One of the places I wanted to see, while visiting Northumberland, was Barter Books in Alnwick. Alnwick, incidentally, for the benefit of foreigners, is pronounced ‘Annick’. Barter Books calls itself ‘one of’ the largest second-hand bookshops in Europe. But I suspect that is just to cover itself from claims from the Guinness Book of Records. It is huge. It turned out that our guest house was next door, so it became an easy place to walk to. If it looks like a railway station, that’s because it is. Or, strictly, was.
The station was built far too large for the local population, but, as was often the case in the North, they wished it to be a grand entrance for visitors (particularly Royal) to the town and Alnwick Castle. It is now a superb venue for a bookshop. Here is the entrance hall with the model railway steaming over head.
This is a close-up of the mural.
And this is one of the reading rooms.
On the wall, you can see the war time posters. The owner discovered an original 'Keep Calm' one in a pile of old books he bought at auction. He decided to make copies of it for resale. And the rest is history; I imagine everyone in the world now has one, or a derivative, in their homes. This is the buffet.
And these are a couple of the buffet/reading rooms.
The walls, incidentally, are covered in the original hand-made glazed tiles. Interestingly, there was a note on the wall apologising that the shop’s artworks are currently on loan to the Louvre. Here are another couple of views of the shelves.
It doesn’t matter whether you want a complete set of Dr Who, or of Lynda LaPlante, or of Leni Riefenstahl’s Sudanese tribe books, or even an original copy of Metamorphosis et Historia Naturalis Insectorium (£399), you’ll find it here. They also have some nice vinyl records too. But the unique feature of the shop, as it’s name suggests, is that you can ‘sell’ your second-hand books here for credits with which you can then buy other books in return. They also have quite a good index system (except for modern popular paperbacks which are just shelved in alphabetical order) through which I was able to find a book I wanted (at a good charity shop price).