Bookshops have been forced to close and The New Bookshop in Cockermouth, Cumbria, has been badly damaged following severe flooding and weather disruptions caused by Storm Desmond.
The storm whipped parts of Northern Ireland, north Wales, southern Scotland and especially north-west England over the weekend, with the worst flooding in Cumbria and Lancashire. A new record has been set in Cumbria for the amount of rain that fell in a 24-hour period where more than 2,500 homes are without power and rescue workers are spending a fourth day evacuating people from their homes.
As the rain began to fall on Saturday (5th December), The New Bookshop in Cockermouth tweeted: “Oh my! We are just about to be flooded, again, I can’t believe it!” Afterwards it then shared a picture of the water-damaged shop with books strewn across the floor. Another image shows water lapping at the front of the bookshop's door.
Some of flood damage to The New Bookshop. Picture: The New Bookshop/Twitter
Catherine Hetherington, who owns The New Bookshop, told The Bookseller: "It's been a big mess and we've lost quite a lot of stock. The water was three-foot high in the shop - which is quite a lot of water. We're going to have to have a complete refit but we plan to reopen as soon as possible. It will be a morale booster for the community as customers really want to support us."
The independent bookshop community has rallied around the store, with support sent on Twitter from the Booka Bookshop in Oswestry and Jaffe & Neale in Chipping Norton has sent the shop a delivery of brownies.
The New Bookshop was also left 'devastated' by floodwaters in 2009, which damaged most of its stock.
The rising water outside The New Bookshop. Picture: The New Bookshop/Twitter
Will Smith, bookseller at Sam Read Bookshop in Grasmere, meanwhile, said his shop was “incredibly lucky” to avoid flooding.
Smith told The Bookseller: "We’ve been lucky in that we didn’t get any water sitting in the shop itself but it was extremely close. As the road became a river, the impact of the few passing vehicles drove a small tide of floodwater lapping on to the shore of our welcome mat. Allegedly the shop has never flooded since it opened here in 1887, and the last owner Margaret Hughes (in charge from the mid 60s until 2001) phoned us to say she had only had the water reach the step twice in her bookselling history. So, we think this might be the worst it has seen. Certainly, it’s the worst incident in the village in living memory."
Fred Holdsworth Bookshop in Ambleside also managed to avoid too much damage, but had to close over the weekend.
Steve Baskerville-Muscutt, director of Fred Holdsworth, said the poor weather saw an “almost biblical amount of water” come down. “The middle of Kendal looks like a disaster zone”, he said. “We had to close for two days as I couldn’t get in over the weekend.”
Rosamund de la Hay, co-founder of the Main Street Trading Company in the Scottish Borders, said her shops had "got off pretty lightly" compared to "poor Catherine [Hetherington, owner of the New Bookshop] in Cockermouth. But yes, we did have to postpone an event last Thursday when the author, travelling from Edinburgh, had to turn back when the road was closed due to snow."
She added: "On the flooding front, the shop has been fine, but various members of staff have had quite a bit of trouble getting home through the floods."
Waterstones has closed its shop in Carlisle and two stores in Lancaster due to the flooding. "Thankfully, the booksellers are all well," a spokesperson said. Meanwhile, Blackwell's in Lancaster has also been forced to shut following the flooding, the company's c.e.o David Prescott told The Bookseller.
An emergency fundraising campaign for those affected by the flooding in Cumbria has currently raised £300,455.49.
John Allan, national chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “We would like to thanks emergency services, Environment Agency staff and volunteers for their quick reactions and hard work in helping businesses limit the damage.
“We know that despite the water, many small businesses do manage to stay open and continue to support their customers. When disasters hit they are often at the forefront of the recovery effort, and we encourage local people not to assume everything is closed but continue to stand by their local small firms.”
A recent FSB survey found that two thirds of small businesses have been negatively affected by severe weather in the last three years. The financial cost of these severe weather events over this period was, on average, just under £7,000 for each affected business, the trade body said.