May 15

Six Months In Oswestry Indoor Market

Powis Hall, Bailey Head

Oswestry Indoor Market, The Bailey Head, Oswestry

Six months in Oswestry Indoor Market! It has flown by and we now find ourselves in Spring 2013, although you could be forgiven for thinking it is still Winter given the state of the weather.

First time in Retail

This is our first ever venture into retail and, based on the first six months of trading, it has been something of a success. And it gets us out from behind the computers and gives up a chance to meet people.

Oswestry Indoor Market Shop

Online continues to do well

The online business continues to do very well and we add new inventory to our website, and other online channels, on a daily basis. The overseas business has grown steadily and we have taken our first orders from New Zealand, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel recently. A particularly nice order from Brazil came in just last night.

Ordered by a customer in Brazil

Repeat Business

In the market we have already built up a sizeable number of repeat customers who come back regularly to acquire new items, or just pop in for a chat. Sheet music has been particularly successful in this respect and we have recently bought three new collections (over 1,500 items) to feed the demand.

“Do you buy books?”

No two days are the same and it is impossible to forecast what books will sell on any given day. It makes it difficult to judge exactly what stock to hold – we can only squeeze in around 5,000 books – but it does make it interesting. We also get offered books on a daily basis. We hear the question: “Do you buy books?” several times a day. The simple answer is “Yes, but…!” We can’t take everything, but occasionally something of real value crops up, which is always very exciting.

We have also seen an increase in people asking us to acquire specific books on their behalf, as well as customers who have noticed something on our website and want to see it before purchasing. We’re very happy to provide services like this, absolutely no obligation, and regularly put items aside if we feel a regular customer might have an interest.

A Signed edition of Roger McGough's Colleced Poems


There is a great community in the market and, since, we’ve been here, it has won the award for the Best Council-run Indoor Market in the UK. Clearly something to do with us being here…..! We have a really nice selection of traders: everything from handmade jewellery and delicatessens to antiques and sugar-craft. A great place to visit on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and certainly well-visited by locals and visitors alike.

Bricks and mortar bookshops are still disappearing from the High Street. We are the only secondhand bookshop left on Oswestry (there used to be several). Based on our first six months, business has been brisk and, given that the rents remains the same, we fully intend to be here for as long as there is a demand for what we sell. If you are ever in the area, do please pop in!

Hall of Books for secondhand books and sheet music online and from our shop in Oswestry Indoor Market: from the interesting, unusual and rare, to the-hard-to-find, ?collectible and out-of-print – and a lot more in between.

Mar 16

Press Coverage

Press Coverage – Hall of Books

Since opening up in Oswestry Indoor Market we have been lucky enough to get some press coverage. I’m not sure I’m the most photogenic bookseller in the UK (and goodness only knows why the photographer got me to look up like this – perhaps to hide my double-chin) but the shop looks good!


Bucking the trend

I think we got some press coverage because the press were interested in us opening up a shop as we appear to be bucking the trend, certainly here in Oswestry. There used to be a number of bookshops, new and secondhand, in the town. Now there is just W H Smith and Booka selling new books. We are the only secondhand bookshop left. Retail has been hit very hard in Oswestry with large national retailers pulling out, leaving a number of large empty shops behind. We seem to have plenty of Estate Agents, Charity Shops and Supermarkets, but small independent retailers are thin on the ground. Rent and rates are astronomic and people locally don’t have too much spare cash, so setting up in business on the High Street is all but impossible. The market is a low-cost, low-risk way to get out from behind the computer and actually meet a few customers. We didn’t realise that a young chap had done a similar things down in Welshpool (12 miles away), but the papers put two and two together and came up with the next article.

Chronicle Article


It has also turned out to be an excellent way to acquire new stock. People come into the shop every day offering us books or asking if we’d be interested in their collections. To be honest, the majority are titles or imprints that we are just not interested in, but occasionally, we are offered something that we would not have chanced upon in any other way.


