Whither Church Street?

It’s fair to say that some things remain totally baffling to us here at twickerati HQ. How apples fell from trees before Isaac Newton invented gravity is one. The success of the television career of Nick Knowles is another. And, although it might seem strange to say it, the state of Church Street in Twickenham is yet another.

Church Street

A flowered up Church Street

Do people love Church Street? They surely do. It’s everyone’s favourite Twickenham street, isn’t it? Al fresco dining in summer; French markets; Christmas lights; a couple of great pubs; some quirky shops, a smattering of local businesses and a decent selection of restaurants. All great. Is it a roaring success? Maybe, a bit. Sometimes the place is buzzing. And yet on the other hand we continue to see empty shops – Par Ici, Escape, Langtons, and Mercado to name but four. Complement to name five. Take a look around on weekdays and even weekends and you’ll see that it’s not exactly heaving. Where is everyone? As a shopper you’re more likely to have to step aside for a passing car than as a result of the press of fellow punters.

Mid morning on a mild October Saturday

Where are you? Mid morning on a mild October Saturday

And yet, look at just about any promotional publication or website focusing on Twickenham and you can be pretty damn sure that lil’ old Church Street will feature. And rightly so. But where are the millers, the bustlers, the browsers and the leisure pursuitists? Some might be in the shops but the others are, well, elsewhere.

The state of Twickenham town centre is often discussed online – shops opening, shops closing, the Twickenham Action Plan, bus lanes, cycle lanes and traffic pains. Much of the Council’s TWAP efforts are focused on improving the town centre. The recently established Try Twickenham website (a rebranding of the Twickenham BID scheme) is also trying to raise the profile of the town. And then there’s all the good work of the Twickenham Town Business Association led by its tireless chairman Mr Bruce “Church Street” Lyons in organising events and galvanising support.

To let. Shop on Church Street

Shop to let, Church Street

How can they – how can we – get a Church Street that’s busy all year round and becomes a destination in its own right? Is that state of affairs even possible? And if it is, what needs to happen to make it work? Like that puzzling question of which came first, the antique rocking horse or the grand bay window, this conundrum is about whether a critical mass of shoppers is needed to attract more viable retailers or whether more shops draw in more people. So, what kickstarts the virtuous circle?

Perhaps pop-ups can help? There’s certainly something to be said for the pop-up shops that have appeared – Lovers Lights in Mercado, the return of Monica Boxley to her former shop over Christmas, ARThouse open studios in the former Langton’s bookshop last June. How about making a permanent pop-up space? An oxymoron, you might think. Not necessarily, although it might take a benevolent landlord to make it happen. (OK, so perhaps ‘benevolent landlord’ really is an oxymoron). There is a rising interest in this idea of ‘pay as you go’ retail space. Rent a shop for a weekend, a week or a month and woo the locals with special offers. Combine that with a strong local online brand and perhaps it’s one way for local businesses to gain a high street presence without committing to all the overheads. What’s more, the pop-up industry is growing with the likes of Appear Here operating in city centres across the UK bringing landlords and short-term tenants together. Could that work here?

Angels & Heroes

New(ish) – Angels & Heroes toy shop

And how about a community angle to draw people in too? Twickenham Indoor Community Market took a lot of work to set up but after its run at Mac’s Diner on Mondays and Tuesdays last year, its future is now uncertain. The obvious time and place for it is surely weekends somewhere in Church Street. And hey, and why not do it outside when the weather’s fine? While we’re at it can we lose the cars and have more stuff on the pavements, please? Damn it, we’re going to go right out on a limb here to suggest the occasional busker too (of the very best, non-irritating kind of course!). As for shops, why not chuck in a florist and a cheese shop for good measure. One twickerati supporter has even suggested buying up the famous ‘twickerati ice cream van’ and sticking it in a Church Street shop as some kind of official community HQ. Or even fixing it high up on a wall. Now that is radical! Perhaps it could serve as a kind of ice-cream-van-cum-gibbet on hot summer days.

Ah, but what about the money and business side? Of course, that’s not so easy to fix. The evil twins of high rents and high business rates can’t be solved overnight, and certainly not by those fickle characters who go by the collective name of ‘shoppers’.  As residents of Twickenham we’re not obliged to have a constantly busy and bustling Church Street but wouldn’t it be great if we could make everyone’s favourite Twickenham street into everyone’s real favourite Twickenham street? So what would you do? Where would you take things? Or to put it another way, whither Church Street?

Some Christmas

Some Christmas busy-ness in Church Street


Filed under Features, High Street Updates, Local Issues & News, Random Stuff

104 responses to “Whither Church Street?

  1. Mr Squirrel

    Some sign of life on Church St maybe? There’s a planning application for a speciality wine shop, https://twitter.com/WarrenWines

    Should fit in rather well and hopefully will draw in some business.

  2. Purple Haze

    I hear that Halfords in King Street is closing down at the end of the month. So another large retail space that will need filling. A good opportunity for the likes of Robert Dyas to open a shop here?

  3. El Brute have announced that Church Street will get new paving in February. The pavements will be widened and the carriageway itself will be flush with the pavements. (Which it is at the moment isn’t it?).

    The work is expected to be complete by the summer.


