(Disclaimer: I was invited to this event as a blogger with no expectation of coverage. I received free food, free drinks, and a goody bag. All opinions in this post are my own)
Update – November 2019
The Barrister’s Book Chamber has closed down in Retford, and will be re-opening in Matlock, UK in November 2019.
I was very kindly invited to a blogger event at The Barrister’s Book Chamber in Retford, UK and – spoiler alert – I had an awesome time!
The Barrister’s Book Chamber
The Barrister’s Book Chamber is an independent bookshop with a difference in the picturesque village of Retford, UK.
Situated within a beautiful Grade 2 Listed building opposite the village church, this bookish sanctuary is nothing you’d expect from a small town second-hand and vintage bookshop.
The owner of The Barrister’s Book Chamber (and their sister location, The Barrister in Wonderland) is an actual working barrister, while her husband Dave and the rest of the team take care of the day-to-day running of the stores. Her daughter also works in the store, and is going to law school soon to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
Both of these wonderful stores specialise in second-hand and vintage books, all of which are affordably priced at £2/paperback or £3/hardback, though they do have some books at different price points. They have a constantly rotating stock of books, as they have over 40,000 books in storage at any one time, just waiting to find their forever homes with avid readers.
Murder and the Barrister
I, along with four other bloggers, were invited to join the team at The Barrister’s Book Chamber for a movie evening and guided tour to celebrate the opening of their dedicated crime and law floor.
We all gathered on the first floor, in the shop’s fiction room, to find it laid out with individual bags of popcorn, snacks, a selection of drinks, and cozy, mismatched armchairs. The movie of the evening was Clue, which I’d never seen before but I heard it was a cult classic – so either I’d hate it, or I’d love it.
And I loved it. Tim Curry is always a win.
Once we’d watched the movie – and I asked anyone else if they thought the motorist turning up and asking to use their phone was a Rocky Horror Picture Show reference – we were invited on a guided tour of the top floor. This, my friends, was truly the highlight of my evening.
Crime, Law, and the Barrister
The first room we came to was the dedicated crime fiction room.
We talked for a while about the history of the building, including the trials of applying to renovate and work in a Grade 2 Listed Building. It perhaps won’t surprise you to hear that the team behind The Barrister’s Book Chamber had to jump through a lot of hoops to open this floor.
One thing you’ll notice here is that none of the books are arranged in any particular way in this room, with exception to the central display, so if you have a specific book in mind you might find a plethora of new reads while you’re hunting it down.
Fun fact: every single bookshelf you can see in this picture, and throughout the entire shop, are modified from IKEA Billy bookcases!
True Crime and Legal
This was perhaps my favourite stop on the tour – the dedicated true crime and legal room.
I have a morbid fascination with true crime (shout-out to my POLERINOS) and when Helen from the Barrister’s Book Chamber put a call out for bloggers to attend a dedicated true crime bookshop, you know I filled that form in with anxious excitement.
As you can see in the photo above, this room featured a beautiful feature fireplace, on which were stacked dozens of legal texts containing precedent that is still relevant today.
Stacked across the walls were hundreds of true crime books detailing the life and times of some of the most heinous criminals known to mankind, from the featured display on Jack the Ripper to the lesser-known Dr. Crippen, the first murderer to be caught with wireless telegraphy.
However, the most fascinating feature of this room was the display of the Barrister’s wig, gown, and gown bags.
We learned a lot about the barrister profession in the UK, including the weird traditions they’re still expected to follow, the etiquette that, if they miss, might hold them back in their careers, and exactly why being a barrister is the smallest profession in the UK.
Did you know that passing the bar doesn’t make you a barrister? And that you can only call yourself a barrister if you’ve passed the bar, gained pupillage within a Chamber, and have been accepted into one of the four Inns of Court?
Because I didn’t!
The Workshop Room
The second floor of The Barrister’s Book Chamber also features a dedicated Workshop Room.
From talking to the team, the bookshop is a popular place for local businesses to hold meetings, for study groups to meet, and for freelancers to take their laptops and work amongst the comfort of books and coffee.
While they’ll rent out space in the shop for private events, having a dedicated space to rent out allows their customers a greater degree of privacy for them to concentrate on their work.
Plus, it’s only £20/day to rent out the room, which I would honestly have snapped up when I was doing my A-Levels.
The Feature Room
The final, and smallest, room on the crime and legal floor is the feature room.
This little room currently features all the works of Agatha Christie from various print runs, from vintage to modern-day, but we were told that shortly it’ll change to be a Jack the Ripper feature for a few months, matching the decor of the top floor.
With the tour of the crime and law floor concluded, we were given free rein to wander around, take pictures, and take in everything the store had to offer.
One thing you’ll notice as you wander around the store is how cozy it all feels. I don’t know what it is, but being around books brings me an instant sense of peace and tranquillity.
No two rooms are the same due to the age of the building, and you really get the sense of being in a sanctuary away from the outside world.
The Barrister in Wonderland
Before the night was over, there was one final treat in store for us – a private look at The Barrister in Wonderland.
The Barrister in Wonderland in The Barrister’s Book Chamber’s sister shop, located in the centre of Retford. Even though this shop has a lot less floor space, it still feels huge inside as the owners have made every effort to make this space comfortable, welcoming, and exciting.
The entire shop is Alice In Wonderland themed from the moment you walk through the front door through to the mirror at the back. Every corner is filled with tiny details that I just know kids will love finding, exploring, and challenging their friends to find.
Dave explained to us that this place was designed to be for children first – not a place for parents to take their kids, which is a subtle, yet important difference. They wanted to build a space that kids could call their own, and a place that would inspire their love of reading and their imaginations.
If you’re looking for things to do in the North Nottinghamshire area, you can definitely spend a few hours getting lost in The Barrister’s Book Chamber.
On top of all their amazing literary and legal displays, they have a beautiful tearoom serving a variety of coffees, teas, and homemade cakes. You can while away the hours exploring every nook and cranny of this unique bookshop.
If you have little ones to entertain – or are a big kid at heart – you can finish off your bookish tour with The Barrister in Wonderland and relive your childhood dreams.
The Barrister’s Book Chamber is also a great trip out to add to your list of things to do at Centre Parks Sherwood Forest, as Retford is roughly a 20 minute drive away. So, if you run out of reads on your relaxing forest break, you can pick up something new in this beautiful treasure trove of books.
Hey, if you liked this post, I’d super appreciate it if you considered buying me a coffee. I do a happy dance with every donation, guaranteed.