Points North

Ribblehead Viaduct

Ribblehead Viaduct

Moor, fell, dale and majesty – we meander along Ribblesdale heading north on day two of our brief northern sojourn.  Past the spectacular Ribblehead Viaduct  and on by roundabout ways to Sedbergh, once in Yorkshire, almost in the sadly missed Westmorland, and now annexed by Cumbria.  “England’s Book Town” it’s marketed as, although the idea never seems to have fully taken root.  But booksellers there certainly are.


Hollett’s in Sedburgh

A quiet spot, nestling under the Howgills, but a cordial welcome from Chris Hollett (R. F. G. Hollett & Son) of Finkle Street as we make our first stop.  Cup of coffee – bit of chat.  The business (now by appointment only) was founded back in the 1950s by his father, Ronnie Hollett (1919-2011) – and Chris (at one time also a  nurseryman) joined him as a partner in 1980.  We reminisce about that earlier generation of bookmen – perhaps a bit rougher and tougher than their modern counterparts.  And by ‘perhaps’, I mean absolutely definitely.  Times were harder – men were flintier – certainly this far north.  He asks me what became of the ABA sound recordings made about thirty years ago – interviews with the older booksellers. 

Chris Hollett

Chris Hollett

He recalls someone coming up from London and spending a morning taping his father – his father a touch regretful later at perhaps having said too much, been a bit too frank.  Well, wouldn’t we all like to know?  Who else was interviewed?  Where are the tapes?  Was this genuinely an ABA initiative? – brilliant if it were.  Does anyone know anything?  Can light be shed?  Are they locked in a sealed box only to be opened on the death of the last surviving past president ever?  First hand accounts by that golden post-war generation so full of characters?  Please get in touch if you know anything.

In any case an idea worth reinventing.  But work to be done too – three floors of books to examine.   Good solid stock, stock in real depth, interest everywhere.  Collectors’ stock, with obvious strengths in natural history, travel and sporting books, North Country history and topography – but something too for every kind of taste – some good literature, etc.  Very much enjoyed looking around and came away with a decent haul, which arrived promptly and well-packed a few days later. 

Marks out of Ten - Westwood Books

Marks out of Ten – Westwood Books

Onwards a short walk away to Westwood Books in Long Lane.  Mark Westwood not around, but so much to see in any case.  The building used to be the town cinema, which gives a measure of the size.  Some 70,000 books – antiquarian, secondhand, and new (the last mostly at much reduced prices) – and, get this – none of them listed on the internet. 

The Westwoods

The Westwoods

Open seven days a week and listed as one of the top ten second-hand bookshops in the country by The Guardian – here’s what they had to say – “In a once Yorkshire Dales town cinema, positively no muzak, no corporate branding, merciful peace and big enough space to get lost and dreamy in, huge range of books on two floors, plus a back warren of delights, stuff on every conceivable subject, and coffee, comfortable sofas, views south and west over Western Dales fells, sunsets spill in through the front door, and above all, booksellers on hand in love with their space and stock”.  All true and can’t improve on it.

Westwood Books

Westwood Books

Not in truth a vast amount of stuff for me (although I suspect I may well have missed a room or two) – but very, very pleased indeed with what I did find – scarce early Arnold Bennett, scarce early Somerville & Ross, etc.  Exhausting work this, looking for books.  Time to head off.  Different route back and a stop for tea in pretty Kirkby Lonsdale.  Market day and plenty of choice – but we hit on the right one.  Tea at the Royal Hotel – generous, magnificent, right proper.  Could scarcely waddle uphill back to the car.

Royal Hotel Kirkby Lonsdale

Royal Hotel, Kirkby Lonsdale

About Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Laurence Worms has owned and run Ash Rare Books since 1971. He represented the antiquarian book trade on the (British) National Book Committee from 1993 to 2002 and has been six times an elected member of the Council of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association. He was largely responsible for drafting the Association’s Code of Good Practice first introduced in 1997 (and its recent update), served as Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1998 to 2001 and as President from 2011 to 2013. He is a former member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society and continues to serve on the Council of the London Topographical Society. He writes and lectures on various aspects of the history of the book and map trades, and has lectured at the universities of Cambridge, London, Reading and Sheffield, as well as at the Bibliographical Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Warburg Institute, the National Library of Scotland and at Gresham College and Stationers' Hall. Published work includes the compilation of fourteen ‘lives’ for the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”, a number of articles for “The Oxford Companion to the Book” and the chapter on early English maps and atlases for the fourth volume of “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain”. Essays on the British map trade are also appearing in “The History of Cartography” published by the University of Chicago Press. His long-awaited “British Map Engravers”, co-written with Ashley Baynton-Williams, was published to critical acclaim in 2011. He also contributed the numerous biographical notes to Peter Barber’s hugely successful “London : A History in Maps”, co-published by the British Library and the London Topographical Society in 2012.
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1 Response to Points North

  1. JillHadfield says:

    Such a pity he did not get to Penrith


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