Whether you’re a visitor to London or a local, add Hatchards as one of the places you must visit. The shop’s handsome wooden facade painted in rich pine forest green evokes a warm welcoming feeling. The soft light glow seeping onto the pavement from ageless paned windows remind you that the shop is part of history. When a breeze blows, the hanging Hatchards’ sign above the windows gently sways almost as a gesture to lure you inside. And, if you in Piccadilly Street during off-peak hours, you can hear a slight high-pitched screech as the sign’s metal fixings rub together.
Hatchards has been a landmark on one of the most famous streets in London, Piccadilly, since Georgian times, occupying the current building, number 187, for over two hundred years. Needless to say, Hatchards is the oldest bookshop in England. The shop founded in 1797 by John Hatchard. It began a block away and moved to its current location in 1801 next to Fortnum and Mason.
Hatchards changed ownership only four times during its history, with Waterstones being the current owner.
So much of Central London is under re-development. The comfortable and familiar are swept away for shinier and less original models. This isn’t true of Hatchards. Step inside and the spiralling staircase with Mr John Hatchard’s portrait tell you straight away you’re in for an authentic book experience even if the books are contemporary.
The layout of the shop, while orderly, is tight. If the shop is busy, expect to navigate through the store like a maze. Carefully step as if you don’t know where the next turn takes you. You won’t get lost, but there is little room to manoeuvre. The beauty is you can find a book treasure around every corner. There is not a space along the walls without a book display. Be sure to have a list of books on your wish list or you could easily be convinced you need more.
I especially love the books that have been signed by the authors. Hatchards displays a vast array of signed copies beautifully directly opposite the main door. You’ll find lesser-known authors and names like Peter Ackroyd or Phillip Pullman. There is something quite special about opening a book and seeing an author’s handwriting firsthand – even if you don’t make a purchase.
Make your way up the spiral staircase. The upper floors are wooden. With certain steps, you’ll hear a creak as the wood gives way to your weight. You won’t crash to the floor below I assure you. Every time I’m in the shop I’m reminded of my grandmother’s home and remember as a child I’d find the creaky spots and repeatedly fill the room with a rhythm of a wood symphony. No two sounds are the same.
The truth is you’ll find almost every book in Hatchards at a large chain bookstore or even online. The difference is character and history. The experience of visiting Hatchards bookshop makes it worth going the extra steps to number 187 Piccadilly Street.
After your visit, walk next door to Fortnum and Mason for tea or a spot of lunch. What could be more romantic or gentlemanly than reading your book while rewarding yourself with treats?
Where is Hatchards Bookshop in Piccadilly?
187 Piccadilly London W1J 9LE
Map Showing the Location of Hatchards Bookshop::