Fred Holdsworth created his bookshop at Central Buildings, Ambleside in 1956. Fred had previously worked as a trainee librarian at Radcliffe Library and then ran the book department at WHSmiths in Windermere. Starting with minimal stock and maximum enthusiasm, Fred slowly built up the business which, initially, included a record department upstairs. This was uneconomical and after about ten years, records were replaced by more books. By then, the book business had grown and, as time went on and the local college (Charlotte Mason in those days, now the University of Cumbria) grew bigger, education books formed a large part of the turnover though walkers and general readers continued to monopolise the business. An assortment of interesting and interested staff added much to enhance the shop’s reputation for good service and expert knowledge.
Over the years many visitors to the area became regular customers and friends. Also many celebrities browsed through the books including local authors such as Melvyn Bragg, Norman Nicholson (a great fan of Peter Maxwell Davies’ music; he bought all the Symphonies on LP in the days of the music department), and Alfred Wainwright, who was brought in to meet me by his publishers – the Westmorland Gazette – when the first volume of his Pictorial Guides was published. He seemed ill at ease.
One author who definitely was not ill at ease was Arthur Ransome, who put in his first appearance soon after the shop first opened. A large, florid man in plus fours sporting a formidable beard approached the counter and asked, in a booming voice: “Have you got all of my books in? If not, why not?”
Ken Russell, the film director, was a regular customer as was his then wife, Vivien who was an author and photographer. Other famous names included Anthony Hopkins, Patricia Routledge, Dora Bryan, Robert Powell, Rosemary Leach, Victoria Wood, Ronald Fraser, Joe Brown and Mike Harding.
Fred retired in May 2006 but Steve now carries on the tradition. Fred now spends his time reading, gardening and walking (no longer alas, on his favourite high fells – Scafell, Haystacks and Blencathra), enjoying the lower walks in the area, particularly in the Silverdale/Arnside woods and along coastal paths.