey to Ulverston I never expected to spend six hours there, but six hours we did.