Meet the owners
Book-mad from an early age, Sarah Key took over The Haunted Bookshop in Cambridge in 1994. Here she talks about her speciality books, unique shop and its mysterious ghostly presence
You set up Sarah Key Books in 1987. What made you want to work in this industry?
I’ve always been book mad really. I was an only child and from a literary family so there were always books around, and I found it a really good way of entertaining myself. I read all kinds of stuff when I was
a child and into my teens. I spent hours rearranging books on the shelves and got heavily into Enid Blyton, which I found compulsive reading. It was also a good way of escaping adults, to be honest!
What brought you to The Haunted Bookshop?
We took it over in 1994 from the previous owner, a chap called Derek Gibbons, who was coming up for retirement. Because of its position, just around the corner from King’s College and right in the centre of
town, we thought it was perfect.
Can you tell me about the ghostly lady in white reputed to haunt the bookshop?
I don’t know who she might be but apparently, she goes up and down the stairs, and the one time I did see her, she appeared to be dressed in something long and flowing. Derek told us he had seen the lady in
white, as well as the ghost of a grumpy elderly gentleman hanging out in the basement!
What books do you specialise in?
Historically we have specialised in children’s illustrated books, such as Alice in Wonderland as there’s dozens of different editions and they’re all collectable, alongside classics like The Secret Garden, Enid Blyton, Biggles, and more modern titles like The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. They tend to be books which people remember from their childhood and want to buy back or obtain a special copy of.
You’re a regular exhibitor at book fairs too, aren’t you?
Yes, we belong to the PBFA – the Provincial Booksellers Fair Association – which is entirely run by volunteers and organises book fairs up and down the country. In fact, the next one is on February 18 and 19 at The Guildhall in Cambridge. Booksellers from all over the world meet at various venues including London, Oxford and Bath. It’s an opportunity to buy and sell amongst colleagus – and we do get some loyal book-loving customers who follow us around the country. We also sell all over the world, via our website, sending books to countries including India, America and Australia.
What do you think is the enduring appeal of a traditional book shop?
Everyone can look on the internet and find most titles, but people still like to make their own discoveries and have their own private treasure hunt really. There’s nothing like going to a fair or a shop and happening on something wonderful rather than pressing a few buttons and it pops out without any effort.
Do you still get time to read in between running The Haunted Bookshop?
Oh yes, I’m reading Bleak House at the moment so that is a bit of a project! I’m a reader first and foremost so I’ve always got to have something on the go and then at least 10 other books in a pile to come to afterwards. Any reader will tell you, if you haven’t got that pile of spares you get in a panic!
What do you love about being an independent business in Cambridge?
Just being able to do my own thing and go my own way. I like that we’re a bit different, that we offer something you can’t get everywhere and add colour to the community.
Visit The Haunted Bookshop at 9 St Edward’s Passage, Cambridge CB2 3PJ or visit sarahkeybooks.co.uk
Be the first to know about Love Cambridge
Cambridge – Flying the Purple Flag
The Purple Flag working group work on a number of initiatives across the nighttime economy, including the following which are designed to keep us all safe on a night out: Taxi Marshals – Providing professionally trained licensed Taxi Marshals on key dates throughout the year helps to ensure people get home swiftly and safely after… View Article
Be Our Guest
University Arms University Arms is a landmark hotel located in the historic heart of Cambridge, overlooking Parker’s Piece. Since opening in 1834, the University Arms hotel has played an important role in the history of the city. In 1848, in the shadows of the hotel the defining rules of football were invented by locals playing… View Article
Street Vendors Whether you arrive by bus, train, car, or bicycle there’s a strong chance you will see a street food vendor within the first few minutes of your arrival. There is so much choice from this fun, affordable food option. There are Tacos, falafel, burgers, hotdogs, crepes, ice cream, traditional Indian food and much… View Article
Bags of Style…
Cambridge is spoilt for choice when it comes to unique gifts which can be found in one of the many independent boutiques that you will find spread throughout the city. Head to the historic centre to find those special gifts for your loved ones. Stroll down Rose Crescent and Trinity Street, Magdalene Street, Bridge Street… View Article
48 Hours in Cambridge
Friday Afternoon Upon arrival, why not stop at one of the local cafes and treat yourself to a cuppa (or something stronger!) while you wait for your hotel to be ready. If you arrive by train, you can jump in a cab or hop on a bus if you don’t fancy the 10-minute stroll into… View Article
FIRST STOP, SHOPPING! From independent boutiques to big-name brands, you’ll find something for everyone here in Cambridge. Not only are you spoilt for choice with the Grafton, Lion Yard and Grand Arcade, but this city is also home to hundreds of high street stores. And for those with temporary or permanent mobility issues, Shop Mobility is a free-of-charge service that… View Article
Family friendly activities for £10 or less in Cambridge this summer
The Cambridge Book Bench Trail Explore every nook and cranny of our wonderful city as you follow the trail to discover 12 completely unique book benches across Cambridge from the historic core to shopping centres and parks. This summer Cambridge BID in partnership with Wild in Art has installed 12 individually designed Book Benches across… View Article
Dog Friendly Cambridge
Park and Ride Accessing the city with your pooch has never been easier with the network of Park & Ride buses allowing you to travel with your dog for free (however, they will need to sit on the floor). Buses run from five sites across the city, and tickets cost as little as £3 return… View Article
Top five things to see and do in Cambridge this summer
This summer, the historic city of Cambridge invites holidaymakers to venture along its quaint streets to discover brand new boutique accommodations, exciting attractions and unrivalled al fresco dining throughout the charming city centreand its lush green spaces beyond.