We’ve had mentions from several online book-resource sites like Sheppards Confidential (no relative!) and Inprint, as well as getting involved with the active Facebook community associated with the Market. No doubt this will develop further but please contact us on if you need more information on this article or on any other aspect of Hall of Books

Feb 02

Oswestry Indoor Market

Oswestry Indoor Market – New Secondhand Bookshop


Oswestry Indoor Market Shop

We recently opened a small bookshop in Oswestry Indoor Market, offering both secondhand books and sheet music. Oswestry Indoor Market has just won the national prize for the UK’s best Council-run Market. The shop has around 5,000 titles on display covering a range of genres and subject areas including: Body, Mind and Spirit, Religion, History, Music, Art and Design, Children?s Books, Photography, Crime Fiction, Travel and Transport, Food and Drink, Poetry, Plays, Biography, General Fiction, Crafts, Games and Hobbies, Reference, Social Sciences, Natural History, Gardening, Pets, Science Fiction, Horror, and Education. A selection of new reading accessories ? bookmarks, reading lights and magnifying glasses ? as well as secondhand art prints and pictures, is also on display.

Hall of Books Shop

Bucking the trend

In the past, Oswestry has had several secondhand books shops in the town, while the Indoor Market has traditionally always had a bookshop. Economic conditions, the influence of the Internet and competition from the charitable sector has seen retail sales in the secondhand book trade hit particularly hard. The previous tenants in the market closed down last year and there are now no other dedicated secondhand books shops left in the town.

Hall of Books in Oswestry Indoor Market

Bricks and Mortar

Hall of Books started as an online retailer? – selling books throughout the UK and Internationally with orders regularly going to Europe, USA, Canada and Australia. With over 30,000 titles in stock (around 6,000 online at the moment), sales have developed year on year. Opening a ?bricks and mortar? outlet to run alongside the online operation was always an ambition and, when the shop became available in the Indoor Market at the end of last year, Hall of Books moved in. Sales to date have been excellent with increasing repeat business, underpinned by the continued success of the online operation. The shop is open every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday between 9.00am and 4.00pm and can be found on the Balcony, Powis Hall, Bailey Head, Oswestry.


Hall of Books does not specialise in any particular genre or subject area but offers an eclectic range of secondhand books and sheet music ranging from modern first edition hardbacks and quality paperbacks to the interesting, unusual and rare; the hard to find, collectible and out of print….and a lot more in between!?Space in the shop is limited, but stock is updated regularly and items from the online inventory can be brought to the shop for customers to see. Books can be ordered for customers who are looking for something specific and stock items can be reserved for customers who have an interest in a particular subject area ? Sherlock Holmes, Printing Techniques, How to Draw and Paint, The Chatham Scandal and Wrecks of the Western Australian Coast being recent examples.

For more information please contact Shaun Sheppard on or have a look at the website:

Jan 30

Private Collection – Naval History and WW2 Memoirs

WW2 History and Naval Memoirs

Oswestry Indoor Market

One of the great things about being here in Oswestry Indoor Market is the fact that people constantly offer us books. We’re always grateful and we do occasionally buy a few, but the reality is that the majority are the usual paperbacks and Reader’s Digest tomes which, sadly, we have to turn down – we don’t have the space and they just don’t sell.

Private Collection

WW2 Memoirs

However, we do sometimes get offered some really interesting books and, just before Christmas, a chap came in and bought a couple of history books. We got talking and he mentioned that he was having to move house through ill-health. Reluctantly, he was considering down-sizing his personal collection of naval history and WW2 memoirs. “Would I be interested in taking a look?” he asked.

Signed Books

Max Shean Inscription and Signature

I arranged to visit and found a treasure-trove of books. His main interest was in WW2 History and naval memoirs, especially the Atlantic Convoys and the involvement of the Canadian Navy. He also had collections on military hardware and aircraft, as well as an assortment ?of other titles ranging from Poetry and the Cinema to Folio Society books. The most impressive aspect wasn’t the fact that this was a highly specialised collection, built up over years of collecting, but their quality. The majority of the books look like they haven’t been read and are in virtually as-new condition – some are so glossy that it makes them hard to photograph. And about 20% of the books are signed by the authors!


