Topping & Co Booksellers to turn Quakers building into huge new Bath bookshop

9th February 2021

More exciting news for Bath! One of its best-loved booksellers Topping & Co is planning to open a huge new book emporium in the heart of the city. 

The new bookshop will be housed in the beautiful old Friends Meeting House, a Grade II listed building on York Street. 

Topping & Company Booksellers of Bath have recently bought the building, which was used by Bath Quakers from 1866 up until 2019. 

Planning permission approved by Bath & NE Somerset Council 

The business, which already own a hugely successful bookshop on The Paragon, applied to the planning department of Bath & NE Somerset Council for permission to convert the building for commercial use. 

The plans, which include a new mezzanine level, lift installation and a new sign, have now been approved.  Topping & Co faced a challenge from the planning department when it requested to open the ‘blind door’ at the front of the Meeting House. It argued that this door was partly responsible for the struggle to find a suitable use for the building in the past, due to its “…sombre closed nature and that relationship to the street.”

Ultimately, the council concluded that although there was a risk of harm to the heritage asset, the works were acceptable due to the “substantial public benefits” the development would deliver. 

Once the work required to convert the building have been completed, Topping & Co will be moving from The Paragon to its new York Street location. While this may be disappointing for regular guests at our Haystack apartment, which is practically next door, the good news is that York Street is only an 8-minute stroll away. 

Here’s what Topping & Co had to say in their planning application, which was supported by the Bath Preservation Trust:

“The sale of the Friends Meeting House to Topping & Company Booksellers will provide Bath with the largest independent bookshop to open in decades in England.

“Set with the grade II-listed building it will be one of the most beautiful, striking and well stocked bookshops and will draw people to Bath from all over the country.”

When open, the new bookshop will create 13 new local jobs and have long opening hours, from 8.30am to 9pm each day.

Fingers crossed that building works it won’t take too long, so that when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, visitors can see inside this fabulous space. 

The history of the Friends Meeting House in Bath

The historic Quakers building is something of a landmark in Bath, with its classic Bath Stone exterior and neoclassical architectural style. Inside, it boasts an enormous 3,300 square foot of space, along with two elegant lightwells in the ceiling.

The Grade II listed building was originally erected in 1818, and home to Bath Quakers for around a century. But according to the agent which sold the property, the group recently decided that the building was too large for their needs. 

The Friends Meeting House almost became a restaurant in 2008, when planning permission was secured by Brasserie Blanc. However, the plans were abandoned due to the economic recession. Even earlier in its long history, in the 1970s, there were unrealised plans to turn the building into an art gallery and tourist information office. 

For more of the latest news in Bath, keep an eye on the Bath Holiday Rentals blog.