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Sedbergh, England's Book Town

The Dales & Lakes Book Centre

What is a Book Town?

Well, it's a town, usually small and usually rural, which has brought together a number of bookshops and other businesses based on writing, reading, publishing and so on. In practice many of the shops will concentrate on selling second-hand books. There are thousands of book enthusiasts whose great joy is to find an out-of-print volume to add to their collections; for them a Book Town is a treasure chest just waiting to be opened. Book Towns have spread around the world from the first one, which was founded by Hay-on-Wye bookdealer Richard Booth in 1961. There are now over twenty towns throughout the World describing themselves as Book Towns or Book Villages.

The Sedbergh booktown project was started after the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in order to encourage an increase in the number of visitors, whose enjoyment of the beautiful countryside around Sedbergh supports the functioning of vital town centre amenities. The company, Sedbergh Book Town, was set up in 2003 to develop a community of businesses involved in selling, writing, publishing and designing books and other publications. Sedbergh started with an excellent base to build upon as a Booktown, with a printer's finisher (book maker), writers and several book selling businesses already based in the town. Since then more bookshops have opened and, in May 2006, Sedbergh was officially recognised as England's Booktown when it was elected into the International Organisation of Book Towns. There are now three official Booktowns in the United Kingdom, Hay-on-Wye (where it all started) in Wales, Wigtown in Scotland and Sedbergh in England.

Portrait of Eric Robson

Eric Robson, writer, broadcaster and patron.

“First, a confession: I spend far too much on books. Which is why this idea of creating a Book Town in Sedbergh is a thoroughly bad idea. Until now my nearest Book Towns were Hay-on-Wye and Wigtown which meant my obsessions were held in check by sheer distance. Now it's going to be far too easy. I can already hear my bank manager turning in his vault. I won't be able to resist. And there are thousands of other bibliophiles holding their heads in their hands as we speak. ‘Not Sedbergh!’ I hear them cry just before they get into their car and are drawn slowly but surely towards the Howgills.”

Sedbergh Booktown features on Country Channel TV

Sedbergh Booktown is featured in a 16 minute video "Get to Know Sedbergh" on the free-to-view multi-channel internet-based TV service Country Channel TV. Visit our Sedbergh on TV web page to view the video.

Book Dealers

Details of book dealers in and near Sedbergh can be found on the Sedbergh book dealers web page.

Book Festivals in the UK

Sedbergh holds an annual Festival of Books and Drama in September.

Scotland's booktown, Wigtown, holds it's festival towards the end of September and Hay-on-Wye, the birthplace of the Book Town movement, in Wales holds its festival at the end of May.

Sedbergh Book Town Literary Trust

Sedbergh England's Book Town works through a company owned by the community which is mainly concerned with regeneration and business creation for the book town. The Sedbergh Book Town Literary Trust has now been created as a Charity - Reg. No. 1115782. The Trust exists to make Sedbergh England's Book Town “the very best Book Town it can be, worthy of national status, and a centre of excellence for literature and the written word”.

We feel that we can meet these aims in 2 ways; firstly by promoting events which will demonstrate excellence through performance or explanation and secondly, by education for all age and ability groups which may lead to performance or published work or simply participation.

2007 is the first year of operation for the Trust, we have been lucky enough to fund a Trust Development Manager post for 3 years through the Northern Rock Foundation, this person is also the organiser of all activities including the Festival.

For further information about the Book Town Literary Trust please email


Northwest Regional Development Agency

The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) is responsible for the sustainable economic development and regeneration of England's Northwest and has five key priorities: Business Development, Regeneration, Skills & Employment, Infrastructure and Image.

For further information visit:

Cumbria Vision

Cumbria Vision is the co-ordination body for most types of national and international funding being spent in Cumbria. This agency has now superseded Rural Regeneration Cumbria. Sedbergh Book Town Ltd. has received assistance with its set-up and the first 3 years expenses (2005 to 2008) to a maximum value of £45,000. This represents 26% of such expenses as staff, rent, rates and utilities, advertising and marketing, 74% of the spend £135,000 approximately (over 3 years) is directly earned by the operation of the Dales and Lakes Book Centre and Sedbergh Tourist Office, plus through the generosity of other funders such as SLDC and YDNP.

Sedbergh Book Town Ltd. is extremely grateful for the assistance of Cumbria Vision.