|Richard Way in Friday Street, Henley-on-Thames|
HTBS’s Tim Koch has revisited Henley-on-Thames. Here is his report:
Anyone who has been lucky enough to make a visit to Henley-on-Thames during the Henley Royal Regatta will know what a delightful experience this is. For those who missed it, a video of the HTBS visit to last year’s ‘Royal’ is here.
However, a trip to this lovely English town is worthwhile at any time, not just for five days in June and July.
|Henley Royal Regatta Headquarters|
|The entrance to the River & Rowing Museum.|
The final place of pilgrimage in Henley for those interested in rowing is Way’s Rare and Second Hand Bookshop in Friday Street. This delightful little shop sells general antiquarian and second hand books but also has a rowing section containing everything from leather bound Victorian tomes on ‘aquatics’ to the most recent paperback on high performance sculling. They sometimes have rowing prints and ephemera but the rowing memorabilia which decorates the shop is, unfortunately, not for sale. At this point I would usually put in a link to their website, but, to complete the slightly Dickensian air, they do not have one. If you put ‘Way’s Bookshop’ into a search engine, the best you will do is find some complementary user reviews. This is typical:
‘This is a beautiful tucked away antique and second hand bookshop. It is so full of books that it can be a bit hard to know where to start, but the owner is lovely and extremely helpful, should you want something specific…’
While I agree with these comments about Diana, one of the owners, she is also very modest and I have failed several times over the years to persuade her to give me an interview – until now.
In an age of obtaining books from the Internet and from large high street chains (a subject that HTBS has covered before) an independent bookshop in a small country town seems to be an anachronism. This was not the situation in 1977 when Richard Way and Diana Cook bought the shop. The previous owner had a small selection of books of interest to some visitors to the regatta but Diana and Richard started to build up this part of their trade, initially selling older books but eventually also stocking new publications. Richard was a wooden boat builder and so already had some knowledge of rowing and the river but for Diana it was to be the start of having to become something of an expert on rowing and its history.
As already mentioned, Way’s Bookshop does not have a website but this does not mean that it does not have a healthy national and international trade; it is simply conducted by letter and telephone. Diana does not deny that putting their stock on the Internet would increase business but she doubts that the extra turnover would cover the increased costs, particularly of extra staff.
In the past Way’s has handled the large and important rowing libraries including those of the rowing journalist and historian, Geoffrey Page and also of a past Henley Chairman and Leander President, Harold Rickett.
|Diana Cook successfully runs the Richard Way Book Shop the old-fashioned way.|
*Remigiumophile (noun) I have just made this word up. It means ‘a lover of all things related to rowing’ and is from ‘remigium’, the Latin for ‘at oars’ or ‘rowing’. I know combining it with ‘phile’ is mixing Latin and Greek but so does the word ‘television’. If anyone with a classical education can improve on this, please do so – otherwise history will record its first use here (maybe).
(Photograph & copyright: Tim Koch)