Roger McGough Signature

I visited twice and ended up buying about 250 books, the majority being WW2 History and Naval memoirs. A considerable investment, but we were both happy with the transaction. He received what he felt was a fair price and I acquired a selection of books which would be hard to find in any other circumstances. A few of them are unique. Roger McGough for example, the Liverpool poet, is not a prolific autographer and there are very few examples of his signed books available.

A Signed edition of Roger McGough's Colleced Poems


We have started listing these books online and have already sold several. The majority really are in very good condition, are very specialised and some have the added benefit of being signed. Please have a look at our inventory or get in touch if you would like more information – We can always bring specific titles to the market as well.

Fred Kellett

Dec 14

The Folio Society

The Folio Society – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Folio Society - Gentlemen Prefer BlondesYou’ve probably seen Folio Society books on people’s book shelves. You may even have one or two yourself. Many of them come in slip-cases rather than having traditional dust jackets. All of them are beautifully produced using quality papers, fine bindings and illustrations by leading artists. And they are all reproductions of literary best-sellers or classic titles. No mass-market shelf-fodder here, just lovely editions of some of the best books ever written.?The Folio Society ethos could be distilled as: great books are even more enjoyable if they look and feel beautiful, as well as being outstanding reads.

The Folio Society – The Maltese Falcon

Folio Society edition of The Maltese Falcon

That they succeed in this endeavour is self-evident but they can often be the victim of their own success. People buy the books, often as gifts, and they are then left on the shelf as evidence of the owner’s good taste rather than being read. There is something about the quality of the books that suggests they are iconic and should remain unsullied, rather than being used for the purposes they were designed for – to be read, enjoyed and returned to again and again.

The Folio Society – Cautionary Tales and Other Verses

Folio Society edition of Cautionary Tales and Other Verses

Here at Hall of Books, we believe that books should be read. What is the point of owning books that just sit on the shelf and gather dust? Ok, if you need reference books, especially in some esoteric discipline, those books may only be opened occasionally. But when it comes to fiction, the authors wrote them in order to communicate something important – a great story, interesting ideas, insights into the human condition – and you will only discover what they have to say if you read the book.

The Folio Society – Sagittarius Rising

Folio Society Edition of Sagittarius Rising

One of the great things about secondhand books is seeing how they have been enjoyed by previous owners. There is something sad about acquiring a collection of books that has never been opened. Sure, it makes the job of selling them easier for us. Fine, unmarked copies are always the first to sell. But it is a little depressing to realise that the owner never opened them; never discovered the treasures inside or explored the ideas on offer.

The Folio Society – Beowulf

Folio Society of Beowulf

But this is the fate of many Folio Society editions. Given as gifts, or acquired because the owner wants his friends and guests to admire his book collection, they remain unread and often unopened. Too good to be used. Now, this may be sad on one level but, on another, it is great news for us and for our customers. Virtually new copies of Folio Society books can be purchased for a fraction of their original purchase price. The production standards mean that they don’t age like mass market books and the illustrations are usually not available anywhere else. So, they make a great secondhand buy. And, shock horror, they can be read! And should be.

These are not condensed editions of best sellers like Reader’s Digest (we’ll discuss them in a future blog) but genuine finely bound copies of some of the greatest books ever written. As I write it is just coming up to Christmas 2012 and we have sold several Folio Society editions, obviously as presents, but we have plenty more in stock.

Folio Society – O. Henry Short Stories

Folio Society edition of O. Henry Short Stories


Sep 27

Great Period Crime Fiction from Penguin Books

Penguin Books Logo

?Crime Fiction

Although we are great book-lovers and readers at Hall of Books, Crime Fiction isn’t something that has featured strongly in our own personal reading lists. However, we have a considerable quantity of crime fiction in stock, both hardback and paperback. Noir thrillers, who-dunnits, murder mysteries, detective stories, True Crime – you name it, we’ve probably got at least one example of all the sub-genres in stock.

