Dame Jacqueline gives a blissful racing start to the re-launch of Marlborough’s White Horse bookshop
Marlborough’s White Horse Bookshop was given a racing start to a bestselling future when the revamped store was re-launched today (Saturday) by the admired children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson.
She cut a ribbon outside the 17th century listed bookshop, a highlight in the High Street since 1948, as inside the ground floor was packed in particular by children seeking to buy one of her books and have it autographed.
And for 68-year-old Dame Jacqueline, who was born in Bath, it was very much a nostalgic return to a town she used to stop off in during her youth and enjoy the cakes at Polly’s Tea Rooms.
“It’s just bliss to be here and see the bookshop just come alive like the good old days, a lovely independent bookshop which is attracting loads and loads of customers. How wonderful,” she told Marlborough News Online.
“I had a sneaking suspicion that the children of Marlborough would be extra special – and yes they are."
"And I think there is nothing like going into an independent bookshop and having a proper browse. And Marlborough is exactly the right place for that. The shop is heaving with people and there is this huge interest."
“Everyone here is keen that their children grow up to be good readers and the shop looks remarkably well stocked. It’s got all the charms that independent bookshops have. I have got nothing against the chains but it so lovely to go to a bookshop where you don’t know automatically which bestsellers are going to be there."
“Here you can browse and come across all sorts of happy surprises. I think it is great.”
Dame Jacqueline was invited to re-launch the White Horse by its enterprising manager, Angus MacLennon, whom she originally met when he was in charge of Waterstone’s branch in London’s Chelsea.
He took on the White Horse at the invitation of its fourth new owners, Robert Hiscox, founder of the international insurance company, and entrepreneur Brian Kingham, from Aldbourne, after they rescued it from closure when the then owner, 71-year-old Michael Pooley, announced his retirement.
“It’s turned out to be a much greater day than I ever thought possible,” Angus told Marlborough News Online. "The extraordinary response is so encouraging for everyone. There’s not an inch to move anywhere in the whole shop."
"It’s been absolutely astounding and so wonderful to see so many children in the shop.”
And they were buying Dame Jacqueline’s Tracy Beaker books, which treat seriously the problems facing today’s children and have made her such an admired author.
But for some it was a 40-minute wait before they had a chance to sit down next to Dame Jacqueline as she signed their copies – and have their photographs taken by proud parents.
Michael Pooley too shared the triumph of the major revamp of the bookshop and the attraction of so many customers.
“ I prayed for something like this to happen,” he told Marlborough News Online. “It’s a great day for Marlborough and I personally couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Brian Kingham too, while touring the shop, said: “Looking round here you can see so many absolutely stimulating and delightful thoughts in the books on display."
“Over there you see the ultimate croquet bible, a game that was invented for cads and bounders, and in the other corner the fashion book for Vogue. This is a veritable cornucopia of ideas and stimulus."
“Robert and I are delighted that we are formally re-opening the bookshop today.”
Mr Hiscox, a sponsor of Marlborough’s Literary Festival, who lives at Oare, added: “I love books, biographies and novels, that educate me because history was taught so badly at school. You were given date after date after date. It was made soulless."
“If you read a book that is historically accurate it is fascinating and you can learn so much.”
And at the end of the morning, Dame Jacqueline, accompanied by her latest rescue puppy, headed for the Polly’s Tea Rooms to rekindle her past.