Uttering the phrase “Secondhand Bookshop” conjures up a variety of images. Dusty shelves, a musty smell and heaps of dog-eared books that’ve seen better days. But you’d associate none of these with St Catherine’s Hospice bookshop in Ashton-on-Ribble.
Nestled deep in a residential area, the bookshop is unassuming, blending in with the surrounding ornate houses. Further down the road is a more general charity shop where one can find clothes, ornaments and various other nick nacks.
On entering St Catherine’s, there was no wizened academic resting behind a desk, quietly reading or deep in thought. The books didn’t teeter from their precariously placed piles, and nor were you gifted with a handful of grime when leafing through some pages. Instead, the bookshop is cheerful and full of light, and the wide range of books are stacked to the ceiling.
Rather than searching for a particular book, I had come to simply browse in the hope that something would catch my eye. This is where second hand bookshops outdo their glossier and more glamourous high street siblings. On the high street I’d generally visit to buy a specific book, or one in a certain area of interest. Here, the books are so reasonably priced that it’s easy just to pay a passing visit with nothing in mind, and have the good fortune to come away with a steal.
Memoirs, popular science, pulp fiction, they’re all on show here. The sheer volume of books may at first look daunting, (akin to a secondhand record shop) but diligent alphabetisation means that it’s very easy to search for your favourite authors or topic areas.
After about half an hour spent squinting at book titles and making my mind up, I finally settled on four books (pictured below). The price? £2.80 for the four. Considering that it’s perfectly possible to spend triple that in say, Oxfam, St Catherine’s bookshop is really worth your while. The crisp ten pound note that I’d brought along meant I had plenty of change to go home with, and all the books were in excellent condition.
The volunteers are friendly and helpful (like all shop assistants should be) and you get a sense that they really know their stuff.
There’s a great collection of autobiographies and memoirs, particularly by ex-prime ministers and politicians. I was tempted to buy Margaret Thatcher’s rather hefty tome, but thought it unwise to carry it around in full view while in a Lancastrian city…
In the end I bought Matthew Parris’ autobiography, which should make for slightly more entertaining and less depressing reading!
St Catherine’s Bookshop is clearly adored by its local patrons. But it’s also well worth making a trip across town like I did. Its books are far more reasonably priced than any of the bookshops in the city centre, and in better condition too, coupled with lovely shop service.
I’d wholeheartedly recommend a visit there.
View St Catherine’s Bookshop in a larger map