Period Penguin Classic Books

We are particularly lucky to have a lot of the classic Penguin paperbacks from the 40s, 50s and 60s in stock. We have both the iconic orange and white Fiction series books as well as the green and white Crime series books. The Crime books in particular have always been much admired by us, but until now, little read.

Enforced Lay-off

I was recently forced to take some time off to recuperate after a visit to hospital. What better time to catch up on that list of books I have been meaning to read? One of the great things about the Penguin paperbacks is that they can be read in a day or so and I polished off a number of Crime Fiction titles while laid up. What a revelation!

Crime Fiction Titles

All the books are currently available through the Hall of Books website, but specifically they are:

Penguin Crime Fiction - The Hammersmith Maggot

The Hammersmith Maggot by William Mole. I had never heard of William Mole and his amateur gentleman detective Casson, but this one was a cracker. Set in 1950’s London, the title was enough to draw me in. But the story of a particularly ‘maggoty’ blackmailer and murderer, and his eventual capture, was full of period detail. People seemed to drink like fish! And post-war London was particularly well-drawn. Casson, the gentleman wine-dealer turned amateur detective, seems a little too good to be true. Driving around London in his flamboyant Rolls-Royce and able to neglect his business for days on end. However, he was a dogged hunter of his quarry, patient and resourceful. The net closes around the Maggot inexorably, but with a number of twists and turns. And the irrascible Inspector Strutt is particularly entertaining. Very original and great fun.

Speak No Evil by M. G. Eberhardt

Speak No Evil by M. G. Eberhart. Set in Jamaica, this was a classic locked-room who-dunnit, with the beautiful young wife framed for the murder of her husband. Once again, this one was full of period detail – 1940s upper-crust detail, but also real snippets of island life. People seemed to smoke a lot tin this one. Inspector Friker, chief of the local police, is coldly intelligent and immediatley sees that all is not as it seems. The characters are strongly drawn and there are enough twists in the story to keep you guessing, although it is fair to say you can tell who the murderers are from fairly early on. Eberhart deserves the “US Agatha Christie” comparisons.

Overture to Death by Ngaio MarshOverture To Death by Ngaio Marsh. Marsh may be from New Zealand but her descriptions of 1930s English rural village life, with all its petty jealousies and secrets, is very evocative. A classic who-dunnit centred around a village play, the murder itself is ingenious and startling. Great characters, a strong plot and some lovely period observations make this book very entertaining. It doesn’t come as much surprise when we learn who the murderer is, but that doesn’t matter. The storyline is great with some strongly drawn characters and a subtle exploration of the passions that run, often unobserved, below the thin veneer of normal day-to-day life.

A Connoisseurs Case by Michael InnesA Connoisseur’s Case by Michael Innes. Another book in the crime thriller series featuring the sophisticated detective John Appleby. In this novel, set in the late ’50s/ very early 60s, Appleby has been knighted for his services to the police and he is semi-retired. But his skills are required on his country holiday with his wife. A slightly predictable storyline is told with great brio and some finely drawn characters. The sense of change (not necessarily for the better) and the loss of a gentler, perhaps more genteel, way of living also underpins the narrative. Great final set piece where, like Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Appleby draws all the strands together with unexpected results.
Murder in Time by Elizabeth FerrarsMurder In Time by Elizabeth Ferrars. Perhaps my favourite of the books here, this one doesn’t feature a ‘star’ detective but focuses on a very strong storyline with some great characters. I don’t know if it has been made into a film or TV drama but it should have been! It also has a female lead. Set in the early 50s, in post war England, the sense of change, the frustrations stemming from war-time experience and the ultimate sleaziness of human nature are all explored. A country house-party murder-mystery, this one transcends the genre with a real ‘shock and awe’ ending. That the victim deserves ‘it’ is without doubt, but who-dunnit…well that is the question which leaves you guessing until the very end.

