Winchester cooks know where to go when they need to buy special kitchenware. Beautiful French preserving jars, glass cake stands, knickerbocker glory serving glasses, Branksome china, funky tea towels, party stationery, cookery books and vintage kitchen garden tools can all be found in the inner temple of style and functionality: The Hambledon.
Nobody can believe that Victoria Suffield founded this shop just ten years ago, it seems as if it has been part of the fabric of Winchester’s shopping cognoscenti’s collective consciousness for several generations. It is an open secret, passed on from mother to daughter. We are all agreed, The Hambledon succeeds because it is interesting, useful, helpful and (oh, yes, we were born in the 1960’s) groovy.
The buying philosophy is very simple: Victoria and her team only buy what they like, and what they think their customers will be pleased to find and see. The Hambledon shop is inside a historic four story building, facing Winchester Cathedral, and it is like a mini-Liberty or Selfridges department store, with clothing, toiletries, children’s toys, menswear, home accessories and gifts. Its motto could be founded upon William Morris’s philosophy of life:
“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
All of the kitchenware out on display is extremely useful, practical, functional and of a very high quality. Everything we have ever purchased here has stood the test of time, of wear and tear, of passing fashions and culinary trends. The choice of cookery books is exquisite, and we love the way everything is presented, as if you have arrived at a Parisian flea market, a Milanese boutique in Corso Como or an upmarket car boot sale in a Chelsea mews. Charming to the left, chic to the right, delightful straight on, your eye will not know where to rest next. You may need to sit down. It’s just as well they sell furniture too.
The glass front of the shop means that there is plenty of light. All the girls here love their jobs (who wouldn’t?) and the manager, Lucy, who lives upstairs, waxes lyrical about the merchandise, falling short of breath as she evangelises about how you could find absolutely everything you would need to decorate a supper party table.
And the prices are very reasonable, The Hambledon’s offering is all-inclusive across the demographics, small tickets, big tickets and everything in-between. The imposing Georgian architecture is beguiling, as the kitchen asnd dining room merchandise stored therein is actually very good value for money. You could easily find something lovely to buy for your grandmother, or your grand-daughter, or your best friend, from anywhere between £2 and £20, and the sale dates are definitely worth writing in the diary.
People have been known to queue round the block, elbows out, in that dog-eat-dog, war-like stance that besets some bargain hunters when they sniff a good Hambledon deal. Winchester may seem a quiet, reserved, upper middle class town until that S-A-L-E sign goes up in the big glass windows. Then its true colours are revealed. Hell hath no fury like a Hambledon sale shopper who misses out on a scallop edged cake stand, reduced by £5.
If you come to Winchester on a Wednesday you could also visit the food market, or even have an antipasti lunch at Cadogans delicatessen or a more formal lunch at The Chesil Rectory, housed in one of the oldest buildings in the town. Armed with your kitchen booty in the minimalist white paper bags with the grey signage “The Hambledon”, other shoppers will eye you enviously. You are one of the cool, clever cooks’ club.
10 The Square
Hampshire SO23 9ES
Telephone: 01962 890055
E-mail: [email protected]