    • Judy Astley

      It’s not THAT long ago that Church St was re-paved etc. If they really want to do something useful, Water Lane and Bell Lane are both a right royal mess, paving-wise.

    • Cleo Talbot

      I think the new york stone paving already looks a right royal mess. And an expensive one, too.

    • illiad1

      As far as I can make out from the rather mixed PR, it looks like church street will be redone with granite sett stones..(cobbled stone, but smooth???)

    • Judy Astley

      I am so old, I remember when Church St was two-way for traffic!

    • Snap! My Saturday job was in Church Street, aged 15. I worked in a long gone estate agents at 32 Church Street, now absorbed into a hairdressers next to Wake & Paine.

      I learnt so much from that job, customer service, taking in rents, mortgage and building society payments, filing, banking, making coffee, operating a switchboard, typing stencils and printing on a Roneo duplicating machine, using a copier which involved mixing chemicals and peeling the paper apart. I really enjoyed helping with surveys, learnt about direction of floorboards, damp meters, building regulations etc.

      Also at that time Twickenham was a different community, the bank managers, solicitors, Chamber of Commerce, other estate agents all worked together for the good of the town. The shops were not specialist, there was Trusslers the newsagents, Betts the grocers across the road next to Barclays Bank, a cafe, Jane Ayre, Adana printing machines further down, at the end near the church was a cycle shop and a car park.

    • twickerman

      Widening the pavements in Church Street is very welcome.
      Presumably this will be done at the expense of the existing parking spaces?

      I’m not so sure about El Brute’s claims to have added cycle lanes. So far they have only succeeded in removing the bus/cycle lanes from King Street.

    • Judy Astley

      How on earth can they widen the pavements in Church St? The road is only the width of one van as it is.

    • Anonymous

      ‘politician speak with forked tongue’..
      the pavements will be the same level as the road, so vans will fit..
      the only difference between pavement and road is the ‘pretty’ kind of stone that is used… 🙂

  4. George

    The Farmers’ Market gets a lot of mentions but I’m not convinced that this is necessarily a good thing. It feels like something that should complement existing shops not take trade away from them. So, it’s a good thing if it brings locals & visitors into the town who spend their money in other shops, but surely it would be better if locals were spending money in ‘real’ shops with a permanent high street presence and not in a car park behind M&S. Get a few more foodie shops into Church Street – not just pubs & restaurants – and then move the farmers market there and a hub begins to develop. And then why not give local shops discounted market stalls too so Rubens, Sandys, Laverstoke and Cousins can be part of it.

    And talking of Cousins and the praise for their oranges further down… I do use it occasionally but find the quality to be variable. I accept that it’s hard for them to compete with the refrigerated warehouses & shelves of the supermarkets but my experiences have been hit and miss which is a shame as I would like to use it more.

    • illiad1

      um, the Twickenham farmers market is only on Saturday mornings, AFAIK..
      I dont think that any ‘fixed’ shop can do what they do, unless they are willing to give up precious shop space for independent local farms, As cheap as the council??
      **Please get the facts at http://www.lfm.org.uk/faq/
      The presence of farmers markets have actually increased footfall for local shops in the area, and all stall’s owners are inspected to ensure their produce is own-grown and local. 🙂

      Church street is not as good as the carpark, most of the stalls there would take up the *whole* width of church street!!

    • George

      Indeed. I was mainly talking about shopping on Saturday. I think it is better for the town if people were to buy their meat at Laverstoke, their bread at Rubens and their fish at Sandys. If the Farmers Market attracts people into Twickenham who do that as well then that’s great. If not, all the spend will go to local producers (where ‘local’ covers Kent & assorted other southern counties too). I am certainly not opposed to the market in fact I think its a good idea but would prefer to see good, thriving permanent shops first which are then complemented by the market.

    • illiad1

      Yes. the only problem with the carpark, is it can only be leased up to 1pm..
      other spaces are available, but they *need** to be at the weekend or until evening, so normal working people can use them! 🙂

    • Dukes of Orleans

      The farmers market is a wonderful addition on Saturday, it certainly attracts us, and others to also shop in the local shops. It only works where it is because it is next to the car park. Try carrying a lot of food shopping from Church Street back to the car park? Hmmm. We are very lucky to have it, but it can’t be the solution to the issues in Church Street, which certainly need addressing in another way. I suspect some of the issues in this street are about high rentals and rates?

    • illiad1

      I heard a rumour that Alsford timber (next to the new ‘high road auctions’) may be closing its Twickenham branch… Any confirmation???
      This would be an ideal area for a covered market…

    • illiad1

      the floorspace could swallow the m&s carpark… 🙂

  5. Purple Haze

    There is a perception that the whole of Twickenham is an affluent area, which it is not and never has been. This seems to have come from its association with England rugby which is often regarded as being a ‘posh boy’s sport’. Perhaps incorrectly I might add. Ok it has areas of attractive houses and wealth but apart from select areas Twickenham has never been a fashionable suburb of London, well probably not since the 18th century.

    It’s saving grace is it’s river frontage which is one of the most attractive parts of The Thames and it’s open spaces and parks. I’ve lived here for over 30 years and realise the town will never become a vital or trendy part of London. And now it’s being spoiled further by unwanted high-rise developments and the conversion of offices to flats without upgrading or improving the surrounding infrastructure.