The Tiger In The Smoke by Margery AllinghamThe Tiger In The Smoke by Margery Allingham. Another in a long line of Albert Campion mysteries, this one is set firmly in a foggy post WW2 London in the late 40s/early 50s. Featuring some very well-drawn characters, as well as some beautifully observed vignettes of real-life. The scenes in the cellar with the albino Tiddy Doll are particularly good. The overall plot is perhaps less interesting than all the incidental detail, but it still has a satisfying denouement. Very enjoyable.

Crime Fiction Summary

There are two really great aspects to all these books:
  1. They are all very evocative of a way of life that isn’t that far behind us, but which seems so distant that it could almost be mythical. It certainly is historical and yet it is also real. An England that, albeit for the purposes of these books is violent and murderous, is also deeply appealing.
  2. They manage to be compelling and entertaining reads without any of the blood and gore, explicit detail or forensic clap-trap of modern thrillers. With, authors, ?film directors and TV producers seeking to out-do one-another in the ‘shiver’ stakes, they often forget that a strong plot and believable characters are what really makes a story. Things that all these books have in common….and in spades. I recommend them to you.


Sep 17

Hall of Books – site refresh and the HoBlog!

Hall of Books – HoBlog and refresh

Hall of Books Chrislands site - HoBlog

Our original website – – was developed over a year ago. We used the Chrislands off-the-shelf hosted e-commerce package to get us started and to help us learn the ropes regarding online selling. This approach has been very effective and we have sold a wide range of secondhand books and sheet music through the site over the last twelve months. It has also helped us establish an extensive?inventory?and has allowed us to organise the photographs that we take as efficiently as possible. We now have a considerable number of books listed online, with photographs, and functions as both an inventory management system for us, as well as an easy to use e-commerce solution for our customers.

Hall of Books – Google and ordering online

However, we have become aware that we are missing out on several things. Firstly, because our original site is a .com site hosted in America, the search engines see it as a US site first and foremost. This is great for our US business, but it tends to ignore the fact that we are actually based in Shropshire, UK. Secondly, we wanted to publish?a blog and develop a separate online presence to help improve our UK rankings with Google, Bing etc. So we have developed this blogsite – the HoBlog.?This is very much a UK site, hosted in the UK by webspaceunlimited. It is not an e-commerce site but is closely linked to the fulfilment of orders, as well as to our accounts at Abe Books, Amazon and Green Metropolis. Green Metropolis is a charitable site set up to ensure that paperback books get recycled while donating money to a number of well-regarded charities. We will develop further links when we set up new accounts with other online vendors – eBay is in the pipeline.

Hall of Books – Website – Refresh

HoBlog site masthead

We have also taken the opportunity to refresh our sites with a new look, using our ?own logo and colour scheme rather than the original design provided by Chrislands. As always with these things it is a work in progress and we will continue to tinker with the look and feel of both our blog and our website to try and make them both more effective and interesting.

Hall of Books – The HoBlog

Hall of Books favicon image

So, what can you expect from the HoBlog??We have created the new blogsite to capture our ramblings and musings, and to keep them separate from the more serious aspects of our e-commerce site. ?We have also taken advantage of the technology to include more and varied photographs to illustrate the various postings that we make, as well as links to other sites and items of interest. If you would like to know where we have acquired some of our stock, how sales are going, our thoughts on certain aspects of technology, or just mad rants when the frustrations get too much, they will all appear here. It is an occasional blog and will be published as and when we have something to say, rather than just posting for the sake of it. Let us know what you think.


Aug 07

HoBlog – Johnny Dallas – Books and Sheet Music

Johnny Dallas – Books and Sheet Music

Johnny Dallas - HoBlog

Johnny Dallas

We recently acquired the library of the late Johnny Dallas: actor, singer and pantomime dame. Johnny Dallas was a leading figure in UK light entertainment for nearly 70 years. His obituary from the ‘The Stage’ by Mark Ritchie can be found at:?The Stage / Features / Obituaries / Johnny Dallas.

