In fact, it is two shops: The first, a flummery of coloured felt and gauze and lace and feathers, ladies' hats in profusion tilting coquettishly on little stands. Passing by, it's a flash of colour like a parrot's wing. The second shop, the men's department just next-door, you might think would be a more sober business, grey and pin-stripe suitings and sober ties. Well, no. Contrary to all stereotypes, the English gentleman, at least in his accessories, is a veritable peacock. True to a heritage that required the window to be stuffed with stock - no cool minimalism here - there is a riot of handkerchiefs, and socks, and ties and cravats (oh yes) and trousers of the livid hue favoured by ageing public school men; and spots and paisleys and stripes and squares in red and violet and every colour in between. Then there's the hats, timbalas and ferret-catchers and homburgs and boaters, and when there can be room for no more you'd think, the other requisites of a gentleman's life , hip-flasks and shaving-brushes and (o my grandad!) pipes and spills, squeeze in.
But this window is simply the cornucopia's mouth. The interior is a winding passage below a low ceiling lined with shelves of bowlers and berets and (really!) pith-helmets, country shirts and knitted ties. All plus-fours and no breakfast was grandad's view of a young cad, and somewhere among the tweeds and (a nod to the times this) fleeces, I expect the helpful lady assistant could find you plusses too.
In another nod to the times the shop has a (somewhat self-conscious) website. The shop , it claims, is known in both hemispheres. Not famous or legend; just known. How very British.
T.Snook has traded, they claim, since 1896. Striplings! There's a butcher in Bridport, Balson's, that has been in the same family since Ann Boleyn was a gleam in King Henry's eye. There are still several proper bookshops in Bridport too, and pubs that are proper pubs, of which I thought the Tiger to be the hidden jewel. Galleries and antique shops too, if you need that sort of thing, because the DFLs must be acknowledged (that's Down From London to you). Their money is felt in the presence of various high-end estate-agents, though sadly even these can't limit the spread of the carbuncular charity shops.
Bridport made its money in rope and nets and brewing, and though the rope making has gone, it has left a town hall of rustic elegance but also a legacy down little courts and alleyways of low industrial buildings which lend themselves to neat conversion. They say that the town's spacious main streets were designed to accommodate the stretching of its ropes. This has left plenty of room for dancing and singing and market stalls, especially when the traffic was removed from South Street on the Sunday. There were a good succession of variegated dance sides to make use of it too.
But the problem for a performer in all this lies in catching the other acts. Us Old Gaffers had six sessions to fit in, and what with strolling between the venues and taking the local beer (Palmers, very acceptable) on the way, I caught only a few of the plethora of mostly Dorset acts that were lined up. Those I did see were hard-working and well put together and who might readily adapt to a bigger stage (thanks especially to Wild Thyme and Black Scarr). This being the inaugural festival, the headliners were Dorset buyes too - Reg Meuross and NineBarrow, and the latter particularly, with sweet harmonies and subtle accompaniments, deserve a wider audience, and will probably get it.
Well, you'll gather I liked Bridport. But then of course the sun was out all weekend.