    Many years ago I remember seeing statistics that showed the average household income of Twickenham was almost half that of Richmond’s. Maybe that’s an unfair comparison. But if there wasn’t a need for the likes of Poundland, Subway, Iceland, charity shops, Reels (which has closed down but is being replaced by the same type of business), and the many pubs, takeaways and restaurants, that only make real money on rugby days, the town would be even more down at heel.

    Too many businesses here rely on the RFU and the bigger attendances at The Stoop to make money. Most of them exploit it to the hilt, expanding the areas of bars where people can eat and drink and racking up their prices. But they often end up alienating the locals, as it’s perceived the needs of rugby fans are more important than those of residents. The Council can be blamed for fostering this attitude as well as it sees the RFU as a cash cow. This just shows lack of imagination and diversity.

    One of the previous comments was that some pubs can turn over £40,000 on a good rugby day. That is a very, very conservative estimate for certain places.
    However, many businesses reliant on rugby days quickly come and go, as they realise this reliance on rugby punters, at the expense of locals, isn’t sustainable in the long term. The poor management of traffic and the lack of toilets on match days is increasingly annoying many residents, which will lead to some moving away.

    Let’s see how many of those poor quality pubs, bars and restaurants disappear after the Rugby World Cup this year.

    • David

      I agree with a lot of that, though I’d argue that Twickenham’s demographics are far from fixed. The crush on school places reflects its absorption into the ‘nappy valley’ of Southwest London. There was a lot of talk about Twickenham Green further down the thread – I’d say that is one area whose demographic mix has changed totally in the last decade, and you can see the impact in some of the shops and pubs opening or reopening around there.

      I’d argue that one thing Teddington does very well, that central Twickenham does not, is cater to this young family crowd – not just kids clothing shops, but stuff to do when it’s wet, eg pottery cafes etc etc. What there is is too spread out.

      If you look at the proposed developments, they are pretty high-end flats/townhouses etc etc (whether that is a good thing or not). The people that live there will not, I imagine, have household incomes half those of the equivalents in Richmond.

    • Mr Squirrel

      Twickenham isn’t a poor area at all, if anything it’s one of the most affluent areas in London.


      According to this the median household income on Twickenham Riverside is 63k and South Twickenham 65k. Richmond by comparison is 69k

      London Average is 46k

      I would imagine this is increasing rapidly as well since Richmond is now completely unaffordable for even high earners.. I don’t think many people want to pay 1 million pounds for a tiny 2 bed cottage.

      So saying the high street is in the current shape due to the area not being affluent enough is not a valid argument IMHO. If anything there aren’t many shops catering to this crowd and the ones that do are actually doing well. I’m sure if there were more decent shops around more people would be spending money locally.

    • Purple Haze

      Twickenham isn’t a poor area, and nobody has said that. But the overall perception that the whole town is very well off is false.
      So why aren’t there any more ‘decent shops’ around if the the town is full of affulent people?
      What’s ‘decent’ and what isn’t is open to debate. A lot of folk think Poundland is a decent shop and one selling loaves of bread for £4 a pop isn’t. It depends on what youur circumstances are, and what you want to spend your money on.

    • Cleo Talbot

      Only £4 for a loaf of bread? I saw one in a bakery on Heath Road for £4.75 this morning. I’m sure it was exquisite, though… 😉

    • illiad1

      Mr Squirrel, you seem to have forgotten yourself…
      “one of the most affluent areas in London.”
      “median household income” is actually LESS than Richmond by 3 to 4 K???
      you don’t need a degree to see richmond is more affluent… 🙂

    • illiad1

      … unless you are caught in the councillors ‘trap’ of taking the whole of “Richmond Upon Thames” figures… Where properties in east twickenham (just over the bridge from richmond odeon), and further along in st.margarets, are lazily called ‘in richmond’ to pull in the clients…

    • illiad1

      I think that rumour has been spread by certain *non resident* councillors…
      ‘somebody’ is earning a lot of money out of all the building near the station.. 😦
      We locals are just hoping for all the building work (station, road, etc) to get finished, to see if business gets back to some where near ‘normal’…

    • michelangelo

      Such innuendo is scurrilous and out of place. St James, the developers, of course are making the usual profit. If you have evidence of malpractice, you should report it to the police, not make veiled accusations here.

  6. I’ve always wondered whether there might be good business for a jewellers, a hardware store or, particularly, a children’s clothing store. Anyone agree ?

    • Purple Haze

      Until a few years back there was a very good jewellers in Heath Road, near to Star Print I think, and a hardware shop. All gone now.

  7. Vincey1984

    I lived in Twickenham for 7 years until last year. What people want it to be it will never be. It can’t be. It’s got its function in the borough and that is as a rugby town. It’s not a retail centre.

    People go to Richmond and/or Kingston because of the range of clothes & shoe shops. Twickenham can’t (nor should it) offer that.

    Teddington is as average as Twickenham (not sure what others are going on about Teddington for) but like Twickenham has some nice speciality stores but that’s the only thing attracting in the the less frequent visitor – e.g. Sandy’s (amazing), Teddington Cheese (amazing). Church street might pull in some people at Christmas but come on, it’s not exactly thriving.

