|Inside the shop|
It sits in a long line of Chorlton businesses which have offered books to the residents of the township.
Back in 1911 there were three listed as bookshops and stationers.
Two of these were in New Chorlton and the third on Beech Road.
These along with the private lending libraries which were operating from the 1890s and the even earlier Penny Readings and the Reading Room on Beech Road catered for a wide clientele wanting to read everything from fiction through to the serious stuff.
So we shouldn’t be surprised that when the first temporary public library was opened in the November of 1908 it was a runaway success. It began with the provision of a thousand books a reading room and a meetings room and during the first two months the membership climbed to 1,100 and the number of books was doubled with a promise of another 1,000.
And in passing we should not forget Brian the Book who operated successfully from his shop on Beech Road from the 1970s and the very popular Book Festival sponsored by the Library Service every November.
All of which places Chorlton Bookshop into a context and makes it a little bit of the history of where we live.
|Wilbraham Road, 1983 © Tom Mcgrath|
Some of these gentlemen were slightly taken aback on discovering that the manager of this new shop was a young woman.
Vicky recalls opening accounts with publishers with handwritten letters composed in her bedroom, where she'd only recently finished revising for her A-levels.
It was a steep learning curve, too. The first order for stock books was for £40 – which sounded like at lot back in the day, but in practice it was hardly enough book to fill one shelf.
Nowadays, as you'd expected, stock re-ordering is done electronically and transmitted via the internet. Back then, it was a case of making a mental note of what had been sold and jotting it all down when the shop went quiet.
Customers of long standing may remember back to when Vicky manned the shop with her parents, who fitted in working here around their day jobs. Between them they share vivid memories of chasing after an over-eager shoplifter with bags down Wilbraham Road towards the crossroads, and of donating books as children's presents to a group of striking miners.
|Wilbraham Road, 2013, © Tom Mcgrath|
Luckily he was unhurt, but this incident might help explain the presence of distinctive iron gates across the windows now.
Vicky has devised countless (more conventional) window displays, taking in thirty Christmas specials, which have been much admired. They've even won awards, including a trip to Acapulco.
Memorable events over the years include visits from Postman Pat's van, and Harry Potter's flying car (though road-bound on that occasion); a Second World War quiz night, with cans of Spam as prizes; and a tarot-reading evening which got so lively that the police were nearly called.
Past customers also include many Manchester music luminaries like Ian Brown, Bernard Sumner, John Bramwell, Tony Wilson and more than one ex-member of The Fall. Morrissey bought several Oscar Wilde collections from us in one go.
Author and poet Jackie Kay has been a regular customer. Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, came in for a browse while visiting friends locally, and complimented us on our fiction range .
And one day several members of the England cricket team, lead by David Gower, came in mob-handed, fresh from Old Trafford – in their whites – to buy an address book.
|Wilbraham Road circa 1903|
After thirty years, we're now at the stage where our youngest original customers are coming in with their children.
All things being equal, we'd love to think that we'll be around to serve their grandchildren one day."*
Pictures; Wilbraham Road, in 1985 & 2013, courtesy of Tom McGrath, Wilbraham Road in 1903 from the Lloyd Collection, and remaining photographs courtesy of Chorlton Bookshop
* Andy from Chorlton Bookshop