The family business of H. M. Gilbert and Sons sold books in Southampton for 143 years. The founder of the firm was Henry Gilbert (1809-1869), originally from Halstead in Essex, who set up a shop at 13 Bernard Street in 1859 selling new and secondhand books. He also traded as a stationer, printer and bookbinder. He published Thomas Shore's and Frank McFadden's Vestiges of old Southampton in 1891.

After Henry’s death in 1869, the business was continued by his son, Henry March Gilbert (1845-1931). This Henry was active in Southampton Liberal politics from the 1870s to 1890s, when he moved to Winchester. He was also one of the founding members of Avenue Congregational Church.

In 1875, after brief periods at 17 Bernard Street and 103 High Street, the firm moved to 26 (later 24) Above Bar Street where it remained for the next sixty years.

Henry March’s son Owen joined the business in 1891, initially managing the Winchester branch before returning to Southampton to run the Above Bar shop. In 1939 the shop moved to Portland Street where in 1946 Owen was joined by his son Bruce. A contributor has been in touch to remind us of the shop's unusual number, 2½. The shop had distinctive bow windows and several floors.

After Bruce’s death in 1991 the business was carried on by his son Richard. The shop closed in October 2002.

Gilbert's Booksellers, Above Bar Street

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A rather hazy Thomas Hibberd James photograph showing Gilbert’s bookshop on the left, c.1895

Further reading:

‘Gilberts – Booksellers through Five Generations’, by A. G. K. Leonard in Southampton Local History Forum Journal No. 11, Winter 2003, p13-15. (HS/h)
‘Henry March Gilbert 1846-1931: Staunch Liberal and Nonconformist', by Roger Ottewill in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, no. 22, Spring 2014, p11-18. (HS/h)


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