    Twickenham has too many average shops that can be priced out of the market by the internet. Focusing on speciality stores (much lower rents or pop up as suggested could drive this) would lead to more visitors – Star Print being another good example.

    Footfall is not going to be that of others (and nor should it aim to be).

    Gammy restaurants and some horrific pubs (there are some lovely ones but not many) are there mainly for the 19 days of rugby. That’s not going to change. They dominate as they bring so much revenue into the town. I would wager the pubs/rests make more money than 95% of the other shops. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that that’s where the balance of power is.

    • George Bailey

      We’re going on about Teddington because it has a full vigorous high-street with a good mix of independent and chain shops. Teddington does not have: the glut of charity shops (occupying premises that would otherwise be empty, paying peppercorn rents that benefit the landlord who would have to pay the more expensive empty shop rate) that Twickenham has, nor does Teddington have Iceland, Reels, multiple betting shops and Poundland, businesses associated with downmarket areas, and lastly Teddington does not have lots of closed down businesses as Twickenham has, and Teddington is a town just a mile down the road with a similar demographic.

    • Cleo Talbot

      Sadly, I think the rugby has been a big influence in the development of our town centre. Twickenham and Teddington have evolved rather differently because of this, in my view.

  8. Business rates are a pox on entrepreneurs and i have written extensively on the subject with particular regard to Dr Cable dodging the chance to revise them. Rates are still at the 2010 pre-crash highs plus annual (5% last year!) inflation and will remain so until 2017. That is disgusting.

    A word on rents.
    Rents are market-driven and the perfect barometer for confidence in an economy (although there is a huge anomaly in Twick- but thats another story and explains some of the empty shops in the town centre, normally with a London agent). Landlords now pay empty rates in full ,they are also often mortgaged so a deal is always in the offing. Location is everything so Twickenham Green is half the price of Heath Road which is half the price of Teddington High St.

    Teddington is successful because it is hemmed in by the park and the river, has no A316, it is a slow train to nowhere in particular, hence it is self contained and supported at a local, affluent level. Desirability has gone through the roof because of the schools so it is a self-fulfilling success story and yes my home town can learn from the innovation in marketing and community events. A word of caution, Teddington could be a victim of its own success a la Camden, Chiswick, Shoreditch and Putney as rents rise, Cote and Nandos are the recent arrivals, say no more.

    The nature of shop-keeping has changed, leases are much shorter with regular upward-only, market-evidenced rent reviews making them inflation proof but in low growth economies that does not help shopkeepers.

    There is a terrible churn in shops but you cant keep a dream down and i take solace that for every JoJo Loo’s we have steered a Rubens to Twickenham (who were on their way to Hampton Wick of all places!)

    Lastly, it is the internet, stupid. I too spend my life going to drop off points to return items that don’t fit/work. Show me a hardware shop, dairy, haberdasher, musical instrument, record shop, antiques, second hand clothing, collectables, menswear, womenswear, hatters, toys, fishing tackle, DVD rental or drapers willing to open in a town these days and i’ll show you a National Trust heritage centre.

    pedestrianise Church St, add permanent covered stalls, extend it the river with cobbles on Water Lane, remove the Eel Pie Island and pedestrian parking by the river. I heart TW1

    • One independent business that has survived is Cousins the greengrocers, we visit them annually to buy our marmalade oranges, one of the cousins goes to Seville to buy them. The owners really are cousins, it is not their surname, on Saturday one of them chided my DH for being later than usual in buying the oranges.

      As the oranges are loose we were able to pick and choose which fruit we wanted, the four pounds cut up this evening were excellent. This is the specialist shop needed to be promoted in Twickenham, an old style market trader with good customer service.

  9. I’m a new resident to Twickenham (6 months now) & I absolutely love the area. Previously lived in Richmond for 2 years which was great but what I love about Twickenham is the potential.

    I’m glad you’ve mentioned startups like Appear Here which help pop ups to find space but the high rents are hard for small businesses, especially fledgling ones.

    I’ve been toying with the idea of trialling a crowdfunding campaign to have a series of pop-ups in Twickenham. If the community backs it & funds it surely you’d be likely to promote, shop & spend there to keep it going as you’ve got a monetary & emotional engagement?

    I’m drawing plans up at the moment & if anyone has got any input or wants to chat about then do hit me up on twitter: @AdamJBall

    On a side note, it could be easy & not too expensive for the council, businesses etc to advertise twickenham to residents in surrounding areas (Kingston, richmond etc) via Facebook adverts. If any businesses / gov bods reading this want a run through of how all this works then I’d be happy to try and find some free time to run through it over a coffee / beer.

  10. Anonymous

    I made a decision to buy most Christmas presents locally and from smaller shops last year and found that Twickenham has lots of wonderful independent shops. Twickenham Green in particular has improved considerably since I moved here 13 years ago. It now has Lovers Light and Glorious and feels more vibrant. The town centre also has good shops like Laverstoke and Sandys. We should be more grateful for what we have rather than comparing ourselves to Kingston and Teddington which are very different.

