Wimborne: a model town
Joël Lacey asks residents of, workers in, and visitors to, Wimborne Minster what they think about the town
Published in December ’16
The author of the guide book Highways and Byways in Dorset, Sir Frederick Treves, said a lot of pretty nasty things about a lot of pretty Dorset places, but there is one line of his in particular that is just about as wrong as it could be: ‘It looks its best,’ he says of the town of Wimborne Minster, ‘when seen from a distance’. He compounds his calumny by proceeding to say nothing about anything but than the minster itself.
‘I originally came over here from South Africa to help look after my Great Aunt, then moved around a bit before coming to settle in Wimborne about 5 or six years ago. I used to live opposite the Minster and it was lovely. I’m not really a town person, but I like Wimborne; it’s whimsical.’
Which is both a mistake and a pity. Wimborne is blessed with a very compact centre, a streetscape that is both generally very pleasing to the eye and easily accessible for pedestrians and with a mix of independent and premium chain stores that is the envy of many towns much larger than it is.
Though not without controversy at the time, the building of a Waitrose on the former cricket pitch has been a major draw to the town, both of shoppers and of shops eager to access those shoppers. The attendant benefit to the scheme was the new public green space, which is a great place to stop and watch the world go by, or to picnic or for little ones to blow off steam.
Debbie & Martyn Chant
We’re regular visitors to the town as my (Martyn’s) brother Tim lives in Wimborne and he’d also want me to tell you that he volunteers part-time at the Priest’s House Museum. The thing I (Debbie) like about Wimborne is that there’s no rush; everyone seems to have time. It’s very nice here and we come here quite often. We’ve just been on the road to Kingston Lacy. If I had to sum up the town I’d say it was peaceful.
In terms of heritage, there is the Model Town, which celebrates life as it was in the 1950s, with a 1/10th scale model of the town as it was then. The Priest’s House Museum celebrates the heritage of the town and surrounding district, while adjoining the museum (and now integrated with the running of it by volunteers) is the Tourist Information Centre with its lovely enclosed garden. These visitor attractions, along with the Tivoli Theatre and the Walford Mill Craft Centre are part of what the local Business Improvement District refers to as the town’s crown jewels.
‘I live in Corfe Mullen but have been working in Wimborne for 18 months. I like Wimborne because there’s more going on here than in Corfe Mullen, but if I had to sum it up in one word I’d say “quiet”.’
They may indeed be the physical crowning glories of the town, but its real assets are the people, from the friendly traders and passers-by, to the volunteers who work at the TIC and for the incredibly successful Wimborne in Bloom organisation, to the very many charitable organisations’ members, all of whom aim to make Wimborne the very best it can be. So irrespective of what Sir Frederick Treves may believe, the very best of Wimborne is only to be seen up-close and, ideally, personal.
I’ve been in Wimborne and the wider area for a dozen years. We’d been wanting to move out of London and we started looking at the New Forest and then we found Wimborne; it’s great for shops, there’s lots to do and there’s always somewhere to go and lots of cafés.
I think it’s a very friendly town, but I don’t know if that’s just because I’ve been here for a while, I don’t think that’s the case. It’s great when you’ve got kids with the Model Town and Priest’s House Museum here…. I talked to a few of my friends and their one-word descriptions of Wimborne were: “vibrant”, “almost edgy”, “reassuring”, “cheerful” and “reawakened’.
Robert (and sister Maria) Degan of Psychling
We live in Charminster but have just opened up our new business here in Wimborne a couple of weeks ago. I chose Wimborne as it’s on an established route for cycling [it’s a vintage cycle repair & service place where you can also have a hot drink and snack] and I liked the feel of the place. It’s an unspoilt town, it’s got lots of independent businesses, but it’s not short of larger businesses either.
‘I come here for shopping and I help out in the coffee lounge of the Methodist Church. I’m not a native [originally from Cornwall], but I moved to Poole in 1968 and came to Wimborne for shopping days then eventually moved here back in 1981. Wimborne is just delightful; there’s nothing to dislike. It may seem a strange thing to say, but it is as close to Cornwall as you can get without being in Cornwall. If I had to use a single word to describe it, it would be serene.’