A warm welcome to the Castle Quarter

Alnwick business people  (left to right) David Hogg from The Black Olive,  photographer Andy Craig, Mandy Gilbert from The Olde Cross, Caroline Stewart from Bari Tea, Michael Ashurst from The Black Swan, Margaret Anne High from Specially For You, Claire Welsh and Della Sumner from Capella, Gaynor Ayre from Turvey Westgarth, Michael Bateman from The Wine Boutique and Sue Clifford from Northumberland Cottages and Gift Shop.
Alnwick business people (left to right) David Hogg from The Black Olive, photographer Andy Craig, Mandy Gilbert from The Olde Cross, Caroline Stewart from Bari Tea, Michael Ashurst from The Black Swan, Margaret Anne High from Specially For You, Claire Welsh and Della Sumner from Capella, Gaynor Ayre from Turvey Westgarth, Michael Bateman from The Wine Boutique and Sue Clifford from Northumberland Cottages and Gift Shop.
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A group of independent businesses are teaming up to try to breathe new life into a neglected corner of a north Northumberland town.

In the last year or so, a number of independent businesses, particularly those in the arts and local food and drink sectors, have moved into what they are dubbing the Castle Quarter in Alnwick.

The loose collective of shops, cafes and pubs come from an area that roughly covers from Bailiffgate to Narrowgate and the north end of Fenkle Street.

There is no official designation, but it includes businesses such as The Wine Boutique At No 14, which opened at the end of 2010, Bari Tea, The Black Olive Cafe, Capella Hair Design, Artworks, Specially For You, Northumberland Cottages and Gift Shop and Turvey Westgarth.

The Black Swan and Three Wise Monkeys pubs have both opened in the last three months, joining The Olde Cross, which was taken over last year.

Caroline Stewart, who owns Bari Tea, said: “It just evolved really. That part of town has been under-invested for so long and then suddenly a number of independent businesses have opened. The rents have got much lower which has allowed independents to move in.

“People are looking to support local businesses and places that are distinctive in a town like Alnwick and the Castle Quarter reflects that.”

David Hogg, from the Black Olive Cafe, is ‘out on a limb’ on Bailiffgate.

“What we need to do is educate people who are coming to Alnwick that there is actually a very nice part of Alnwick, which is past WHSmith,” he said. “We need to direct people down here and give them that other choice.”

Michael Bateman, from The Wine Boutique at No 14, said that the presence of long-established businesses, such as Grannies, helps them too.

“People come to the area to go to a specific shop and it works for us all,” he added. “It’s quite nice that we are all here together.”

And new businesses continue to join the Castle Quarter – photographer Andy Craig is opening a new gallery/studio on Fenkle Street next month.