    • Jill Corbett

      Thank you so much for supporting the small independent shops. As the owners of Glorious my Husband and I have been bowled over by the support and friendliness of the Twickenham towns folk.

    • Angelina Jolly

      I did some Church St investigations this fine Saturday morning.

      I asked a Church St shop keeper ‘why the shop closures’ and he uttered the stark words: ‘Twickenham shoppers don’t shop in Twickenham’. Apparently his sister branch (5 miles further into London) is doing really well; has 3 Saturday girls working today, whilst their Twickenham branch has always under performed. He tells me there is just not the foot-falll in TW1 (an indeed Church St WAS dead at 10.30 this morning). He mentioned that even when they have stalls out on promotional sunny days, Twicker-folk are not buying. He mentioned that other Twickenham businesses complain of this too, It’s not just Church Street.

      I asked him why Teddington is not suffering for example, and he mentioned the all important business rate question (below) and added that local Teddington folk have pledged to spend more locally. As part of the Fiver-Fest campaign, locals want to, and ARE spending more in independent shops, it’s really created a bit of a turn-around. Can the Twickerati help with this (i.e. you n me?)

      Also and importantly he told me that on Rugby days he make zero money -no £’s at all!

      With around 19 days allocated to Rugby, that’s 19 days of lost trading! But Twickenham shop-keepers still have to pay full rates, they have no compensation for this loss – and perhaps they should? The shopkeeper told me that now LBRuT run business rates (as of last year) they should now look into this.

      Other local towns are unaffected by rugby traffic and loss of footfall, but they pay the same business rates as Twickenham businesses who really lose out; 19 days of little or no trading is a big loss to a small business. Conversely Twickenham pubs apparently can make many thousands £’s on a rugby days, he actually quoted “£40,000” on a good rugby day (could this be true?) And actually, my friend who ran a now closed Church St shop told me she used to close her shop on rugby days and work in a busy local pub and made really good money – sadly not in her shop! it is safe to say the clothes and jewellery shops are empty during rugby days, whilst the pubs have punters over-flowing onto the streets. The business owner I spoke with feels Twickenham pubs should perhaps pay the full business rates but other businesses should not.

      It seems to this shopkeepers mind at least, all of us need to shop locally and use independent traders more often, and LBRuT needs to look at its Twickenham business rates. Perhaps then we’ll have the high-street we really deserve?

    • illiad1

      5 miles is along way to go, by my calculations thats shepherds bush / fulham… A lot more, richer people there…. :/ (1 bed flat for 700,000!!)

    • Sally

      Yes. The truth is that most local businesses’ takings are down on rugby days. Some close early, some stay shut because the rugby crowds aren’t doing that sort of shopping and locals and visitors stay away. Who in their right mind would see a rugby day as just the right time to shop in Twickenham? Yes, the pubs do well but the other businesses do very badly. This has been confirmed by every shopkeeper I have ever spoken to locally and by one or two council surveys. A difference in the rates for non rugby shops could help a lot. LBRUT always carry on about rugby bringing prosperity of all local shops and that is really not true.

  11. Thanks for all the comments.

    Church Street Twickenham have tweeted that “All the empty shops have been let. Except for Monica Boxley which has only just become vacant again”. This was in response to a tweet from the Eel Pie Pub saying that “more Church Street business are soon closing”. It wasn’t clear if the new lets also covered the potential closures.

    Meanwhile the rumour that Langton’s old shop is to become a food hall has also hit Twitter. It’s not a bad idea.

  12. Victoria Byrne

    We don’t need to pretend we aren’t on a major route out of SW London; publicise how easy it is to get to what we’ve got – and one theme is the incredible quality independent food shops – Sandy’s fish, Reuben’s bread, Laverstoke Farm shop, to name three, (apologies to the great others I’ve missed out), plus farmer’s market, and easy access by road and rail, bike or or an exceptional walk or boatride along the river.

  13. Angelina Jolly

    New businesses are not taking over the empty shops that readily; and I hear others shops might be closing down. Church St is beginning to feel empty, which is very sad, as The Specials lamented ‘it’s coming like a ghost town’

  14. Twickenham basically needs to be more than a place people drive through. Unfortunately the redevelopment of the area was focussed on having jut as much traffic drive through as previously. It’s easier to drive to Twickenham from a house a mile away than to walk or take a bicycle: fix that, and you’d probably make a real difference to how many people shop there.

  15. A thought: neither Richmond nor Kingston has a haberdasher. I would have thought that it would be a good thing for Twickenham to have. Once one could have bought that type of product at Woolworth’s, but now that is gone there is a real need.

    • Judy Astley

      Actually, John Lewis has a very good haberdashery dept. xx

    • a few shops near the green will do that sort of stuff… just by the crossing lights, before you get to tesco.. 🙂

    • coming from king st direction! 🙂

    • Robyn

      Mrs Moon in st margarets unless it’s sadly closed now?

    • Judy Astley

      Yes – Mrs. Moon has closed Robyn. They’re concentrating on their online sales but it’s not the same. Was a lovely shop but probably a bit of a minority interest.

    • Mumto1plus2

      I thought Mrs Moon actually moved into the back room at Denham & Finney on St Margarets Road.

