Why Whalley is fast becoming a creative hub in Lancashire
- Credit: Archant
This Ribble Valley gem is home to creative people and imaginative retailers who make it the perfect place for a day out.
If you are seeking the soul of Whalley, then talk to the people who live there. If you are looking for the sole, then shoe designer Marco Vaghetti is your man. He has just launched Lanx, a brand so Lancastrian that it has the county’s rose symbol picked out in the brogue pattern on the top of each shoe.
Marco’s family has a history of enterprise. His grandfather left Italy after the war and launched what was to become a successful furniture making business from his garden shed in Darwen.
His grandson went to Stonyhurst College and after university embarked on a career in marketing and event management. One client asked him to help out promoting a shoe company and he became hooked.
‘But the truth was I didn’t have any idea how to make shoes,’ says 33-year-old Marco. So, with the intention of also having ‘the best time of my life’ he spent six months travelling, mainly in Asia, learning the art of shoe making.
During that time he visited makers in ten countries, including China, India and Japan and he continues to work with a designer in Tokyo, where he also spent time with a group of large gentlemen from a school for sumo wrestlers. He stumbled across them while looking for a shoe factory.
Back home, and armed with the new found knowledge, Marco launched the business in Salvage House in Whalley’s King Street. It is here that he has created six different shoe designs for ‘young professional men’ who want stylish footwear that can be used for work and socialising. They retail at around £125.
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‘It was important to me to incorporate aspects of Lancashire into my designs – I’m a very proud Lancashire lad. The tweed I use in some of them comes from Clitheroe and, although the shoes are made in India under my supervision, I’ve not lost sight of the fact that Lancashire used to be a centre for shoe manufacturing and hopefully will be again.’
Marco, who lives in Clitheroe, will be keeping the business online initially but he has retailers interested in Lanx and his ambition is to open his own shop in Whalley’s King Street. ‘And local customers can have free delivery thanks to my tricycle, known as the Ribble Valley Rocket.
‘It’s a brand new venture and Salvage House was a perfect space. I wanted everything to be as local as possible because Whalley is where I’m based and I love it.’
Edd Marsh, who with the help of his brother Tom runs Salvage House, is keen to research the history of the items he collects for sale. It’s not really surprising as he studied social history at university.
‘Our shop is stuffed full of items that all have a story to tell from coat pegs that were once used for holding gym bags in a Lancashire school to Victorian benches that the citizens of Padiham used to sit on while waiting for a bus,’ says Edd, who spends his day surrounded by quirky items – anything from an Edwardian taxidermist’s badger, to a 1920s boardroom chair and vintage glass chemistry sets. There are also tables that have been fashioned from Victorian roof joists. He also uses them to make chopping boards.
‘They’re all cool antiques and as Whalley is becoming one of the coolest places around, it seemed obvious to base Salvage House here. Our customers range from a chap in his 80s who always pops in when he’s walking his dog to London-based interior designers,’ says Edd, who sourced a gold chandelier for a young couple who had set their hearts one and a buffalo skull for a chap who felt that nothing else would do for the space above his Aga.
Teresa Potter is a designer of a different kind. Her horticultural talents have been recognised by the RHS, which made her a local and national judge for Britain in Bloom, a lifetime ambition for a woman who declared that she wanted to be a gardener from the age of three.
Today, Teresa runs, Teresa Potter Garden and Landscape Design with partner, Russ. ‘I’m a plantswoman and designer and Russ is an absolute whizz at making the plans into 3D virtual reality which means clients know immediately what their garden will look like. That said, gardens require patience – I recently had one client who wanted to incorporate an avenue of lime trees for the benefit of his great grandchildren,’ says Teresa.
Teresa is in demand throughout the UK, working on everything from courtyard spaces to huge manor house gardens and even a garden for a Ribble Valley underground house, which will be filled with native and wild flowers.
‘We always research our projects, including the history of a garden and that’s what makes it fun,’ says Russ.
Fun is also to be found at Precious boutique, where owner Marianne Hyde displays her Danish roots by making sure that Scandinavian designers have a presence.
‘Ribble Valley ladies love fashion. Obviously, some like to browse by themselves but others make an event of their trip and we do sometimes have groups of ladies who like to listen to my styling tips while drinking a glass of prosecco. These prosecco evenings are always very popular,’ says Marianne.
More style can be found at Sarah Layton Jewellers. They were singled out by the design icon Vivienne Westwood when she made them one of the few outlets that would be allowed to sell her jewellery range. Of course, Sarah Layton are respected gemmologists and goldsmiths in their own right and have a fabulous reputation that stretches far and wide, so no surprise it reached the ears of London fashionistas. ‘We give a very high level of service to our clients, taking time to make sure that the piece they select is exactly right and of, course, we can also design individual pieces,’ explains director Leanne Rogers, who has recently launched what will become a regular in-store bridal event. Staying with aesthetics, Karin Hill, proprietor of Deep Beauty Spa, also believes in sharing her knowledge. Her beauty spa is known for its style and breadth of techniques – from a manicure or massage to facials that incorporate the latest technology. Unusually, it is also home to a beauty academy, in which would-be beauticians can enrol in order to become fully qualified.
‘We offer a variety of courses and people can decide what’s best for them. They are professional courses and so they do require concentration and commitment. The only time we allow nodding off is if a student falls asleep when experiencing what a massage should feel like,’ laughs Karin who has sent out hundreds of qualified beauticians into the world. Whalley really is a place beautiful people.