The History of Charlbury through ... Jon's bookshop
Barbara Allison & Judy Dod for Charlbury Museum
With so many shops disappearing from Charlbury, it was exciting to find a new one opening in April 2000. A bookshop! Jon already had an established publishing business, The Wychwood Press, and a bookshop was a natural partner. Both businesses ran from Alder House in Market Street, the shop being all of 9ft wide and 11feet deep, with Jon’s office at the back.
Jon would carefully choose stock that he thought would appeal to his local audience. He supplemented them with CDs and DVDs (remember those?), local cards and posters. I loved going in – it was as if someone had pre-selected the sorts of books I liked but also thrown in others which opened up fresh ideas and new horizons. Dilemmas over birthday and Christmas presents were solved. Wanting a book not in stock? It miraculously appeared the next morning.
His core audience was local people and he reinforced this by publishing two books of poetry, all written by local people. Does NOTHING rhyme with Charlbury? came out in 2006, followed by Because we Never Said Goodbye, both anthologies compiled by Rob Stepney. Who would have thought there were so many poets in such a small town?
Anyone of us who is interested in our local history owes a debt of gratitude to Jon. He published books that gave us a good look at our town’s past. Here are three of the best.
He reprinted John Kibble’s Charming Charlbury, first published in 1930, full of anecdotes about his life and things he’d found out about. The book has old adverts from local shops, some lovely sketches he made of local building. My favourite section? His description of an early photographic ‘studio’ in a roofless cottage pantry, watching the men mixing the chemicals and marvelling at the resulting image (page 160-161)
The second one is Lois Hey’s History of Charlbury, an invaluable guide to our past, which John published in 2001. It is full of her detailed knowledge of the town, with lots of old photographs as well. She gives her ‘sincere thanks to Jon Carpenter for his gentle goading, without which I should have given up long ago’
And thirdly, Jon persuaded Charles Tyzack to undertake an updated, and much much shorter, version of Vernon Watneys enormous book on Cornbury and Wychwood Forest. It includes a lot of Charles’ new research, plans of the house and the forest, and lots of photographs. The go-to book for those interested in this old house and even older forest.
Thank you Jon.
Photos of Jon by Andrew Lawson