    • They did, but the venture didn’t last, there was no indication outside that there was a yarn shop beyond the gift shop. They were there on 2nd and 3rd January to sell off a few ends of ranges and discontinued lines, there was talk of access to a lock up near the Rugby Ground but I don’t know the details.

    • Jill Corbett

      I carry a few haberdashery items scissors, ribbon, pins, needles, seam rippers, thimbles taylors chalk at Glorious 32 Staines road if the demand is there I will stock more.

  16. Church Street is very attractive, unlike the central part of Twickenham, but doesn’t really have the kind of shops to bring in regular shoppers. There are several restaurants and there are shops which one could term “specialist”, all of which are assets but they don’t encourage the casual shopper or call you back time and again for regular shopping. I agree that the loss of Langton’s was significant, as was the toyshop closing. It would only take two or three shops of a more day to day nature to bring people to the street and benefit all the shops.

  17. Tina Cooke

    The thing is – the residents are supportive. The Council and the Landlord’s of those shop premises are not, sadly. We lived there for 26 years. Last month we moved to Teddington, just off the High Street. It’s bustling, it’s brilliant and yes folks, it’s oh so much better than Twickenham town centre. Not because the residents here are more savvy than our beloved Twickers community, just not blighted, perhaps, by having to bend the knee to the all powerful owners of the Rugby Stadium, which has ELBRUT tucked up underneath their free arm – the other one being used for beckoning to Chelsea football club to ‘bless’ their copious turnstiles with millions of gold coins of the realm.

    • Sally

      Couldn’t agree more. As long as LBRUT see themselves as in flattering partnership with the RFU, it affects what is built, how its justified and what sort of a high street we end up with.. Late night booze barns and fast food? The RFU likes it. High rise on the station? The RFU wants it. The Lib Dems were as bad. I well remember Councillor Carr waving through a strip club in the middle of the local shops !

  18. This is a great article and yes, Church Street needs the recognition it deserves.
    I started “Twickenham Craft Fairs” in April 2014 at the end of Church Street, Twickenham, as I felt there was a lack of venues to sell/display handmade craft in the Twickenham area. Since this time other ventures have started, which is a great way to get people interested in supporting local businesses.
    I chose Church Street, as it is so lovely, with quaint shops, a lovely pebbled street and really friendly shop owners. Everything takes time to build up and even to retain the interest, but if all local residents spent money locally, visited Twickenham regularly and invested in making it better, it WOULD work.
    Closing the street on occasion for events is a great idea, but not practical for the long term. There needs to be more events held in Twickenham (other than Rugby) to ensure it becomes a place to visit, rather than just a place to drive through.

  19. Angelina Jolly

    My in laws thought Twickenham was a dump until we got married there. Then they saw the river for the first time and Church St and the French Market and changed their minds. They didn’t know Twickenham was on the Thames because you can’t see the river as you drive through (a big oversight to my mind).

    Possibly the rest of Twickenham lets Church St down a bit, esp central TW1. I love living here, but it’s a perception thing. I think others see it as a bit high-rise and shabby – Richmond’s ugly sister? And it’s true, Twickenham’s not making the most of it’s best bits – they’re just too hidden; whereas Richmond has embraced hers thoroughly.

    • you have to note that twickenham is a LOT more than king st and church street!! walk or take a bus 1 stop down Cross deep, and Radnor gardens is nice… walk up one of the smaller roads off cross deep, and soon you will find yourself in what seems like a country village!!! 🙂

  20. Mumto1plus2

    Thumbs up all those who’d like to see a reasonably priced children’s clothes shop in Twickenham? Considering the number of comments posted mentioning ‘family’ you have to ask why the closest thing we have in our child friendly town is ‘click + collect’ from John Lewis or M&S?

    • Sally

      You are so right. There is nothing at all. With the closure of Woolworths, we lost a great place for childrens’ pants, socks, costumes, “Reasonably priced” is the key. Our area is heaving with children: school kids, buggies, parents-prospective retailers just don’t seem to look before launching yet another dud.

  21. Glen Roberts

    Church street is a lovely place to go, but it is not so brilliant that it has its own sphere of influence. I.E. people from surrounding areas dont think “ooh we most go to Twickenham as they have got Church street”. Its a lovely feature for locals that know its there.

    To increase footfall through Church Street you need to get more people to Twickenham and this means improving the rest of Twickenham. As someone has said though Twickenham is more of a kind of passing-through town on peoples ways to Richmond or Kingston. How do you get people to stop in Twickenham?
    We have the makings of a good little town, M&S, WH Smith, Satarbucks, Sandys, Indie shops and coffee bars etc, but the whole place for me (and I will probablybe ruined for saying this but hey ho such is life) is dragged down by the drab, messy, lifeless charity shops. How many does one little town need. I think I counted 10 looking down Heath Road lately. No one will stop on their way to Richmond or Kingston to shop in these places. I think a town the size of Twickenham probably needs 1 or 2. Not 10+.

    I hope Twickenham does gain a life of its own rather than just maintaining its thouroughfare status. there are more than enough people in the area to support the independant vendors on Church Street. They just need other reason to come to lovely Twick in the first place.

