P&G Wells is my local independent bookshop, and I love it. Not only because of the atmospheric building and (of course) the great books, but because the owner (Crispin) and all of the booksellers there, especially David and Ben have been incredibly supportive of me and my books. I highly recommended having a browse on a Sunday afternoon, choosing and buying a book, and taking it for a pint to the Wykeham Arms just around the corner.
Can you tell me something about the history of P&G Wells?
Founded in the early 1700s, P&G Wells was one of several bookshops in this quarter of
Winchester. In the early days, the area was a literary centre, with publishing, printing, the Hampshire Chronicle newspaper and the county’s first lending library: all of which activities took place on the shop’s premises. Originally the shop was owned by the Burton family, with the Wells family being in charge during the shop’s College-centred heyday. The last Wells left in the mid 1970s but is still living in Winchester.
In modern times, Wells expanded to cover school supply throughout Hampshire, and to serve the new University of Winchester. Its centrepiece however, remains its original shop in College Street, by now the oldest bookshop in the country.
What’s your favourite section?
The oak windows looking onto the street date from Edwardian times, and permit us to show a variety of lovely new books to passersby. I enjoy seeing dog-walkers, joggers and family walkers distracted from their journeys as they stop and respond to the dreams that emanate from the covers of unexpected books.
If you had infinite space what would you add?
I’d like to have a larger reference section, full of earlier works by current writers, and prequels to the history, the travel and the natural history that is published today.
What’s the hardest thing about running an independent bookshop?
Who is your favourite customer?
Anyone who is curious, open-minded and keen to find out all there is to know about their chosen topic.
What’s the craziest situation you’ve ever had to deal with in the bookshop?
Shoplifters who take a book, deface it, and come back to ask for a ‘refund’.
What’s your best/first memory of visiting a bookshop?
Being stuck in a foreign country on a rainy weekend, and finding in the local shop an old novel that reminded me of home.
What would you like your customers to do differently?
Be more experimental.
What would you like authors or publishers to do differently?
Think outside the box.
What’s been the biggest surprise of owning an independent bookshop?
How generous-hearted are the different people in the industry – writers, publishers and reps obviously, but also the accounts departments, warehousemen and delivery drivers.
What fairly unknown book do you think more people should know about?
Anything by Patrick Modiano.
What book are you currently recommending / hand-selling?
How can people visit / get in touch with you? (Address, Twitter, Facebook, Website, Instagram etc)
All of these are possible, but the best is to visit.
Other bookshops in this series:
Read about Book-ish in Crickhowell
Read about Mr B’s in Bath
Read about Lutyens & Rubinstein in London
Read about The White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough
Read about The Little Ripon Bookshop in Ripon
Read about Chepstow Books in Chepstow
Read about Chorleywood Bookshop in Chorleywood