Penrith is a shopper’s paradise, whatever you’re looking for and no matter what kind of shop you like
PUBLISHED: 16:35 28 August 2013 | UPDATED: 16:35 28 August 2013
There will always be a copy of The Diamond Thief on the shelves of Penrith’s newest bookshop. Author Sharon Gosling’s husband Adam Newell opened the shop earlier this year, fulfilling a long-held dream of leaving London’s publishing industry for a life behind the counter in Lakeland.
And although Adam is originally from Devon and worked in the capital for 20 years, he’s shown good bit of local knowledge in naming his new shop, Withnail Books, after the cult movie parts of which were filmed locally. He would have no excuse for not knowing that, though – not only is it his favourite film, but most of his time in London was spent editing film and television publications.
‘I have always loved second hand bookshops,’ he said. ‘And I always dreamed of owning one of my own. I love books, I collect books but I’d got too many books and now I’m selling books.
‘London is a fabulous place but I was ready leave and I am really enjoying being in Penrith. The reaction to the shop has been positive so far. Sharon can do what she does anywhere and technology means I can still do some editing as well as running the shop. It gives us the best of both worlds.’
The shop is in Penrith’s Brunswick Yard, a home to a series of buildings which contain a treasure trove of furniture, antiques, oddities, bits and bobs, knicks and knacks where owner Adam Ferguson says he hopes to appeal to shoppers’ desire to rummage.
The two Adams met in the foothills of the Himalayas as they prepared for an ascent of Everest. ‘He told me then that he would like to run a bookshop,’ said Adam F. ‘So when I bought the yard and space became available here, I asked if he still wanted to do it, and here he is.’
The bookshop is the first of what Adam F hopes will be a series of new additions to the yard which began as an architectural salvage business. He said: ‘My background is in antiques and what we have developed here is a chaotic collection of things that people will hopefully find interesting. The town is modernising and I wanted to create a place that was individual and I’d like to develop it more in the coming months and years.
‘I’d like to have someone here selling vintage clothing, and people with other specialisms. It’s very difficult right now for small businesses like artisan craft makers to exist on their own. There are lots of people who do things and make things but don’t have the space to make it into a business and it would be good to be able to offer those people somewhere to do that.’
And while Brunswick Yard is the new kid on the block for shoppers in Penrith, there are plenty of long established businesses here. Graham’s grocers, Arnison’s department store and the toffee shop have all been fixtures in the town since before many of the antiques Adam sells had been made.
The toffee shop supplies fudge to the Prince of Wales’s shop at Highgrove and to the shops at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Owner Neil Boustead said: ‘We were chosen because we make the best fudge. Everything we do is done by hand to a secret recipe. We have to put the ingredients on the box now, but not the quantities, so there is still some mystery about our products.’
The Grade Two listed Arnison’s department store has changed little since Nathan Arnison bought the business in the 1830s. It was previously owned by William Wordsworth’s grandparents who ran a silk merchants and drapers shop. Graham’s family grocers, was established in the Market Place in 1793, and the imposing George Hotel, with its sandstone façade where Bonnie Prince Charlie spent a night on his way south, opened its doors in 1745.
This is a human-scale town, with winding lanes opening out into unexpected squares and market places. Little courts lead off the main streets and the jumble of architectural styles, Tudor, Georgian and Victorian, make it such a varied and interesting place.
Even Penrith’s new retail development has copied the town’s successful formula, with open spaces at the heart of the New Squares scheme which finally opened in June, 13 years after plans were unveiled. The development has a Sainsbury supermarket at its heart with a number of other stores also occupied, although some remain available.
Bowling along again
The sense of devastation didn’t last long for Penrith Castle Park Bowling Club president David Noble when their 1920s bower was burned down.
Everything the club owned was lost in the arson attack – it didn’t just rob them of their base, but bowling equipment and their historic honours boards too.
But David said: ‘It lifted my heart the day after the fire to hear the Eden Council leader and chief executive say they would do everything they could to help the club continue.’
The council provided a temporary home local residents and businesses pitched into help the club buy new equipment and last month the ribbon was cut to officially open their smart new pavilion.
‘We are absolutely delighted with the new pavilion and the modern facilities it has provided,’ David added. ‘It is a fully modern, fire-proof, building which is bigger than what we had before, and it has a kitchen area and a toilet. And the café next door is superb, so all the members are really thrilled with the new facility.
‘So many people helped us out and we were really touched by the kindness people showed to us in helping us get back on our feet.’
Need to know
Where it is: Penrith stands beside junction 40 of the M6 to the north of the Lake District National Park.
Where to park: Penrith is part of a disc parking scheme, discs are available from shops around the town. Larger stores have their own car parks. There is free parking at Brunswick Yard.
Where to eat: There are cafes, pubs and restaurants around the town but for tradition’s sake head for The George. Be sure also to pop into Graham’s and Cranstons.
Find out more: Penrith Tourist Information Centre on 01768 867466 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org