Gem of Cornwall

Old Hall Bookshop, Looe
Ewa’s book in the Old Hall Bookshop in Looe (Cornwall), photo by Katrina Rotgalve
Old Hall Bookshop, Looe, Cornwall
Old Hall Bookshop in Looe (Cornwall), photo by Katrina Rotgalve

From all the lands of wonder that our world treasures, especially one caresses the imagination – Cornwall, sometimes called “Britain’s own Côte d’Azur.” In the north it is enveloped by the waters of the Celtic Sea, and in the south its coastline is sculpted by the currents of the English Channel. It is there, in the westernmost part of Albion, where one can reach the… End of the World – Land’s End, and on the northeastern coast, amid the remains of Tintagel Castle, the echoes of Arthurian legend have resonated for centuries. After all – if one of the main characters of Ewa’s book, and patron of her scholarly path, Lord Alfred Tennyson is to be believed – King Arthur was supposed to have been born there:

“There came a day as still as heaven, and then
They found a naked child upon the sands
Of dark Tintagil by the Cornish sea;
And that was Arthur; and they fostered him
Till he by miracle was approven King.”

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King

Gallos, Tintagel
Gallos (sculpture associated with King Arthur), Tintagel, photo by M. Skibińska
Ruins of Tintagel Castle (Cornwall), photo by M. Skibińska

On the other side of the Cornish peninsula, in its southeastern part, where the river reaches into the English Channel, lies the picturesque town of Looe. Somewhere in the labyrinth of its narrow streets, reminiscent of Naples but lacking the Italian hustle and bustle, is hidden a real gem. Walking up a steep stretch of Shutta Road, one reaches the former chapel of a 19th-century Methodist church. The now green building emerges from the gray of the surrounding walls like an emerald set in silver. It houses the unique secondhand bookstore Old Hall Bookshop – founded in 1974 and reopened in 2019 by Neil Stone and Katrina Rotgalve, in collaboration with current owners Samuel and Jo Hawes (Bosco Books). One might get the impression that behind the narrow doorway live only a few Pixies – like  in the dwarfs’ house from the Snow White fairytale – but nothing could be further from the truth! Behind this inconspicuous entrance there are hidden – gathered on two floors – real antiquarian treasures worthy of the Catacombs of Bookholm from Walter Moers’ City of Dreaming Books. Recently – thanks to the kindness of Miss Katrina Rotgalve – Ewa’s book Literary Appropriations of Myth and Legend in the Poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Morris, Algernon Charles Swinburne and William Butler Yeats was added to the collection there. “I really would like to receive a box of these books!” – I read in response to my shy question.

A mission focused on bringing Ewa’s book to the world has turned into a quest in search of magical realism in the world – with a particular focus on the British Isles. And where is the ‘concentration’ of magic highest? In antiquarian bookshops, of course! The handful of unique places that have agreed to welcome the book under their roofs have become points – symbolic green x-es on the treasure map of the heart. I believe that Ewa spreads protective wings over those whose hearts have opened up to her. Those places that have welcomed her have gained a wonderful Bosom Friend and Guardian Angel.

One of the chapters in the book is entitled The Quest. Ewa has written a lot about wanderlust – both exploring (other)worlds and wandering internally, into the depths of one’s own identity. Thanks to people of good will, her book has also embarked on a journey, and can thus inspire others to visit her ‘marked’ places in the world, such as the Old Hall Bookshop in Looe, or to take the most beautiful kind of journey – reading.

translated by J. Niedziela


  1. Thank you very much for books you’ve sent to The Old Hall Bookshop Looe, it’ll be the first book I’m offering as a library service, because it’s so beautiful, interesting and it’s blessing can reach far more people; magical book for magical place. You’re doing great job promoting this special book and keeping Ewa in memory. Talented girl, always in our thoughts. Regards Katrina

    1. Dear Katrina, once again thank you for four heartfelt response, for your kindness and for welcoming my dearest soulmate’s book under your roof. Let’s keep in touch. I will definitely visit your bookshop and do my best to promote it in Poland. Best wishes, take care – Małgorzata

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