Bath has a long and rich history of independent trade and is still teeming with all sorts of spirited, creative and enterprising businesses. Independent bookshops, particularly, are some of the loveliest places to visit. You get a richly eclectic variety of books to choose from, which reflect the individuality of the owner’s vision as well as, of course, their regular customers’ own preferences. In addition, special focus is placed on books from, or about, the local area. Here are three books from Diane Newland of Bookbarn International to get you started...
1. Greetings From Bath. A Collection of Postcards from Bath c.1900-1940
Compiled by Felicity Bowers, this book is full of incredible photos of the architecture, streets, shops and pubs of early twentieth-century Bath. These range from Sally Lunn’s famous shop and the Francis Hotel, both still in existence today, to W. Vilven, a florist and fruiterer on New Bond Street with a window display full of pineapples, bunches of grapes and coconuts, to a photograph of Guinea Pig Jack, who sold newspapers on the street before staging street corner shows of performing guinea pigs.
There's also a postcard from around 1910, showing a Votes for Women meeting, at the Guildhall in Bath featuring Lady Constance Lytton, a leading figure in the women’s social and political union, as a speaker. Not a trader, but obviously one independent woman!
2. Yesterday in Bath. A Camera Record 1849-1949
This book, by Adrian Ball, is packed with large black and white images of post-Georgian Bath, and some very informative text. Bath in Victorian times was a centre of photographic activity. William Henry Fox Talbot produced the first negatives at his home in Lacock Abbey, not far from Bath during 1834 and 1835. William Green set up his photographic company Friese-Greene in Bath and was granted the title of inventor of cinematography by the Britsh Patent Office.
Independent traders filled the Market Place every Saturday in the mid-1800s, and from the Upper Borough Walls to Cheap Street, there was a continuous line of vendors, where all kinds of household goods, pans, pitchers, vegetables and fish were on sale from stalls or barrows, or just laid out on the ground. There are images of all sorts of shopfronts, ranging H.Shore, a handsewn bootmaker, to F.W Fuller, a wine and brandy importer, J.R. Goddard, a fruit salesman and importer of Jamaica fruits and C.Luton, a carpenter and joiner. A myriad of pubs and hotels feature too, some of which are still very much alive and kicking. All in all, this is a fascinating photographic study of the buildings, traders, happenings and daily lives of the people of Bath during this time period.
3. Tourist Guide to Bath. The Queen City of the West
Compiled by The Blackett Press, this charming little 1938 guide is packed with information on everything, from where to stay and places of amusement to bathing establishments and concert rooms. Bath Tramways Motor Company run summer motor tours in their luxurious coaches to beautiful locations all around Bath. Payne’s (of Argyle Street) Quality Sweetshop boasts of the 'Largest Variety of Chocolates and Sweets in the city'. E. and F. Austin’s Typewriting Services offers a fold-up portable model weighing only six and a half pounds! There’s George Gregory’s Antiquarian and General Booksellers, the original W.H.Smith, the 'Conway Stewart, the pen of pens' from the Blackett press, and many other nostalgic adverts. On page 56, it lists the residents of some of the historic houses; Henry Fielding, a novelist at Widcombe Lodge Church Street, Jane Austen, a novelist at 4, Sydney Place, William Wordsworth, poet at 9, North Parade, Tobias Smollett at 7, South Parade, and those are just the writers! It lists many other well-known residents of Bath’s past.
Bookbarn International is set in the beautiful countryside just outside the city of Bath. With one short trip, you can show your appreciation and support for all these wonderful local businesses, thriving under the same roof. Books, gifts, cards, rugs, delicious food and drink, and a great laid-back vibe, all make for a wonderfully relaxed day out in the Bath countryside.