Christopher Robin's Dartmouth bookshop to close

AA Milne and Christopher Robin in 1922 Despite being immortalised in the Pooh books, Christopher was not close to his father

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A Devon bookshop once owned by Christopher Robin Milne - son of Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne - is to close.

The Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth, which has been open for 60 years and is the town's only independent bookshop, will close in September.

The current owners, Rowland and Caroline Abram, have blamed rising rents and increased competition from online booksellers and supermarkets.

The decision to close was "devastating", Mr and Mrs Abram said.

'Nothing we can do'

Mr Abram said: "There are various reasons. The book trade has undergone extraordinary changes in 15 years.

"Rent and rates have also gone up enormously, and we just can't afford to pay them".

A devastating fire in Dartmouth in May last year, which destroyed eight shops and 15 flats and closed off parts of the historic town, also adversely affected sales, he added.

"We've had such fabulous staff who have helped us all these years and wonderful customers in Dartmouth but there's nothing else we can do," he said.

Start Quote

My bosses, bless them, they've really struggled to make this decision”

End Quote Tracy Toms Bookshop worker

Tracy Toms, who has worked in the shop for seven years, said it was a sad announcement for staff too.

"But it's so much harder for the manageress [Andrea Saunders] - she's been here for 26 years," Ms Toms told BBC News.

"My bosses, bless them, they've really struggled to make this decision."

Christopher Milne, immortalised by his father as friend to Winnie the Pooh and his Hundred Acre wood chums, moved from London to the Devon village of Stoke Fleming in 1951 and set up the bookshop in Dartmouth.

Andrea Saunders, who was employed in the shop by Milne, said in a BBC interview last year that her boss used to hide from people who wanted to see the "original Christopher Robin".

Christopher Robin Milne in the Harbour Bookshop Christopher Robin Milne started the bookshop in 1951 and ran it until 1983 when he retired

"Americans used to come - obviously they'd heard the Winnie the Pooh stories - and they were very keen to meet Christopher Robin," she said.

"They used to come in and say: 'Is Christopher Robin here today?' and Christopher would scuttle away and say 'I'm not in, I'm not in'.

"He would hide away upstairs and we'd have to say we were sorry but he wasn't working."

Mothers would also bring their children into the bookshop to see Milne.

'Last page'

Despite not having a close relationship with his father, he would agree to sign his books - in return for a donation to the Save the Children charity.

As well as writing books himself, he and his wife, Lesley, continued to run the shop until his retirement in 1983.

Local publisher Richard Webb, who worked with Milne in the shop 50 years ago, said it was the friendliest bookshop he had ever known and its closure was "desperately sad" news.

"A town without a bookshop selling new books is like a town without a soul - we are all poorer for its loss," he said.

"Sadly the last page of the Harbour Bookshop is now being turned and I have lost a life-long friend and companion and so has Dartmouth."

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