What the locals really think of Eccleston

Scenic Eccleston

Scenic Eccleston - Credit: Archant

Eccleston attracts people from across the country including a few famous faces, as Mairead Mahon discovers

Les Holden, Katy Bettridge and Clive Hepplestone at Hepplestone Fine Art

Les Holden, Katy Bettridge and Clive Hepplestone at Hepplestone Fine Art - Credit: Archant

Eccleston used to be known for its orchards but these days it bears fruit of a different kind: businesses which attract people from all over the country, including the occasional famous face. It has a fabulous sense of community too and together they’re putting this Lancashire village on the map.

Hepplestone Fine Art, based in Heskin Hall, has a national reputation for offering original investment pieces and limited edition prints. It has been named Retail Art Gallery of the year 2016 but it might never have existed at all if it weren’t for an impulse purchase by Clive Hepplestone, who along with his son Giles, owns and runs the independent gallery.

‘Neither of us had ever been involved with the art world but we were both passionate about art’, says Clive.’When I saw a picture of a gorgeous springer spaniel, I couldn’t resist it. A few years later, I was offered many times what I had originally paid for it and the germ of an idea started – it might be possible to combine our shared passion for art with a business. Before we could think about all the possible pitfalls involved, in we jumped.’

One of the problems was how to attract big names to this small Lancashire village but sheer determination meant that it wasn’t long before artists such as Todd White and JJ Adams were making their way here.

Clive Hepplestone at Hepplestone Fine Art

Clive Hepplestone at Hepplestone Fine Art - Credit: Archant

‘It was quite amusing really. In the beginning, you could see that that some artists and their agents were very unsure when they arrived: after all, most of them were used to exhibiting in big cities. But it wasn’t long before they realised that just because we were in the countryside, didn’t mean that we didn’t know our business and now Hepplestone Fine Art is a well-known and respected name in the art world,’ says Clive.

It’s not just the artists who make their way here – clients come from all over the country to the beautiful and spacious gallery. They’re safe in the knowledge that they don’t need to linger at the door plucking up courage to enter because as well as expert knowledge, Clive and Giles have a sense of fun as well as expert knowledge. You can browse the great range in peace or, if you’re unsure about what to buy, help will be on hand. In fact, if you’re not sure if a particular piece will live happily in your home, you can take it home to make sure before reaching for the cheque book.

‘Yes, it’s not just Christmas trees that have to be measured you know, so do paintings. Mind you, we don’t recommend cutting the top off a painting! Instead, we go back to the drawing board to find something the client loves and is the right size,’ says Clive who also offers a framing service.

So, what about the picture of the springer spaniel that was the inspiration for this fantastic gallery – has Clive ever been tempted to sell it? ‘Absolutely not! It will never be for sale. Without that picture, it’s possible we would never have taken the leap and every day, we’re glad we did.’

Renu Modha of Ishvari

Renu Modha of Ishvari - Credit: Archant

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Renu Modha, is also based in Heskin Hall, where she runs a textile studio, designing and making gorgeous scarves and counts famous faces such as Joanna Lumley among her fans. Renu, who graduated in fashion from the University of Central Lancashire, named her studio, Ishvari, a Sanskrit word meaning a divine female form. ‘You know even on a wet day in the Lancashire countryside, the colours are pretty special and they, along with the contrasting colours of India inspire me,’ says Renu who designs all her own textiles and handmakes every piece herself.

There are lots to choose from but Renu also offers a bespoke service for ladies who want something to match a special outfit as well as demonstrating the latest fashionable way to wear it. Renu’s chic necklace scarves, a design she has patented, is selling like hot cakes both in Lancashire and in outlets around the UK.

Renu has achieved tremendous success in the seven years since she opened her studio, although she is a mere youngster compared to R. Bamford’s, a gun and country wear shop that has been trading since 1920 and is now represented by fourth generation Sky and Richard McCann. The shop has recently expanded and now has a huge selection of quality clothes for country living, including the largest selection of wellingtons in Lancashire, although Sky is doing her best to rival it!

‘Yes, I’m addicted. I even have a pair of Jimmy Choo wellies: who says wellies can’t be fashionable?’ she laughs. A gun room stocks what is possibly the best selection of retail guns in one space in the country and people, including the great and the good, travel hundreds of miles to Eccleston, near Chorley, to make a selection and talk to a family firm that can offer extensive advice and guidance, based on almost a century of trading.

From guns to roses and the village is also home to Rhapsody, a floral design shop owned by Rachel Cook and her team of five florists. None of them bat an eyelid when the most famous Eccleston resident, Sir Bradley Wiggins, pops in.

Rachel’s flower studio is a modern shop but when Jackie Cooke wanted to open her interior design and gift shop, Pepperberry, she chose the old bank, complete with original vault door.

‘What’s the point of a historic building if you’re not going to keep the original features,’ says Jackie, who did most of the sympathetic renovations herself, including knocking down a wall and sanding floors.

It was something she never thought she would be doing when she used to wait in line to approach the bank manager many years ago. Today, the building is home to lots of pretty things. Jackie’s own home must be gorgeous too.

‘You would think so but alas it’s not! I’m too busy to style my own home but I live vicariously through hearing how people use Pepperberry’s things in their homes and, for now, that will have to do,’ she sighs.

Many businesses like Jackie’s, have joined Eccleston’s Business network, the brainchild of Curtis Dowman, MD of David J Killen Insurance.

‘Eccleston is a thriving business community that attracts plenty of visitors and this is a good way of supporting each other and bringing us closer together,’ he says.

Fr Andrew Brown of the ancient church of St Mary the Virgin agrees community is important and he and his church are at the heart of it. It hosts many groups from bellringers to the WI and from tots’ groups to a choir that has a professional choirmaster. In fact, music is very important – the church hosts an annual music festival in July, with acts as diverse as Opera North and The Houghton Weavers!

‘When the village was affected by the 2015 Boxing Day floods, everyone rallied around to help each other and it’s great to see that people who have recently moved in feel as much a part of the community as those who have lived here for generations. Eccleston has everything it needs for a great future,’ says Fr Andrew. It seems everyone agrees with him.