History of the Bookshop

The History of The Aldeburgh Bookshop

The site of the bookshop

The site of the current bookshop has always had a literary connection.  42 High Street is thought to have been the site of the birthplace of one of Aldeburgh's brightest literary stars, George Crabbe (1754-1832).  This thatched cottage and much of the streets surrounding were washed away in the great storm of 1767.  George Crabbe senior had been a teacher at a village school in Orford, but at this point he was a part-time tax collector for salt duties, a position his own father had held.  Engravings in the Moot Hall Museum purport to show Crabbe Cottage.

In the early years of the 20th century, the shop was W. Hill, Drapers, the first (and only) department store in Aldeburgh.  The shop (42 and 44 High Street) then passed to Watson & Allen, drapers, both married to daughters of W. Hill.

The History of the Bookshop

The shop is coming up for its 70th Anniversary next year (2019).

1949 the bookshop was founded by Christopher Rowan-Robinson.

1953 it passed to John Whitmarsh.

1970 it was taken over by Mr and Mrs John Whateley-Smith

1974 it was jointly owned by Christopher and Jean Cowan and Frederick Edwards

1983 Michael and Evely Catterick took over Freddie Edwards' part share

1985 the Cattericks became sole owners until

2000 when John and Mary James bought the business.  The James bought the adjoining property (no. 44) in c. 2004 and re-combined the shops as they had originally been in 1929.

2006 The Aldeburgh Bookshop won the presigious Nibbie (the Oscars of the booktrade) for Best Independent Bookshop in the UK at the British Book Awards.

Ronald Blythe told us the story of coming in to the shop with E. M. Forster, who wanted to buy some ink.  The then owner was in a hurry to catch the London train and shut them out of the shop.  Not many bookshops can boast of having thrown E. M. Forster out.




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