Indie bookshop's opening takes town by surprise

Henry Layte opens a new branch of The Book Hive in Aylsham

Henry Layte opens a new branch of The Book Hive in Aylsham. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The owner of a independent book shop in Norwich has started a new chapter in north Norfolk. 

Henry Layte from The Book Hive in the city's London Street has just opened a second branch in Aylsham's Red Lion Street. 

Mr Layte, who lives in the town, said he was thrilled with how the first few days had gone at the branch - although its opening had taken many people by surprise. 

Henry Layte opens a new branch of The Book Hive in Aylsham

Henry Layte at The Book Hive in Aylsham. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"We didn't even announce it until we opened," he said. "It was such a quick decision - we only got the keys for the building three-and-a-half weeks before opening."

Mr Layte said he had often thought about opening a new store in Aylsham before finally taking over the unit which was formerly Broadland Framers and Gallery, now relocated to Penfold Street.

He said: "Aylsham has been changing over the years and it has never felt like the right time. But after the pandemic, there has been a regeneration.

Henry Layte opens a new branch of The Book Hive in Aylsham

Inside The Book Hive in Aylsham - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"Businesses have opened in the Clarkes building [in Market Square], and there's so much excitement about everything that's happening in the town."

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Mr Layte said the Aylsham branch - open 9.30am-5pm Monday to Saturday - would have its own distinctive feel. 

"It will have its own identity but it will be run on very much the same ethos as the Norwich shop," he said. 

"It's not just about selling what's on the bestseller list, but introducing people who want to buy books to things they might not have known about. 

"Aylsham is a different type of place Norwich - there's a big high school as well as several primary schools, people in the country as well as in the town, and we're going to be reflecting that different community."

Mr Layte, a former actor and writer, founded The Book Hive in October 2009 thinking that "the fact that there wasn't an indie bookshop in Norwich seemed mad".

It has been named the best bookshop in the UK and the East of England several times over the years.  

Two publishing companies - Galley Beggar Press and Propolis - have been founded from the shop.