BLOG: St Luke’s makes historic return to Kingsbridge

The doors have opened on St Luke’s latest shop, marking a fresh and exciting era for the charity’s presence in Kingsbridge and a community minded new identity for one of the South Hams town’s landmark buildings.

The ground floor of a distinctive Grade II listed former inn at the bottom of Fore Street has been sensitively refurbished to create an attractive and spacious store. Open seven days a week, 9.30am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 10am to 4pm on Sundays, the new shop is selling pre-loved clothing for women, men and children, shoes and accessories, jewellery, books and bric-a-brac, as well as smaller items of brand new flat-packed furniture, such as tables, chairs and TV stands.

St Luke’s previously ran a popular, but much smaller, outlet at the top of the town for more than 25 years but, sadly, it closed during the Covid pandemic. The new store at the bottom of Fore Street is not only much larger, it has also helped to inject fresh life into a building with a fascinating past and some lovely architectural features.

Research by St Luke’s volunteer and fundraiser Colin Pincombe has revealed that the site started life in the mid-18th century as the Blue Anchor Inn and brewhouse. The eight-bedroom hotel, which boasted a bar, butcher’s shop and stables, was popular with masters of vessels sailing between Kingsbridge, Plymouth and further afield from what was then known as Dodbrooke Quay. Builders carrying out the recent refurbishments discovered clay pipes consistent with those times.

The present three-storey stucco structure dates back to the 1860s, and its exterior was listed for preservation in 1972. The building was modernised and renamed the Quay Hotel by its new owners, Courage Brewery, in the early 1980s and it eventually closed in 2015. Now the building has had a sensitive makeover and houses St Luke’s on the ground floor, complete with original fireplace and 19th century brickwork, with residential accommodation above.

Shop manager Maureen Clarke and assistants Molly Brown, Sarah Hunt and Julie Stephens, who all live in Kingsbridge, are eager to welcome customers and receive quality donated items. Maureen is very experienced in the sector, having previously managed two other charity shops in the town, and she has great connections within the community, including the rugby club and the fantastic annual Ride for Tina event in aid of St Luke’s.

She and her team will be supported by a band of local volunteers and Maureen has already recruited a core of around seven, many of whom have worked with her in the past.

Over the past few months, other St Luke’s shops have been saving and storing items to stock the rails and shelves at Kingsbridge in its first couple of weeks.

“They have been amazing. A lot of the stock we have on display now is designer labels,” said Maureen. “If you have a good-looking shop and a good layout, then you attract good quality donations.”

In addition, she is thrilled that the people and businesses of Kingsbridge and surrounding areas are lining up to help.

“People are saying they are glad that St Luke’s is back in the town. They are happy that we have this building because they know it will provide much needed income for such a good cause. And I’m excited to educate people who don’t know exactly what St Luke’s does and how the money is spent on such important care.”

St Luke’s retail area manager Kerry Hearn said: “We are absolutely delighted to return to Kingsbridge and open a new St Luke’s shop in this wonderful historic space. The town has always supported us so generously in the past and we’re sure people will love the new premises.

“By donating your pre-loved items or shopping for bargains with us you will be supporting the crucial work of St Luke’s expert compassionate teams who are caring for people from the town and surrounding area, 365 days a year, at the most difficult and emotional of times.”

If you would like to get involved, either volunteering in the shop or assisting with fundraising in the local area please call into the shop or email volunteer@stlukes-hospice.org.uk