What Crofton Books means to me
As a child, every Christmas and birthday I would have just one thing on my wish list – book tokens. These were cards with stamps attached to show the amount you could spend on books, often five shillings or seven shillings and sixpence. I loved everything about them and the possibilities they held and I looked at them so much it was almost a shame to use them. Twice a year, my parents took me to WHSmith at Sloane Square so that I could spend them. The children’s books were in the basement, and I can remember the unbearable excitement of going down the stairs thinking that anything was possible. Maybe I might find a book I hadn’t read about Anne of Green Gables, or some new adventures of the Lone Pine Club. I would be able to take the books I chose home and the best part was I could keep them. I wouldn’t have to take them back to the library.
I still feel the excitement in bookshops, only now I live so close to one that I can go every day, and I often do. Crofton Books started out in a library closed by the council, selling secondhand books donated by locals. Demand for books was high over lockdown and the nearest bookshop was a bus ride away. When a nearby shop premises became vacant Jason, the owner and a poet, moved in with his quirky and wide ranging stock. It’s been such a treasure to have when things were difficult and dull. We couldn’t browse in there at first, but Jason would display chosen titles on Instagram and book lovers could click and collect. It made such a difference to my daily trudges and I loved looking to see which old favourites or possible new discoveries were being flagged each day.
The shop now sells new books as well, with particular support for independent publishers and local authors. Brockley residents are a discerning and eclectic crew, and Crofton Books manages to weave between alternative and popular in a way that really appeals to locals including me. It’s a long way from WH Smith at Sloane Square in the 1960s, but what they both share is a sense of possibility. Each time I go in I can think, this time, maybe I’ll find a book that will change how I see the world.
Maybe this time.