THERE exists a haven for small, independent traders tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Fisherton Street - step inside and meet those at its helm.

What sets Fisherton Mill apart from other businesses is its unique ambience and charm, says Deborah Fox, 56, the owner.

Deborah and her husband Michael, 58, started at the mill 30 years ago when the "ground-breaking" gallery was "a bit more high brow" but later took over as owners in a bid to continue the business's legacy as closure was on the cards.

This responsibility called for Fisherton Mill to restructure and shifts its focus on becoming "more locally-minded".

Read more: ​Disruption expected as Fisherton Street set to close

Former Michelin star chef Michael took the reins of the mill's cafe, which was named in this year's Good Food Guide, while Deborah focused on building the shop's brand.

“We started to sell more inexpensive gift items with a focus on provenance and uniqueness and handmade as much as possible," said Deborah.

"We tried to avoid the sort of mass-produced stuff that you can get on the high street. So we still have expensive, beautiful pieces of art and sculpture, but it's balanced with things that people can buy every day.”

Owner Deborah Fox described Fisherton Mill as a “community of like-minded people” who are passionate about the arts and what they do.Owner Deborah Fox described Fisherton Mill as a “community of like-minded people” who are passionate about the arts and what they do. (Image: Newsquest)

The couple has endured financial challenges but their dedication to independence kept them resilient.

“Both Michael and I are quite independent people. So I suppose we certainly wanted our business, we wanted to be independent, so we could make our own choices and set our direction,” said Deborah.

“We felt confident that what we've got is a good business and we just need to adapt all the time.”

Now with 13 independent businesses under their wing, the couple has built a "hidden oasis" in the city centre where guests "feel like they're in a different world".

Tori Burbidge, from Tilshead, has run Secret Garden from Fisherton Mill for the last 13 months, starting a month before the Fisherton Gateway Project began.

While Tori's main business focuses on selling sustainable soy candles, wax melts and diffusers, she also stocks a range of handmade lampshades, jewellery and vintage antiques made in Wiltshire.

Tori, a self-taught candlemaker, saw booming success through Covid and her hobby "got a little bit out of hand". She now offers workshops as demand has grown for experiences rather than products following the pandemic.

Tori Burbidge owns Secret Garden.Tori Burbidge owns Secret Garden. (Image: Newsquest)

Emily Pardy brought From Eden to Fisherton Mill just one month ago, making her the newest business to open in the independent "oasis".

Support from Deborah and Michael has been invaluable to Emily as she stepped away from Shirley Snells to find her feet as a self-employed florist.

Emily, who developed an interest in the profession during lockdown, enjoys "thinking outside the box" to curate wedding bouquets which are both unique and cost effective.

Determined floristry "is not an old fashioned hobby anymore', Emily hopes to run arrangement workshops to demonstrate how accessible the hobby can be young people and teach them to express themselves in a different and natural way. 

Emily Pardy, owner of From Eden.Emily Pardy, owner of From Eden. (Image: Newsquest)

Residential architectural company Forgeworks, which specialises in modern design, has a base in Fisherton Mill to give customers a snapshot of what goes into the planning process to renew magnificent buildings.

Chartered by the Royal Institute of British Architects, Forgeworks' transformations have featured on Grand Designs and in national newspapers.

While Forgeworks is unique in that it is not selling products directly from its studio, director Chris Hawkins said being visible in the city is "a really good thing".

"People are always interested in the models on display," added Chris.

Chris Hawkins, director of Forgeworks.Chris Hawkins, director of Forgeworks. (Image: Newsquest)

Bookbinder and artist Tamsin Loveday has run Barefoot Bindery from the mill for the last three years.

In that time, she has carried out "useful repairs" on family heirloom cook books, bibles and even a Mexico World Cup sticker album.

"it intrigues me that the book is never going to go out of fashion because they are tangible objects," said Tamsin.

Being based in Fisherton Mill allows Tamsin to host book arts and print making workshops which have proved "delightful" as working with people 'floats her boat'.

Tamsin Loveday, owner of Barefoot Bindery.Tamsin Loveday, owner of Barefoot Bindery. (Image: Newsquest)

Helen Kirby, the mastermind behind Art Lab Design, has the unique ability to hear colours while listening to music and creates art through sound using synaesthesia.

Some of this artwork, including a piece made using music she created in a long barrow, has been exhibited in Fisherton Mill's gallery.

Helen, who has worked from the mill for three years, also runs a textiles arm of her business, upcycling and decorating one-of-a-kind denim jackets, jeans, t-shirts and dresses.

Additionally, Helen creates textile artwork in the form of neolithic style garments made from a range of authentic materials including flax linen, goats hair, nettle and wool.

Helen Kirby, owner of Art Lab Design.Helen Kirby, owner of Art Lab Design. (Image: Newsquest)

Sarah Sowerby loves the atmosphere of Fisherton Mill as "it feels so nice and creative". She has been creating jewellery from an upstairs studio for the last two years.

Describing the mill as "like another world", Sarah said the workspace is "inspiring" and "full of friendly people".

Sarah runs silver smithing workshops where people can come away with a finished piece of jewellery after two to three hours of work.

Sarah Sowerby owns Silverbee Jewellery.Sarah Sowerby owns Silverbee Jewellery. (Image: Newsquest)

Next door, Celina Comninos hammers away at wedding bands at Celina C Jewellery where she also offers sand-casted rings.

The uncommon and ancient jewellery-making method sees customers bring a sample of sand to Celina to create a truly unique artefact.

Celina learned how to make jewellery four years ago while living in Australia but moved to Fisherton Mill two years ago. She said: "It's nice to be around other creatives and not in your spare room.

"If you're having a bad day or you're confused about something, there's always someone here to help. Each purchase is really special for a small business."

Celina Comninos runs Celina C Jewellery.Celina Comninos runs Celina C Jewellery. (Image: Newsquest)

Fisherton Mill is open from 10am until 5pm on weekdays and 9.30am until 5.30pm on Saturdays.

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