Independent Bookshop Week (IBW) in the UK is a campaign run by Booksellers Association and its members to celebrate indie bookshops in the UK and Ireland1. It is modelled after the American campaign bearing the same name1, which was held earlier across the pond in 2016. The UK had theirs on the 18th to 25th of June in 2016, and on the last day, the campaign encourages people to do a bookshop crawl (if you can’t do it on one day, do it during the whole IBW!).
I did the bookshop crawl on the last day, and planned to visit ten bookshops. All the best plans do not go as expected sometimes, and I only managed eight. Still a respectable number I think, considering I started at 12 noon and finished by 5:30 PM! My first stop was Belgravia Books, and I’ve shared photos of it in a previous post.
My second stop was not so far away from Belgravia Books; Google Maps says it takes approximately 17 minutes walking from there to John Sandoe Books. I did not want to waste a lot of energy though (this was a crawl after all), so I took the tube and got off at Sloane Square. From there it was another 5-minute walk from the station to the bookshop*.
John Sandoe was founded by John Sandoe (duh) in November 1957, and his vision for it was to “to offer his selection of the best current books and to obtain any other books he might be asked for”1. The bookshop is able to trace a history of its current premises. John Sandoe is made up of three shops, number 10, 11, and 12 — number 10 was a ‘seedy little tobacconist’ before the war, then became occupied by a man that sold antiquities, then became a secondhand bookshop after the war; number 11 was a dress shop, and number 12 had a vet.
You enter through the door that was number 11 Blacklands Terrace, and you immediately feel that you are in a place where books are ardently loved. Books fill all the shelves to the brim, books are piled on top of each other on wooden tabletops, and with the light coming through the windows brightening up those dark wooden floors, I can’t help but imagine it to be my dream cottage in the country.
Downstairs of number 10 apparently used to be a poodle parlour called ‘Chloe of Chelsea’, but now it houses the bookshop’s children’s section. It’s not as bright as the first floor, but going down the tiny stairs, you get a feeling of climbing down to a comforting cave where, as a kid, I would happily live in my head and make up stories from the stories I was reading.
John Sandoe’s second floor history involved being a secretarial agency; now it’s what they call their ‘paperback room’. I’d love my dream cottage to have this entire look, where I go up or down narrow staircases with books crammed on every space imaginable, even on the topmost step, then opens up to more shelves and piles of books. And in the middle, where a wide window and a skylight above illuminates the room will be my reading place. I’ve got this dreaming up my sizeable English country cottage all figured out, guys!
John Sandoe is an absolutely gorgeous bookshop. It was my first time to visit (another ace recommendation from Triin) and I was in love. If you’re visiting London, I’ll gladly take you there, because I’d love to visit it over and over and over!
John Sandoe Books is at 10-11 Blacklands Terrace, London SW3 2SR, and they are open Monday to Saturday at 09:30 AM to 06:30 PM, and Sunday at 11:00 AM to 05:00 PM. Do check out their website (and read more about their history!), or call them at 020 7589 9473.
Here are links to the posts about the other bookshops I visited on this bookshop crawl:
*Get out of Sloane Square station and you should have the Hugo Boss shop in front of you across the street. Cross that street and walk on, crossing Lower Sloane Street which will be the first street you’ll come to on your left. After passing Lower Sloane Street, you should come upon another set of traffic lights (you’ll see Barclays Bank on your left). Turn right at these lights and cross the street, then turn left; you should be walking along a shopping mall (of sorts) called Peter Jones (this is Kings Road). Walk straight on, past one street (Cadogan Gardens), then turn right on the second street (Blacklands Terrace). John Sandoe Books will be on your left.