has become famous for 'that town which is
one big second-hand bookshop'. It is located on the Welsh / English
border, so much so that most of the town lies within Wales, but eastern
parts do encroach into England. The town is, nonetheless, considered to
be in Wales as indicated by the bilingual road signs. Boasting the
remains of two Norman castles - similar to nearby Builth Wells - the
history of the town predates the Conquest.
Strolling around on a hot sunny day during the 2011 Hay Festival we
came across a couple of lettering examples.
17 Broad Street
Golesworthy's on Broad Street still trades as a
camping and hunting/fishing shop. Established in 1877, this traditional
country store is still run by the founding family supplying clothing,
footwear and other useful products from tent pegs to maps. This brass
signature cut into the threshold paving may be unique. It must have
been an expensive piece of branding. The placing of the possessive
apostrophe after the last 's' is intriguing.
44 Lion Street
George William Pitt Booth lives in Hay Castle
and is credited with transforming the town into a global attraction for
second-hand book lovers.
Richard Booth's family have lived in the Hay area for more than a
hundred years. Coming from a military family, Richard Booth was born in
Plymouth and attended
Rugby school and Oxford University. After graduating, he decided to
return to his Mid-Wales roots. Mr Booth, the self-styled 'King of Hay'
was sometimes a controversial figure. He died on 20 August, 2019.
In 1961, he opened his first second-hand bookshop in Hay, shipping in
hundreds of books from across the globe. Booth was convinced that a
town full of book stores could become an international attraction -
"you buy books from all over the world and your customers come from all
over the world". At 44 Lion Street the company has reused premises with
a fine frontage with its mouldings, ceramics and cast iron detailing.
They describe it as: 'an elegant façade with its glazed
animalier tiles'. The building is Listed Grade II. Most striking is the
golden lion's head at the top
with its claws
grasping a shield bearing the characters:
15.9.2019: Antony May informs us: 'Richard Booth's Bookshop building
was an Agricultural Hall'; further digging reveals that the hall was
originally built by Robert Williams
& Son (hence
'RW&S'). Anthony nudges us that Richard Booth's father
garage mechanic, as we had said (don't believe everything you read on
the internet), but a distinguished army officer. He is also an admirer
of the Golesworthy shop. Thanks for getting in touch, Antony. We
further read: 'In August 2005, Richard Booth
announced that he was selling his Hay bookshop... The bookshop is now
under ownership of Elizabeth Haycox and has had extensive refurbishment
works carried out since 2009.']
to Historic Lettering from outside
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