Where? Alnwick, Northumberland, UK
Recommended by Angi Holden
It struck us as a surprise to see that bookstore of such a capacity, superiority and reputation has not yet found its way to our Guide. Barter Books, located in the history rich county of Northumberland in the far north of England, has earned the honorable description of being called "the British Library of secondhand bookshops" by The New Statesman.
Barter Books can easily be somewhere at the top of our bookstores-located-in-odd-places category (together with, for example, Selexyz Dominicanen and Leakey's, both located in what used to be churches), as it occupies the space of an old Victorian railway station, spanning on some 10,000 square feet. The station itself was designed by William Bell and put in business in 1887. By 1968, the railway station was closed and in 1991 Barter Books took over the premises, making the number of visitors to this building far greater than it used to be once the train operated in this town. An interesting piece of information is that this bookstore receives over 200,000 visitors a year and is considered a local tourist attraction.
The name of the bookstore reflects its manner of dealing with payments, namely, the use of their barter system where customers can exchange their used books for store credit. Barter Books is also rather known for the poster located near the cash register. The poster, saying "Keep Calm and Carry On" is a rare relic from the Second World War, which was only intended to become public in the worst scenario - a Nazi invasion of the British territory. For more interesting facts about this poster, and the story of its discovery in Barter Books, try browsing through the info on the bookstore's website.
Needless to add, the stock of a bookstore of such size and reputation is far from a modest one. The books range from such categories as paperback and fiction, poetry and plays, history, philosophy or women studies to crime, biography, business and economics and even such topics as transport, maritime, gardening, needlework, etc. Barter Books also has several special features which make it stand out further among others: open fires in the winter, a station buffet with a menu made up of home-made and/or locally sourced food (both hot and cold) and speciality coffees and teas, a children's room filled with toys and even a model railway between the columns of books in the central room. The bookstore's staff, known for their friendliness, loyalty and knowledge, is always there at your disposal. It's like anything an independent bookstore should be. Barter Book's owners, Stuart and Mary Manley, have indeed created a role model among bookstores, as well as something extraordinary.
NE66 2NP England
Phone and Email:
April - September
Open every day but Christmas Day
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