For our Valentine’s weekend, we road-tripped through the North East of England, visiting Newcastle as our initial destination, and then travelling through some of the smaller towns of Northumberland on the way back home. Usually, I like to research into our trips, and find the most pretty, interesting, and photogenic places to visit. However, in the town of Alnwick, we stumbled across this charming bookshop with a very interesting history. It is so photogenic, that this hidden gem deserves its own blog.
Barter Books is one of the largest secondhand bookshops in the UK. It is located within the old Victorian railway station of Alnwick, which closed down in 1968. Barter Books opened in 1991 and the name comes from the bartering system that was originally used for customers to swap books for credit.
It shelves books from all categories imaginable, from ‘Crafts & Hobbies’ to ‘Spicy Books’. You could spend hours just browsing through all the shelves, looking up at the architecture, examining the details of the original water fountains and there is even a station buffet for when you get hungry. This place is just huge, and if you manage to take a peek behind the ‘Staff Only’ shutters, you can see it gets even bigger, with a vast number of books that staff sort through.
In the photos you can spot quotes from poems and novels, running along the top of shelves and lining the walls.
You can still see a lot of the original structures, foundations, archways and doorways of the original railway station, certainly making this bookshop the most unique one we’ve ever visited. There is even a model train set running on tracks that are set towards the ceiling at the front of the shop – just look above your heads and listen out for them approaching!
In 2000, Barter Books hit the headlines when an original World War II poster made in 1939, was found in a box of old books bought at an auction. This poster had the slogan ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’. Yes, this is when the slogan and simple design of the ‘Keep Calm’ poster became an international phenomenon and is still used worldwide in merchandise.
And just in case, all you bookworms aren’t enticed to visit yet, the books are all secondhand, so they are incredibly affordable! Just stay away from the glass cabinets if you’re counting on a bargain – they are saved for the antique books, priced in their £100s and £1000s.
Love, DJK x