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“The Newtown branch of WH Smith at 24 High Street is a unique surprise among the company’s many shops.

In the 1970’s a major modernisation programme of WH Smith’s outlets was in progress. It was decided that just one shop should be conserved as a living example of how all Smiths had previously looked.

Newtown branch had not been altered very much over the years, so it was an ideal location. The shop was restored to its original condition – as it would have been when first opened in 1927.

Modern fittings and fixtures were removed to reveal the original tiles, mirrors and decorations, still in good condition. Oak shelving was restored, replacement tables to display books were created, underfloor heating installed, and the tube lighting was replaced by specially made 1920’s style of fittings.

The restoration was a great success and attracted a lot of interested visitors. Three years later the company museum was established upstairs, on the first floor, in a space that was once a W. H. Smith Lending Library.

Did you know?

The shop originally opened in 1927. It was furnished to a high standard with Oak Shelving and underfloor heating.

The whole shop is a living museum, during the 70’s WH Smith updated all of their shops fittings except Newtown, restoring features to their original condition from the 1920’s

The company museum was established upstairs, on the first floor, in a space that was once a W. H. Smith Lending Library.

The small museum traces the history of WH Smith, from its beginnings in London, in 1792, to the present day.

Gallery

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The Full Story...

The small museum traces the history of WH Smith, from its beginnings in London, in 1792, to the present day.

Using storyboards, models and memorabilia, we chart the fascinating progress of a family run business that has flourished for over two centuries, to become one of today’s biggest British companies and a household name.

Visit the museum and you can learn about the members of the family who started it all. Discover how Henry Walton Smith founded the business as a newswalk around the streets of London.

His early death could easily have meant the end of this humble paper round, but his young widow Anna, left with three children to raise, was determined to carry on. As a result of her sheer hard work and dedication, the business prospered. Eventually she was able to leave her two sons a small but profitable concern that was ready for expansion.

Only one of the boys proved really interested in the challenge, and he became the great pioneering newsagent, William Henry Smith. The company has borne his name ever since.

In turn his son, W H Smith II joined the firm and, between them, they expanded the news business, became booksellers and stationers, and developed lending libraries.

The museum’s displays also explore news distribution, the work of newsboys and girls, the use of different forms of transport through the years, and the history of Smith’s railway bookstalls and chain of retail shops.”