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Monday, 25 March 2013

A day of remembering the bookshops in Bristol

I had a trip down Memory Lane last week. Or rather, up and down Park Street in Bristol.

 Visiting my Mum for a few days in North Somerset , I went into Bristol to see a close friend for an afternoon. We met on Whiteladies Road old stomping ground of mine when I worked at the BBC there years ago. I'm not going to tell you how many years ago though...that's classified information.

In those days, I worked in the reference library at the BBC. It was the perfect job for me, my first after getting my degree...working on lots of interesting programmes, finding out lots of information, goingout filming occasionally and meeting the most unlikely and interesting people in the BBC canteen at lunchtime.

I loved it all....but if I did manage to tear myself away from the place,  I would leave the booklined  Reference library and push off down to Park Street.

It may be dominated by the imposing Wills Memorial Building which was opened in 1925...but the attractions that Park Street had to offer me were all the bookshops.

They were all branches of Georges. Art bookshops, two if I remember correctly, an academic bookshop, a second hand bookshop. Were there five or six altogether ? I adored my quiet interludes perusing the shelves, buying books ,inhaling the perky, fresh as paint perfume of the newly published books, and the pervading mustiness  and acidy tang of the old secondhandbooks.

Georges had been started by seventeen year old William George in 1847 and was sold to Blackwells in 1929 which kept the old business name on the front of the shops. They're not there anymore....but there's one branch of Blackwells on Park Street.

That stands next door to what was the main Georges shop on the corner
Here it is, back in it looks very's now a Jamie's Italian restaurant.
But further down Park Street I noticed the Last of a chain of three small remainder shops. Seeing a huge sign saying that every book costs £2 , I dived in...and within five minutes found two paperbacks on my wanted list. Now that's what I call a result! On the way out though, I noticed the for sale sign attached to the shop sign. So is the shop for sale or one of the flats above?

As I walked back up the hill there was one more bookshop though...

Obviously raising money for a very good cause, the shop was busy....but it's a pity that the only new bookshops I've seen opening recently are charity bookshops. Low rates for charities on the high street plus low prices of books on the internet make it very difficult for independent bookshops to survive these days

But it was a lovely afternoon on park Street, remembering happy times in bookshops gone by...

Today's track is one that I really like...Oh Saci by the Bookshop Band.

Now this band intrigues me....they write songs about books and play them in bookshops  sometimes with the author. How good is that? Breathing life and music into and attracting customers into bookshops. How good is that? I hope they can come to Leicestershire soon.....

Click on the link here to listen....


  1. I love Bristol's bookshops - one of my daughters went to uni there, so we just had to have a browse.

    But for me to go all maudlin, then it's back to Blackwells in Oxford ... even the thought of it is enough to make me sigh!

    1. Don't get maudlin Jo.....but I know what you mean!

  2. I love Oxfam's bookshops,lots of books for not much money.I can't pass a bookshop without having a look inside.

  3. Yes, I love getting a bargain when I buy a book too Anne.....but I still love the feel and smell of a new book!

  4. I've never been to Bristol but enjoyed your photographic tour. My biggest concern about the decline of new Bookshops is that one day I'll get a big publishing deal only to find, a few months later, that my book is sitting dejectedly in a Remainders Bookshop.

  5. We were in the Wills Memorial only a couple of year's ago for Nick's ultra efficient graduation ceremony. You didn't mention Brown's. It's brilliant for a meal, a lovely atmosphere and there's usually a stall selling fresh flowers at the bottom of the steps outside. I agree about the charity bookshops - there are a lot of them and they don't really help authors either.

    1. I love Browns too Alex...but I'd just had lunch in the BBC canteen so didn't go in there! I think Browns have got the dynamics just right though...

  6. I understand your concerns Ros completely!That's why I was pleased to find Blackwells there...
    But I was pleased with my bargains from the Last Bookshop as well...