A secret book snuggery by the sea
“With a fine sea view in front, the mountains behind, the glorious estuary running eight miles inland, and Cadair Idris within compass of a day’s walk, Barmouth can always hold its own against any rival.”
Established in 1905, the Walter Lloyd Jones Showroom has conducted auctions and sold a range of antiques and bric-a-brac on Barmouth’s High Street since the 1920s.
In its constantly changing window displays one will frequently spot an assortment of used books scattered decoratively to enhance a particular theme – for instance, Henry James novels may be arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner to compliment a hug of shabby teddy bears in a child’s toy pram, or a battered copy of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management might be placed next to an old mangle and various Victorian utensils. Indeed, within the shop itself there are umpteen titles hidden amongst china tea sets, period style rocking chairs, oak jardinières and a mishmash of other bygone household trinkets.
The view from outside is sufficiently tempting to lure me into the showroom’s cluttered interior whenever I visit this fine Welsh seaside resort, but there’s an added incentive that no self-respecting bibliomane could possibly resist. Concealed amongst the gewgaws and bibelots is the entrance to a winding staircase, which, in turn, leads to a warren of low-ceilinged passageways and frowsty, crypt-like rooms, each one heaving with second-hand publications of every size and genre. This network of subterranean literary chambers is called the Book Cellar.
Once one has become adjusted to the claustrophobic surrounds and bare electric light bulbs dangling between overcrowded shelves, it is possible to while away a whole afternoon rootling through dusty classics, vintage paperbacks, green-spined wonders and occasional rarities. I seldom leave without stuffing my backpack to the gills with more reading material than I could ever hope to devour in a month of Sundays.
Tomorrow, I have therefore set-aside a whole day to potter about the town centre, or to put it another way, spend an indefinite number of hours holed-up in Barmouth’s bookish underworld.