The Rare and the Unusual from The Market Hall at Christmas

From the world’s rarest beer and mushroom and seaweed chocolates to leopard-print Dutch bikes and books signed by famous authors, The Market Hall, in Shrewsbury, has become a destination for unusual gift ideas this Christmas.

Craft beer purists have been travelling from as far as London to get their hands on a bottle of the world’s rarest beer, Westvleteren 12, sold by the French crêperie, Les Crêpes De Sophie, in the Market Hall.

And chocolatier Julia Wenock has been turning out trays of “extremely chocolatey” Umami truffles made with the unusual ingredients of shiitake mushroom and dried seaweed.

Meanwhile David Jason, Robert Harris and Al Murray are just some of the famous authors who have penned their signatures on copies of their books on sale at Shrewsbury’s last remaining independent book seller, Pengwern Books.

Traditional cycle enthusiasts have been travelling from all over the Midlands to snap up a Dutch bike from specialists Urban Bikes, and natural beauty and grooming products, handmade in Shropshire and the Welsh border, have been flying off the shelves at Velveteen Me.

“Never before, I don’t think, has the Market Hall had so many diverse retail businesses,” said site facilities manager Kate Gittins.

“The market really has become a destination for people wanting to find something rare, unique and, in many cases, handmade. They’re not only looking for something lovely, but something that makes a great talking point.”

The Market Hall’s unusual gifts countdown:

1: Rare Beer:

Westvleteren 12, widely rated as the world’s ‘rarest and best beer’, has been acquired by Crêpes De Sophie. The sought-after strong quadruple dark ale is brewed on a limited basis by Trappist monks at a small monastery in Belgium. It is very difficult to get hold of and Crêpes De Sophie is one of only three place in the UK that are currently selling the beer.

2: Artisan chocolates, handmade in Shrewsbury:

Julia Wenlock, of Toot Sweets: Shropshire Chocolates, is one of the region’s best artisan chocolatiers. She has unveiled an array of Christmas effused flavours, such as mulled wine truffles, chestnut and truffle oil caramels and extremely chocolatey ‘Umami’ truffles containing shiitake mushroom and dried seaweed. This year her chocolate salted caramels won a Silver Award in the coveted Academy of Chocolate Awards.

3 Books signed by famous authors:

These are some of the signed books that Pengwern Books has in stock on a limited basis:

As Luck Would Have It - Derek Jacobi;

David Jason: My Life - David Jason

My Outdoor Life - Ray Mears

Watching War Films with my Dad - Al Murray

Solo: A James Bond Novel - William Boyd

Sense and Sensibility: The Austen Project - Joanna Trollope

An Officer and a Spy* - Robert Harris

4 Dutch Bikes:

Urban Bikes is the Midlands only seller of genuine Dutch bicycles, made in Utrecht. Completely traditional, without any gears, these cycles are inspired by the elegance of bikes of a bygone era. Although available in traditional colours, they also come sporting jazzy modern designs including leopard and zebra prints.

5 Natural handmade beauty and grooming products:

Ian and Chava Matthews have made it their mission to bring natural cruelty-free cosmetics and toiletries to the people of Shrewsbury and beyond.  They have recently begun selling ranges produced by local artisan makers in Shropshire, the Welsh borders and Cheshire. These include Mimi & Me Shropshire, the Little Green Cream Company, Ruth Romano and Fairypants. Products include ranges for ‘him’ and for ‘her’.

6 Specialist Board Games for older children and adults:

Board games are making a big comeback. Unique in Shropshire, E-Collectica Games, specialises in high quality board games aimed at older children and adults. Among the best-sellers this year are Pandemic, The Settlers of Catan and Walk The Plank.

7 Limited edition prints by Linda Edwards:

Linda Edward’s is one of Shropshire’s most prized artists and illustrators. Her cheerful folk art inspired limited edition prints of Shrewsbury and animal life are available from Compost & Gooseberry. Many of these designs are also available as fetching mugs, tea towels and cards.

8 Wooden watches:

These watches are now sold out at Not On The High Street. But there are still a few left at jewellery and accessories boutique Thoughts, nextdoor to the Bird’s Nest Café. Funky to look at and unisex, these WeWood watches are made from wood that has fallen naturally and each comes with a Citizen movement. They make memorable forest-friendly gifts.

9 Original Artwork and Photography:

For those who love contemporary art the The Market Hall is an ideal destination. It is home to The Visual Art Network Gallery (on the second floor) that has regular exhibitions of work by regional artists. Original works of art can also be found at Beyond The Purple Door and Silver Lining (both second floor) and Compost & Gooseberry (first floor). Fine Art & Portrait Photography (second floor) stocks original photographic prints, including stunning landscapes and townscapes.


Pete White Pete White

Love Shrewsbury editor and chief developer at The Web Orchard, find out more on

Read More from Pete White