Blackheath’s antiquarian bookshop is a bastion of English tradition, but has been known to lead an exciting double life.
As its name suggests, the shop nestles in a prime location at the edge of the eponymous heath, tempting bibliophiles and casual browsers alike with its idiosyncratic window displays.
Maps and vintage children’s books sit alongside posters from the golden age of Hollywood, and in summer a cluster of small shelves adorns the pavement outside.
Enter, and you’re likely to be greeted by owner Richard Platt, who has run the shop for the past seven years. Though, as he will tell you, the establishment has a distinguished history. “It’s been here in its guise as a second-hand bookshop for sixty years,” he says.
If the shop’s charming interior seems oddly familiar, you’re probably not imagining things.
It was recently featured in an episode of the BBC’s spy drama Spooks. As Platt recalls: “The whole day was taken over with filming, so it was a lot of fun.”
What could spies be doing in a bookshop? “The plot was centred around a second-hand bookseller who was a double agent. He used to work for MI5, and was unmasked as a Russian spy.”
While Platt himself might not live the life of an international man of mystery, it’s clear that he is passionate about his work. When asked what part of the job he likes the most, he replies decisively: “Working for myself.”
“I’ve always been interested in old books, and in buying and selling. Even ever since I was a student I’ve been interested in this aspect of retail, and here we are: I’m living out the dream.”
The Bookshop on the Heath, 74 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath, SE3 0BW
For further information, visit www.bookshopontheheath.co.uk