High street shopping in Congleton

Congleton or 'Beartown' has plenty of things to do and see. But when you visit, make your first stop the shops WORDS BY POLLY BERKELEY PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID BILLINGTON

There’s no denying Congleton’s pulling power as a shopping destination. There are more than 160 places buying and selling their wares on the high street and over 30 places to stop for a drink or something to eat.

The fact it is such a thriving place to live and shop is down to its own efforts. The town has never been a place to rest on its laurels and Congleton Partnership working closely with the local council has a Town Plan which was adopted in 2008 which set out a vision for the next decade or so.

‘Congleton rare, Congleton rare, sold the town bible to buy a new bear.’ This little rhyme dates back to Elizabethan times when bear-baiting was a fashionable sport and it still retains its bear connection to this day. It is often referred to as Beartown.

Today, Congleton serves its community well. It’s a source of everything from high street favourites selling ladieswear, computer games, shoes and electrical goods to a wealth of independent shops, catering for all needs from formal suit hire to teenage designer clothes, from handbags to French furniture, and flowers to African art.

Capitol Walk is Congleton’s alternative district. It’s a quaint undercover arcade that gets its name from the cinema which formerly occupied the site and where shoppers can pick up a diverse range of products from its charming boutiques.

A covered market, just off the pedestrian area, is held twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Once a month the Tuesday market is joined by a Farmers’ Market offering local produce. There is a lively car boot sale every Sunday morning.

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The town has five supermarkets and late shops and on the outskirts of town big retail names can be found at the Barn Road retail park. West Heath Shopping Centre, off Holmes Chapel Road, has been revamped and includes a wide range of shops and places to eat. There is also an interesting collection of retail businesses in the former Victoria Mill site along Foundry Bank – known locally as Green Island- and at High Town near the Railway station.

In 2007 Congleton was first recognised as a Fairtrade Town and there is a growing number of cafes and retailers in Congleton stocking Fair-trade products.

The road to Congleton

Where it is Congleton (Old English: Yongleton) is a town and civil parish in the unitary authority of Cheshire East and the ceremonial county of Cheshire, on the banks of the River Dane, to the west of the Macclesfield Canal and 21 miles south of Manchester. It has a population of 25,750.

About Congleton The first settlements in the Congleton area were Neolithic and it was once thought to have been a Roman settlement. It became the market town we know now, after Vikings destroyed nearby Davenport. gained notoriety in the 1620s when bear-baiting and cockfighting were popular sports.

It was unable to attract large crowds to its bear-baiting contests so it used money saved for a new Bible to buy a new aggressive bear, hence the legend embodied in the chorus of 20th century folk song ‘Congleton Bear’, by folk artist Johh Tams.

The print version of this article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Cheshire Life 

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