A literary landmark in its own right, generations of writers, readers and collectors from across the English-speaking world have loved our little shop as an outpost of civilisation and a place where good writing and beautiful books really matter.
"Unique, magical and quietly influential"
The Daily Telegraph
"Almost as famous as 84 Charing Cross Road"
Situated on two floors of a Georgian townhouse, Heywood Hill sells new, old and antiquarian books as well as producing catalogues on numerous themes. The emphasis remains literature, history, architecture, biography and travel as well as keeping a children's department well-stocked with the best new and classic titles.
First and foremost our shop is about the enjoyment of books. We are always interested in which books or writers an individual customer has most enjoyed. The more we get to know someone and their reading tastes the more tailored our service then becomes, and the more we can help customers discover something unexpected or perfectly suited to them.
Our stock is a mix of old, new and antiquarian books. As our premises are small every title must justify its place on our shelves. Generations of writers, readers and collectors have trusted our booksellers who offer instant, knowledgeable advice on what to read, what to give and just as importantly what to avoid.
We treat all our customers as friends of our shop and we are continually looking to find new ways to be of use to them, whether readers or collectors. Our literary adventures and library building services have been designed with the friends of Heywood Hill in mind.
Nancy, eldest of the famous Mitford sisters, worked here during the second half of World War Two. Her gregarious character and witty repartee helped establish Heywood Hill’s shop as a centre of English social and literary life during the 1940s.
Her sister, Deborah, the late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire explained: “It was the best fun in the world. She earned £3 a week and lived in Maida Vale and often walked home to save the bus fare.” One evening however Nancy forgot to lock up. She arrived the following morning to find the shop "full of wandering people trying to buy books from each other".
Nancy's best novels which include The Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love in a Cold Climate (1949) were perhaps influenced a little by her years at Heywood Hill. They continue to enchant readers of all ages. As our own tribute to Nancy Mitford we have created a special boxed set of five of her re-issued novels.
Nancy's wit and sense of fun has set the tone at Heywood Hill ever since. We believe passionately that shopping for books should be part and parcel of their enjoyment. If we have a specialisation it is in our devotion to customer service and in striving never to let our customers down.
"A centre of all that was left of fashionable and
Heywood Hill (photograph courtesy of his daughter), with the help of his future wife Anne Gathorne-Hardy and a loan from his father, opened his bookshop on 3 August 1936. We have been on Curzon Street ever since. Heywood liked to sell not just the best books, old and new, but other beautiful objects and curiosities - a tradition that continues to this day.
The shop’s first party was thrown for Oliver Messel and our first catalogue included the then recently published first English edition of James Joyce's Ulysses. Other wartime customers included Osbert Sitwell, Cyril Connolly and James Lees-Milne. Generations of writers have used our shop ever since. John le Carre set a scene of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in the shop.
Three remarkable features set Heywood Hill apart: our mix of books, catering to all tastes and sensibilities, from highbrow collectors to knotted-brow newborns; our loyal customers around the world, all linked by a shared appreciation for good books; our determination to maintain our style in the digital age.
That ethos has been nurtured by the successive managers who followed Heywood Hill, most notably Handasyde Buchanan and, for over 30 years, John Saumarez Smith. Today each of our bookselling departments is led by a passionate bookseller.
Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire, was a bibliophile and lifelong Heywood Hill customer. He first got to know the shop during Nancy Mitford’s time working there in the 1940s. Nancy's youngest sister was the author and former chatelaine of Chatsworth, Deborah, the late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. Andrew and Debo's London home was just around the corner from Heywood Hill.
In 1991 Andrew became the majority shareholder and soon afterwards instituted an annual Heywood Hill prize to be awarded to a writer, publisher or anyone else deserving of recognition for their contribution to 'the enjoyment of books'. The prize ran for ten years.
In 2004 Andrew's son Peregrine 'Stoker' Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire, assumed his father's interest in the shop. Both generations have utilised the shop's full capabilities from keeping guest bedrooms stocked with well-chosen reading to creating libraries on specific subjects, such as Andrew's library of Irish books, now at Lismore Castle.
The Devonshire family's support has been crucial to maintaining this very special shop's style and ethos in the digital age.