    • How to increase footfall?? bring back at least 1 bus stop in king st… {rolleyes}
      Charity shops are charged far less rental… their staff is usually old women, who are not able to keep it organised, due to lack of energy etc…

    • Judy Astley

      “Old women”? How rude! And how untrue – unless you think “old women” refers to anyone over 45.

    • I have actually been in those shops, and yes, some of the ladies serving could be my grandma.. 🙂
      Do tell me what else are we supposed to call this poor girl?????

    • Judy, I think you need to direct your ire at ‘Walkinthepark’, below…
      My mother, being a strong scot of 95, (though most did not believe she was yet 60! 🙂 ) was always up at 6 am to start her shopping round!!

    • Walkinthepark

      I assume you are trolling. I assume it is being mothered by women so lacking in organisational skills that leads to a person sitting alone at the kitchen table, ketchup dripping down their tie, posting provocative stuff online ……….

      Actually the charities these days do actually employ professional retail experts, not that some of the volunteers don’t have those retail skills and the rest the potential to develop them. But at the end of the day they are dealing with things people have thrown out, and usually if it was very marketable it would be in the auction house or second hand designer outlet, so hard to display it all and make it look sexy……

      It is hard to see how you get past the high rents / rates (and concessions for charity shops) issue to attract in the right retailers.

      Church Street actually seems in the last three or so years to have hit a wall, prior to that it actually did seem to have that critical mass which attracted you in. Now all those empty shops put you off. Perhaps a starting point would be for existing retailers to tell us what works and doesn’t? To put together a marketing plan for Church Street based on research about the market and an overarching strategy for exploiting it that can be shared with potential retailers. The Council’s strategy of making things look attractive according to the latest trendy Town Planning template (ignoring the fact that whilst bus stops clutter the place up you can’t entirely abandon the 70s affinity for an interchange which generates footfall), employing a Town Centre Manager on one hand whilst charging high rates on the other and allowing the Free Market free rein, isn’t working so may be a proactive strategy? There really is a win win strategy for all the players out there if the Council have the will and skills to facilitate it.

      No point us suggesting another frozen yoghurt business…….. I would like a shop that sold trendy ironwork obelisks and other distressed garden ornaments but I know I am quite a small market niche plus I don’t have the organisational skills or energy to go shopping anyway………

    • Walkinthepark

      I have one idea though, make the Town Hall into an all through school, and put the Council Offices up on the Egerton Road site. Then Church Street will have a ready made market of yummy mummys and we would have a school where it is needed without making resident’s parking a nightmare……………

    • Sally

      An excellent idea.

    • http://www.randgmetal.co.uk This business is at 173 Colne Road, their metal and design work is fabulous. they made a replacement pedestrian front gate for us, some of the items on sale were very tempting.

  22. Rufus McDufus

    I’v enever really felt Twickenham could ever hope to compete with the likes of Kingston or Richmond anyway as it’s seen by many who pass through as something of a crossroads and not effectively a town with a beating centre with shopping precincts. I’m not utterly convinced even if all shop units were occupied whether Church Street on its own could transform Twickenham. I think it would take something larger to attract significantly more people – e.g converting some of the riverside into a retail area. We have great public transport links already but are a bit lacking in car parking, but currently the riverside seems to be at least 50% car parking and not a lot else apart from a nice view (partly of cars). The whole southern side of King Street seems like rather a bad bit of planning in hindsight, and if it wasn’t there the scope for building a ‘new’ riverside would be much greater. The move to buy Santander etc. strikes me as a good idea but I’m not really sure it goes far enough and I don’t trust the council to make best use of it..

    • I did once suggest in the local paper that the whole south side of King St should be knocked down (yes, only half serious – I know lots of people live in the flats there) so that the best could be made of the river. I don’t think moving the bus stops did the town centre any favours either. They’ve gone from the widest bits of the road to blocking up the narrower ones and being v. inconvenient in terms of which bus stops to choose. No wonder we can’t trust the council!

  23. Joy

    Jill, three ‘great’ shops is not something to sing about… I lived in Twickenham for years (and loved ambling along and shopping in a then-thriving Church Street) but it is now dwindling due to a lack of imagination, not enough research (by potential traders) and now, there is insufficient diversity. A good cheese shop and a great bookshop (like Langtons) would be fantastic. Rents do need to be lower, though. Also, I’ve noticed a couple of shops closed on Sundays – big mistake. Yes, traders need a day off, but they could employ cover staff. I’ve been put off going to two shops there (well, I’ve simply headed elsewhere and avoided Church St) as I knew they’d be closed for business on Sundays. With the amount of families that walk down there, as well as locals having a perambulate by the river, certain people are missing a trick.

  24. Rufus McDufus

    Why not cover the street over and turn it into a big indoor market? Well it’s not much more a ludicrous idea than building a dock for a blingy boat that hardly goes anywhere.

  25. Church Street is such a missed opportunity, but it needs visionary retailers and flexible landlords to improve it. A bookshop would be wonderful, and a “local art” shop like Par Ici is much missed. Perhaps it’s not so bad if we get a couple of decent new restaurants, provided they offer something different.

  26. Ex Twickenham Resident

    Quite simply the shoppers are in Kingston or Richmond. As much as I loved Church street, there is not a lot there to draw the punters in, other than a few locals and strays.

