Christmas arrives in Malmesbury

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Jason Durr with Athelstan Players at the launch of their Raise the Rood Appeal. Buy this photo » Jason Durr with Athelstan Players at the launch of their Raise the Rood Appeal.

CHRISTMAS arrived early for traders and groups in Malmesbury when people hordes of people descended on the town centre for the annual late shopping night.

The rain cleared just in time on Friday as crowds packed the high street, Market Cross and Birdcage Walk.

“It was absolutely heaving,” said an exhausted chairman of the chamber of commerce Aimee Frankham. “You could hardly move in the high street at one point. I haven’t spoken to anyone yet who said they did badly.”

She told the Standard: “The community stalls just cleared out completely. They did fantastically well and for a change we were busy at the lower end of the high street as well. The whole new layout really worked this year. We’re very pleased.”

Feedback from the shops was equally good and the town centre pubs did a brisk trade.

“Last year we were up on numbers compared to the previous year, but this year just knocked that out of the park.”

Ex-Heartbeat actor Jason Durr, who lives locally, was on hand to help the Athelstan Players launch their £70,000 Raise the Roof Appeal to fund a new flood-proof studio.

Malmesbury firefighters also proved a draw for children, while Santa had a stream of visitors in his grotto.

Winner of the best dressed Christmas window competition was the Cherry Tree.

This year stalls were added in Abbey Row, Oxford Street and Birdcage Walk. Children’s rides and activities were also stationed at either end of the high street.

Aimee also paid tribute to last minute volunteers and the town’s police who stepped in to help with road closures after other dropped out She added: “Hopefully with the town team set up we can move on from here, have more community involvement on the night and make it even bigger and better.”

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