Barry Stacey - HoBlog

Inscribed to Johnny Dallas

Johnny’s effects had been stored for some time by his niece in Oswestry, Shropshire. We were put in touch by a mutual friend and were lucky enough to be able to purchase both Johnny’s books as well as his extensive collection of sheet music. His niece sold Johnny’s flamboyant pantomime dame costumes on eBay to a dealer in London. The books are largely show-business auto/biography ranging from international cinema stars to UK television and stage performers. There is also an interesting selection of related items, as well as a few ‘trade’ publications. The collection includes several books signed by the author, with one of two inscribed personally to Johnny. Many of these are now listed in our inventory, with more being added on a regular basis.

The extensive sheet music collection ranges from show tunes and classic pop songs to music hall and novelty numbers. Johnny used many of these in his various acts and it is fair to say that some of them have seen better days. However, the majority have been well looked after and we have started to list these on the Hall of Books inventory.

Gigi from Johnny Dallas - HoBlog

Sheet Music


If you are interested in anything to do with the Johnny Dallas collection, please contact us – ?


Hall of Books for secondhand books and sheet music online. From the interesting, unusual and rare, to the hard to find, collectible and out of print?.. plus a lot more in between.

Jul 08

HoBlog – Boosey and Hawkes – Music Collection

Boosey and Hawkes – Music Collection

Boosey and Hawkes - HoBlog

Boosey and Hawkes Logo

We recently bought a significant collection of classical music and related items from the old Boosey and Hawkes Hire Library when they relocated from Regent Street in London.?The collection filled two whole pallets and we had to hire a van especially to move everything. It has take us some time to work out exactly what we had acquired!

Boosey and Hawkes Collection - HoBlog

Boosey and Hawkes Palletsacquired!

Boosey and Hawkes – Rachmaninoff’s Vespers

Some items have now been listed in our inventory and sell steadily. Who would have thought that 25 copies of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers would sell out in just a few months (perhaps they were too cheap!)? ?They were good, useable copies, but not in the first flush of youth, yet our customers were very pleased ?- “I was delighted to receive my vocal score only 2 days after I’d ordered. It was in excellent condition and I would have no hesitation in ordering ‘used’ vocal scores in the future” S. R. Hull via Amazon. Copies sold throughout the UK but also abroad, with one copy going as far as Rekjavik in Iceland.

Boosey and Hawkes – File Copies

Boosey and Hawkes collection - HoBlog

Boosey and Hawkes File Copies

In the collection we acquired a large quantity of what appear to be file copies of significant scores. It looks as if B&H printed a batch of music and then kept one or two copies in a filing cabinet for reference purposes and never hired them out. To all intents and purposes, these items are ‘as new’ yet some of them appear to have been stored since the 1940s! There is a little tanning to page-ends and, in some cases, a few slight signs of storage, but they are a fascinating glimpse into the past, as well as being eminently useable. These are, in the main, specialist pieces, but they sell steadily and we have sent consignments all over the world.


Boosey and Hawkes – Foreign Language Titles

Boosey and Hawkes Collection - HoBlog

Boosey and Hawkes Foreign Language Titles

We have been particularly pleased to see a number of foreign language titles selling quickly. B&H are a significant music publishers and the collection contained a lot of brand-new ‘How To Play’ titles for a wide range of instruments. About half of these are in languages other than English – French, German, Swedish and even Japanese. We have listed a range of these in our inventory and the response has been good so we will be adding more to our inventory in the coming weeks.

There is so much more still to list! There are boxes of reel-to-reel tapes which we have yet to catalogue, whole scores for large orchestras, including all the instrument parts, and a large quantity of hand-written manuscripts for interesting pieces which we need to research more fully. That’s in addition to the books, cds and ephemera that were included in our purchase. If you are interested in anything to do with this collection, and we have only scratched the surface with the above description, please contact us for more information –


Hall of Books for second handbooks and sheet music online. From the interesting, unusual and rare, to the hard to find, collectible and out of print?.. plus a lot more in between.

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