Walking through Whitby yesterday I was saddened to see a big notice in the window of Shepherd’s Purse saying Closing Down – Last Day. Shepherd’s Purse on Church Street – part ethnic clothes store, part wholefood shop – was established in 1975 by a bohemian couple Rosie McHugh and Pete Budd and developed down the years into a Whitby institution.
In the early days the shop stocked hand knitted sweaters, patchwork frocks and shoes and shawls inspired by Rosie and Pete’s time on the hippy trail around India and Afghanistan. But I remember it best for its wholefoods: rice, nuts, beans, lentils, wholemeal bread and spices sold loose. The shadowy interior with its rough wooden floorboards and intoxicating smells was an invitation to fill your basket with all manner of good things.
At Christmas, wooden barrels were heaped with dried fruit and if you didn’t want to make your own, there was Captain Cook fruit cake, singing with ginger and made at Great Ayton – they were supporters of local produce long before provenance became so fashionable. I remember them taking all she could make of Elizabeth Newton’s lovely fresh Grosmont Goat’s cheeses. They stocked Cheddar and Danbydale from Botton Village’s creamery and more recently the sadly extinct goat’s cheese made by Mrs Blyth of Boulby Banks Farm.
Gifts and clothes were at the back of the shop and beyond that the veggie café for delicious soups, pasta bakes and great cakes.
When Rosie died in 2004 her three children Michelle, Sophie and Kim took over and ran it with the same verve and spirit as their parents. I’m sorry to see such a precious independent shop go; now when I’m up on the coast where will I source asafoetida, harrissa, cumin, coriander and especially that throwback to my childhood liquorice root and coltsfoot rock? RIP Shepherd’s Purse.