  27. Mumto1plus2

    Teddington seems to have got it right. Will they divulge their secret? I’m looking forward to their ‘Fiverfest’ again soon. Perhaps that’s something Church Street could try to attract old and new customers alike?
    I also think that pop-up shops are a great idea. Now, if only the Landlords could get on board…

    • Ex-Twickenham Resident

      Not sure about Teddington. Used to go to Tesco’s there but always thought it was a bit pretentious (unlike our gritty Twickenham). No butcher, greengrocer or fishmonger…and isn’t the fiver fest a way of boosting flagging sales?

    • Mumto1plus2

      It’s the other end of the High Street which I frequent most to be honest. All the shop and cafe/restaurant owners there are lovely, welcoming and hospitable. Teddington does have an acclaimed butcher – A G Miller but it’s in Waldegrave road ( a schlepp away from the High Street). As I’m a visitor to Teddington, I guess grocers and fishmongers aren’t high on my list of requirements. Also, they’ve got a big M&S Local as well as Tesco so small businesses probably don’t feel they could compete.

    • Teddington has a loooong high st, with many pubs along it… 🙂 also many on the side streets, with good pub gardens…
      and no ‘town improvements’ clogging up the traffic!!

  28. George

    Interesting piece. Obviously the rent question is at the heart of it but if more shoppers meant that all shops doubled their turnover then that would help make rents more ‘affordable’. It needs to focus on those shops which help create that kind of ‘vibe’ such as cafes, gift shops, clothing boutiques, delis etc that people will want to browse around. There are some places which don’t fit that bill – not that I want to see them close – but if there’s turnover of shops, efforts need to focus on attracting ‘destination Twickenham’ retailers.

  29. Anonymous

    The problem with Church Street is greedy landlords demanding massive rents and the huge business rates, which prohibit people carrying out business there. Some of the rents have doubled in recent years.
    The street is now over a third empty and is a wasted opportunity. Alongside the existing restaurants, shops and the two popular pubs, it could be turned into an area of shops devoted to food. Perhaps it could also have a regular food market in the street? These have sprung up all over London in recent years and have been very successful. This would bring people into the area to shop not only at the market, but at other local businesses.

    • boanerges

      On the matter of business rates: sure, these are collected by the Council, but all the money is pooled centrally ie goes to The Treasury. The Council thus has no vested interest in high rates. The Business Secretary ie our MP Vincent Cable is where the buck stops

  30. Sally

    It used to be terrific. I remember the tea/chocolate shop and of course the bookshop. (I seem to remember seeing an application for a change in premises license up outside the latter. Damn.) Its been very sad of late with events there and the ghost shops lit up.
    Church Street has a lot of parents and children going down it what with local schools, the Church and a nursery at the end.Worryingly there seems to be a move to turn most shops into resturants . The Italian Deli and the sweet shop are hanging on.
    Could not the focus be on shops of interest to locals rather than food and beer barns for the rugby crowds? There are so many families I see walking down Church Street on the weekends practically begging for something interesting to see, some nice shop to visit. That’s the population to attract which will provide steady business-see Teddington High Street. Our retailers keep on missing the trick.

  31. ‘Getting rid of the cars’ is fine in theory. In practice, those of us who live in Bell Lane and keep our cars there or in the Barmy Arms car park need to be able to get out (and in) via Church Street when the tides are high and the lower end of Water Lane is impassable. I do worry when there are events and the road is closed that emergency access will be delayed – a state not helped by the fact that traders suddenly decide it’s OK to park at the top of Bell Lane, completely blocking it.
    The essential problem with Church St is rent. Whoever owns the properties seems oblivious to the fact that Twickenham has never been a shopping centre you’d choose to go to, not when there’s Richmond and Kingston so near.

  32. yes, and since the buses stop away from sight of church st, many new people don’t notice it… (ie the resident of Richmond rd, who did not think twick HAD a riverside!!! LOL )

  33. Jill Corbett

    It seems to me that they are all the other side of Twickemham aroundd the green browsing the 3 great shops Glorious, Little and large and lovers lights. Imbibing at the Sussex arms , Prince Blucher and TW2 wine bar . It’s such a friendly place with a great community spirit.

    • Mumto1plus2

      Jill, ‘they’ are not. Maybe if you live that end you visit those places but when you live near the station, that’s a fair old schlepp. I’m more likely to catch the bus/train to Richmond than wander down to the green to look in a ‘dog boutique’. No offence.
      Actually, I’m far more likely to go to Teddington which seems to have hit on a winning formula…

    • Jill Corbett

      Oh go on stretch your legs and come visit Glorious … I have had comments like ‘” shouldn’t you be in Teddington ” the answer is no lets get Twickenham moving in the right direction and offering unique exciting independent shops . We can only survive if we get customers .

    • Mumto1plus2

      Aha! You own Glorious! I must admit that on my ‘drive bys’ it does look a lovely shop and some sunny day I will take a stroll down to peruse the wares within. Good luck! I’d love to see you survive, nay succeed!

    • Jill Corbett

      Thank you so much, so far so good the residents have been very supportive. Hope to see you soon.