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Invicta book shop

Second hand bookshop is much missed

Jackie Markham

Reporter:

Jackie Markham

Email:

jackie.markham@newburynews.co.uk

Invicta book shop

Twin brothers Simon and Tim Hall in the bookshop shortly before it closed in April 2010

Over the years many local businesses and small shops have come and gone. One of those most sorely missed must surely be the Invicta Bookshop, pictured below in March 1988.

Operating from an increasingly run-down and ramshackle building in Cromwell Place, next to the United Reform Church (down the alley opposite the Northbrook Street entrance to Marks and Spencer), this quaint bookshop was a book-lover’s paradise.

On entering a treasure trove of the unexpected, customers required considerable agility to squeeze through the piles of books next to the door, and negotiate the rickety staircase to the upstairs rooms.

The business was started by Peter Hall, who as a schoolboy learned book-binding as a hobby.   He revisited the craft whilst serving in the army during the Second World War, and looked around second-hand bookshops to find examples of the different types of bindings.   It was then that he bought an edition of the poems Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  This volume sparked an interest in collecting books by and about the renowned Victorian poet. In 1959, the 150th anniversary of Tennyson’s birth, a Tennyson Society was formed, of which Mr Hall and his wife Dorothy became active members.

After the war Mr Hall moved to Chieveley; his specialised book collection had grown so large that he had to convert his garage into a library.

Having spent so much time in other people’s second-hand bookshops, the Halls decided to open their own in a 19th century listed building in Cromwell Place in 1969, and thus the Invicta bookshop was born. Mr Hall continued to work at his day job at Aldermaston; his wife ran the shop during the week with occasional help from the couple’s twin sons, Simon and Tim.

The family bought and sold second-hand books of fiction and non-fiction, covering every subject imaginable.   Simon and Tim took on the business when their father died.  The brothers did not subscribe to a minimalist aesthetic, but despite the piles of books which lay everywhere, the atmosphere in the shop was always calm and never chaotic.

The business had a number of regular customers who truly cherished the place.  Simon and Tim Hall were hugely knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects and went to considerable lengths to track down books their readers desired.  

It was a sad day when the bookshop finally closed its doors on Saturday 3 April 2010, after forty years of trading from the same premises, due to planning permission having been granted to convert building back into housing.

Local author Robert Harris said at the time “The Invicta Bookshop has been an integral part of living in this area.  It has a great range of books; I have purchased many from there over the years, including some which helped with my research  for my novels “Enigma” and “Pompeii”.”

The closure of the Invicta Bookshop was another blow for bibliophiles in the area, following on  so soon from the loss of Maher the Bookseller in the Kennet centre in the summer of 2008, and Borders bookshop at Newbury retail park in November 2009.

After a short spell of selling books from Hungerford Antiques Arcade and later Craftsman Picture Framing shop in Bartholomew Street, the brothers moved to deepest Wales, from where the business still operates online.

They are much missed and fondly remembered by many in the Newbury area.

Housing now occupies the site in Cromwell Place.

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