Posted by: christinelaennec | August 1, 2012

Barter Books in Alnwick

One of the highlights of our week in Northumberland was the chance to go to a wonderful secondhand bookshop, Barter Books.  As the Dafter wasn’t up to going there with us, Michael and I took turns to spend time there.  On my visit, people were arriving with boxes and bags of books to barter.  There’s a desk where they give you credit to spend for your books – though you don’t need to barter, they also accept cash and the usual cards.

The entrance to Barter Books, Alnwick.

As you might notice, Barter Books is located in a former railway station.  The owners have done a great job both of transforming it into a bookshop, and also of keeping the original features of the Victorian station.  The first room you come into offers coffee and tea on an honour system, comfy sofas and stiff-upper-lip posters.

Just inside the entrance of Barter Books.

The next room you come to has a wonderful mural featuring writers, and a train that rattles around an elevated track.  Barter Books is known for its selection of specialist books on railways.

Train going around an overhead track, Barter Books, Alnwick.

The lines of poetry run throughout the entire place.  I liked all the artistic touches:

A painted fireplace cover, Barter Books, Alnwick.

Dogs are very well catered for with the Victorian “Filtered Water” fountain:

Filtered water for dogs.

Barter Books has a great selection of fiction and non-fiction, as well as cases of valuable collectors books.  It reminded me of a landmark second-hand bookshop in my home town, Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon.  I’m proud to have a personal connection to Powell’s.  In the 1960s, Mr. Powell was our landlord and a family friend.  I have very fond memories of him.  He used to take our family for drinks at the Benson Hotel, and buy me and my sister Shirley Temples.  It was a huge treat.  I also loved looking out from the balcony of his house at the neon night lights of downtown.  He was a very generous man and one of the only adults I knew who spoiled us children with surprises of cash presents.  Mr. Powell had an idea for starting up a second-hand bookshop, and my father helped make the very first bookshelves for Powell’s Books.

Barter Books, Alnwick

Barter Books has lovely Victorian velvet seats where you’re free to sit and look through books.  There’s a restaurant and also the original Waiting Room full of comfy seats and tables, and people sitting reading.  I had a very tasty cheese toastie in the restaurant the day I went.  For me this was a very big treat!  (Though no Shirley Temple.)  Along with a return trip to Holy Island, Michael and I hope to be able to visit Barter Books together one day as well.  If you’re anywhere near Alnwick, I would really recommend going there, and leaving yourself at least an hour to get lost amongst the books.

Happy August, everyone!



  1. What an amazing place! Barter Books looks the sort of book shop you can happily spend the day in. I’ve put it on my list of places to go. I love the train on the overhead track. What a find.

  2. This is my idea of Heaven! Wow!

  3. Ooh, it looks absolutely wonderful! xx

  4. I would like to live there

  5. What an incredible place. I am lost for words. Wow.

  6. Amazing place. I have got books from Powells, very nice to deal with.

  7. A perfect place to while away an afternoon! That is so interesting to have a personal connection to the Powell Bookstore. There is something so wonderful about finding a vintage book. This bookstore is beautiful. I hope you get to go back soon with Michael. xx

  8. I had no idea you had a connection with Powell’s. Before I even got too far down the page, I was thinking in my head that it reminded me of Powell’s Books. How utterly fantastic that you have such great memories of Mr. Powell and imagine! your Dad building the bookshelves. that is so awesome. Shirley Temples… wow, that is a blast from the past! we used to drink those as kids on special occasions too. I would love to go to this bookshop, especially because it’s in an old train station.

  9. Getting lost among the books is always a treat, Christine, but Barter Books looks and sounds a bit special. I particularly like the Jon Stallworthy quote.

  10. OMGoodness! I love everything about this place!

  11. I would love to go there!

  12. oooo….yes, that does look like a great place to spend an afternoon or two! It’s so good to see old buildings being valued and respected.

  13. Dear All,

    It really is a great place, that my few photos don’t do justice to. There’s a great atmosphere there – a love of books expressed in various ways, and as you say, oldblack, a love of the building itself.

    Marjorie, Karen and ajb, yes it’s lovely to have memories of Mr. Powell and the beginnings of his wonderful bookstore. I believe his son now runs it. It does seem to have kept its good reputation.

    Martin, I really loved all the poetry in the decor. Strangely, one poem that caught my eye (“Oh Western wind, when will thou blow that the small rain down can rain?…” by the prolific Anonymous) turned up when I opened a book on gardening back at the cottage.

  14. That looks like a dangerous place!

  15. This alone would be worth the trip to Alnwick, but you just keep adding reasons for me to go there. I had no idea this place existed but now I feel compelled to visit it. The lure of a great toastie and all those books in such a wonderful environment is too tempting to resist!

  16. Just popping in from Morning’s Minion’s link. I have heard of Barter Books and would LOVE to go there. A bit too far for a day out though! However, we do live near enough Hay-on-Wye to indulge ourselves there on a regular basis.

  17. Dear Sigrid, Lorna and boveybelle,

    Thanks for your comments. If I lived closer to Alnwick, I think I would spend a lot of time there (and have more toasties). boveybelle, I’ve always wanted to go to Hay-on-Wye, the Wye valley and to the book festival. It all sounds delightful!

  18. Love the delphiniums. True blue is a tough color to cultivate.

    I really love the treehouse. So cool!

  19. My husband and I owned a new/used bookstore in upstate NY from 1992-1997. Such good memories…and I am yet surrounded by bookshelves and some of the books from the shop. I will appreciate Powell’s all the more since you shared you good memories of Mr. Powell and your dad’s contribution to the store.
    Gracie xxx

  20. I really love Barter’s! Whenever I go to Northumberland I insist on going and I always spend loads… book buying is addictive!

  21. […] Surse:,, […]

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