That other ‘W.H.Smith!’

Bath-born and raised, Keith Bissex now lives in Petersfield in Hampshire. But he’s recently been back to his home town and wants to take us on a trip down ‘Memory Lane.’

“Whilst visiting Bath recently (the city where I was born, spent my formative years and also worked for a number of years) I was reminded of a former shop/business in the city centre (corner of Cheap Street and High Street) which many – of my vintage – may also recall.

The site is currently occupied (at ground floor level) by ‘The Whisky Shop’ with an Indian restaurant (‘Temptations’) above but for a long period – at least from between the two World Wars and up until the late 1960s/early ‘70s – it was the home of W H Smith (Bath) Ltd – NOT to be confused with the national stationery firm of the same name. The shop occupied the ground and first floors, with workshops above. 

I worked there as a Saturday Assistant, and during school holidays for a couple of years (mid ’60s).

As you will see from the attachments, they described themselves as a purveyor of ‘suitcases, trunks, personal leather goods, saddlery, harness and all requisites for your horse and dog’.

I recall that one of their most distinguished customers had been Emperor Haile Selassie of Abyssinia/Ethiopia, who was exiled in Bath during WWII. There was a photograph of him, with some staff members, proudly on display in the shop at the time. Whether this qualified them for the honour ‘By Royal Appointment’ I’m not sure. Probably not! 

The football programme containing their advertisement (and several other businesses, some of whose names I recall) may be of interest to Bath City fans. And the trunk is a fine example of their work – the Luis Vuitton of its day, perhaps? 

I thought you and your followers might be interested in this little bit of Bath’s (retail) history. Keep up the good work! “

Fascinating stuff Keith and thank you.


  1. When the W H Smith leather goods factory closed down, there was a sale of their equipment. Never ones to miss an opportunity, a few of us from the Bath Arts Workshop hung around offering transport. We hinted that we had a van but what we actually had was a heavy flatbed trolley as used on railway stations. It had solid iron castor wheels and was very hard to manoeuvre, especially on slopes. We delivered a few lighter items to nearby businesses but then a chap asked us to transport one of the huge slabs of slate on which the company cut out such things as shoulder bags. We couldn’t resist his offer and somehow got it down the stairs and onto the trolley. Only then did he tell us the destination. Up near Bear Flat! We mustered all the help we could get and after an epic journey, eventually the mighty stone tabletop arrived at its new home. But not without causing a massive traffic tailback on Wells Road!

    1. I believe the factory was in what is now the Museum of Bath at Work. One of the many uses over the last 250 years!

  2. We bought a collar and lead for our beloved Greyhound from W H Smith about 60+ years ago and it still hangs on the bedroom chair to this day.

  3. When I joined South Western Gas Board as a junior clerk I used to take the meter readers satchels there to be repaired. As in the days Mr Smith was a perfect gentleman.

  4. When I joined South Western Gas Board as a junior clerk in 1958 I used to go there with the meter readers satchels to be repaired. As in those days Mr Smith was a perfect gentleman,

  5. I think that’s a rugby programme not association football isn’t it? With its reference to XVs. The rugby club was still known as ‘Bath Football’ when I arrived here in the 1990’s and soon afterwards changed its name, presumably to avoid confusion with Bath City F.C.

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