Continuing my tour of Northumberland, while it’s still fresh in my mind, is a second hand bookshop in Alnwick.

Barter Books is a mine of second hand books from run-of-the-mill to tatty to unique and one off. Set within the now closed Alnwick train station, it’s big and very Aladdin’s cave like with old shelves crammed full of all sorts of books.

We visited at about 4pm to make use of the Cafe for coffee and cake, the seating for which is based in the old waiting rooms. Even at this time the store was busy with folks browsing the shelves or sitting on a sofa and reading.

It’s a charming place with seemingly no attempt to create itself a brand. Internal signage is hand made looking and different in every place. The bookshelves in the main hall are indicated with one type of text, but different fonts are used on the quotes that sit above visitors heads and further signs used as sub titles are different again.

Of course it doesn’t need anyone coming in and creating a slick logo for it, the higledy pigledy nature of the place is a brand in itself, and it’s no worse for it. There are large murals painted on various walls, which have a charm without being stunning and the Victorian station gives the place a beautiful backdrop with fancy ironwork struts and lace like edging along the roof line. As a nod to the past use of the building, along the top of some of the shelves runs a model railway.

There is one contrasting element to this simple charm, and that’s the fact that the now ubiquitous “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster was discovered by staff at Barter Books. The full story is here, but in short, a folded up poster was found in a box of books from an auction. The owner loved it and decided it would fit well framed in the store, which of course it does. After it had been hanging for a while, visitors asked to buy it. Rather than sell the original they made some copies and after appearing in a guardian magazine article, sales went crazy. Thanks to so many duplicates appearing all over the web, it’s become a regular all over the place.

Happily Barter Books sell it at less than £4, so any copycats find it difficult to under cut the ‘original’. The poster is out of copyright and Barter don’t really have a claim to it, but you have to give them credit for making it an item that people want to buy.

So a great place to visit, make a detour if you’re up there, it’s close to Alnwick Gardens and Castle (more on these later I suspect!).

Pictures below, bigger on Flickr

Barter Books