The history of the shop is not well documented. For most residents they will always remember it being a little community bookshop. However, this wasn’t always the case.
The history of Hampton itself stretches back centuries and has been detailed greatly by the local historical society. The Water Companies moved into the neighbourhood in the 1850’s, and the railway followed in 1864. However the road the shop sits on did not exist at that point.
The land would have been used as coal store for the railway line as John Aldous, a coal merchant, is listed in local directories from 1880. A coal merchant is still listed in the area up to 1940s, so if you spot any dust in the shop it may just be a little trace of our history.
There is some debate as to what road the shop actually sits on. Our lease says 52 Ashley Road but in fact most our mail simply comes to “The Book Shop – Station Approach”. If you put the shop into your satnav it will most likely direct you to Station Approach. This local anomaly seems to stem from the 1897 renovation of the station and subsequent construction of Ashley Road in 1900 to connect Percy Road to Wensleydale Road via Station Approach. So while it may not be clear where Ashley road ends and Station Approach begins we reckon it may be in the middle of our shop.
In 1897 Hampton Station underwent a radical transformation which meant the booking office was relocated to its current location and new facilities were added including the current shop structure.
It is at this point we believe WH Smith began trading from the location as they operated a postal service as well as newspaper business.
WHSmith had opened its first bookstall at Euston in 1848 with numerous other station bookstalls following, so the tradition of selling books may extend back as early as 1897.
Sometime in the mid seventies WH Smith left Hampton and an independent owner took over the running of the shop. The name of the proprietors is lost to time, however in 1998 the shop was taken over by Joy McKie. She recruited volunteers and rallied the community when the shop was in jeopardy of closing in 2014. Many who volunteer can tell you of her fierce dedication to the shop and the causes it supported.
When Joy decided retired the shop was once again left in jeopardy of closing. All the volunteers wanted to keep going but the in’s and out’s of the shop were complicated. A small group of trustees was formed in order to make the organisation more formal. Creating a company, signing a new lease, opening a business bank account and creating a framework so the shop can continue to function as a community asset.
The most recent transformation to the shop came in 2020. We were required to close like many businesses in the spring of 2020. In order to reopen we needed to reconfigure the shop in order to enable social distancing. We were able to secure grant funding to undertake the works which meant our donations would not be touched.
As anyone who has ever been in can attest the shop was a warren of shelves and nooks, so it was no easy task. We teamed up with the team at Shred and Butta who are use to working in small spaces. As we started the rip out we began to realise the shop was in need of some extensive refurbishment. You can see more of the transformation story on Facebook.
When the shelves were removed much was exposed, including a bit of daylight peaking through a wall that have rotted away many years ago. The original floors were uncovered which we have repaired and are now a warm feature. The most marvellous discovery was made at the rear of the shop. Under the shelves and some old panels we found the original wooden shutters of the WH Smith pass through. We have decided to keep these visible.
At the end of 2020 the shop refurb finally was drawing to a close. Good Empire donated one of the final touched a gorgeous new sign for the front of the shop.
It was now time to put all the books back onto the shelves and open the shop. With all the work that had been done the shop’s legacy appears to be secure for the foreseeable future.
Want to be part of the legacy? There is now a way to be part of the shop’s history and help support the upkeep.
During the week James runs an IT company. He regularly volunteers on a Saturday and helps with the running of the organisation.
Ann volunteers in the shop but also helps raise funds outside through Pub Quizzes and collection boxes throughout the village.
Gaynor keeps the children's section in tip top shape.
We are always grateful in interest to volunteer in the shop. If you have a day you can spare once a fortnight and a love of books and Hampton we would love to hear from you. Drop us an email with your contact details and when you would like to work a shift.