Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A Bookshop, and Stationary Store

On Sunday, I thought I'd go for a drive, my sister was visiting and I suggested heading vaguely northward.At the outset, I was thinking of taking the Great North Road (these days mostly known as the A1, or A1M), and heading for Thirsk, then meandering over the North York Moors toward the coast. Or maybe heading west toward Carlisle? No definite plan anyway. Then, once on the highway, a thought popped up. Bamburgh! At Bamburgh, in northumbria, there's a mighty castle raised up over the seacoast and countryside, it's everything you might imagine a castle to be. I've passed it en-route to Scotland, many a time, I've watched horses gallop on the beach below it, but I've never, until now, been inside.
North of Newcastle, I left the major route and headed for smaller roads, nearer the sea. I have a fascination for the sea. I love it. I think, maybe, way back, some of my ancestors were vikings, driving their boats onto the beaches of the north-eastern shores of britain. Planning, perhaps another tour of pillaging the monasteries of their treasure. A lot of those Vikings liked what they saw over here, cashed in their return ticket, bought a couple of cows, married  local girls, and lived happily ever after. 
Bookshop? yes, I'm getting there.

Up the coast from Newcastle, you pass castle after castle, castles are everywhere...

Warkworth, for instance,
The twin-arch bridge over the river Coquet has a mediaeval gatehouse at the southern end.
Over 600 years of service 

Alnwick Castle, (Pic via Wikipedia)


In Alnwick, however, feeling that it might be time to stop and find a cafe, serendipitous happenstance, I looked out of my window and saw a sign saying Barter Books. So I hooked a quick left into the old Alnwick Station car-park. Barter Books. I first hear of it when the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster was being talked about on the radio, apparently it all started when the owners of Barter Books in Alnwick were unpacking a box of second hand books and found, in the bottom, a folded wartime poster. They had it framed and hung it in the bookstore, visitors loved it and wanted to buy it, so they had 'Keep Calm' posters reprinted, the rest is history. The poster was printed by the Ministry of Information, but never went into general circulation. After the war, all the posters were pulped. Or so it was thought. Two seemed to have survived. Then someone found fifteen originals in an old trunk in the attic. But the poster's popularity started with Barter Books. And I, looking for the history, had visited Barter's website, and found their shop to be the coolest bookshop I could imagine, built into an old station, a bibliophile's dream. Writers quotes festoon the place, a huge mural of famous writers adorns the wall, comfortable seats, tea/coffee/cookies with an honesty box, a station buffet serving up meals in the old waiting rooms, leather chesterfields..
Oh my.
Alnwick Station/Barter Books

The front room, bookshelves, tea, coffee, snacks, honesty box to pay.
Keep Calm and Drink Tea!
Writers Mural
Book-lover's heaven
A victorian railway station.
Dogs welcome
How many bookshops can you think of with little trains rushing along the tops of the shelves?

All ages welcome

 So Much to Read

Trains, books, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes quotes.

 Remembering the names of people of Alnwick Station.

 The old drinking fountain. With dog water bowls.
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  1. *Swoon* and sigh .... big sigh. I'm coming to live with you!


    1. Careful, we might cross each other's paths in opposite directions!

  2. I posted the Keep Calm story some time ago and have wanted to visit Alnwick ever since. The problem is I fly to England and get caught in London's web. Perhaps I'll manage to escape next time and get to see more of the country.

    1. And, coincidentally, you posted one on great bookshops of the world., on the 5th,
      I'd have linked to it, but your post headers always seem to point away from your blog.

      Definitely, get clear of London and its surroundings.
      It has a lot of good stuff, but London isn't England. It's as indicative of the real England as New York is of America.

  3. What a wonderful excursion! I understood most of this, and the parts I didn't understand didn't detract from this marvelous and amazing bookstore. Green with envy. I fear ours our going, one by one. Not that we ever had one like this in my part of the world. Thanks for the great pictures.

    1. With RDG, I visited a few good bookshops in Texas, but I've never seen such a bookshop as Barter Books anywhere. There are good bookshops, great bookshops even, in a lot of britain, but this one's just the best I've ever met.
      Hay-onWye has over thirty bookshops in one little town. Booth's is good there. see: http://www.boothbooks.co.uk/

  4. I saw this station on Michael Portillos programme, fantastic stuff. The north east is a good place to visit and relatively few do.

    1. The mystery of Northumbria is that it is so little known. The beaches are clean and beautiful, the towns are great to visit, the castles and museums are many.

      Your ancestors visited it often.

  5. Are all those people queuing real, live, customers? How come they are busy and two of our local ones have closed? I wonder if they take volunteer workers? Questions, questions, questions.

    1. Sheila, I employed no extras whatsoever in the making of these photographs. The place was truly busy, my sister came away with armfuls of books. I am trying to unload my own property, and I'm rather thinking that I might send a truckload of my books up there.
      I seem to be a book magnet, and i need to get rid of about five thousand. Any ideas?
      Not including burning!

    2. Boot sale?
      There must be a 'book sale' for collectors somewhere in the area. We even had one here once. Folks come from miles to browse, buy and overprice as they sell on. Maybe a shop would give a few bob for them, but less than you'd get selling them.

  6. I see where Mr. Larry McMurtry just got rid of 300,000 of books from his library in Archer City Texas.
    Missed out on a big one there, ya did . . .

    1. I've heard of Larry Mc Murtry. 'Lonesome Dove'?

      Oh my. I just googled that sale.

      It's probably a good thing I wasn't there. I'd have a fresh truckload of books by now.


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