London's oldest esoteric bookshop and Cecil Court 'institution' Watkins Books has gone into administration with 11 members of staff losing their jobs.
The bookshop, which was founded in 1897 and moved to Cecil Court in 1901, closed down yesterday (23rd February), following the appointment of administrator Harris Lipman. A sign displayed on the shop's window read: "Shop Closed Today".
Tim Bryars, secretary of the Cecil Court Association, told The Bookseller that it had "taken everybody by surprise". It is understood that trading had been slower than usual, for a number of reasons including increased online competition and the bad weather. The company was hit by a Capital Gains Tax bill of £500,000, which it had been appealing against.
The landlord Gasgoyne Holdings and administrator are now attempting to find a buyer for the business. Bryars urged any interested parties to get in touch.
"The landlord is keen to keep Watkins alive and here in Cecil Court," he said. "We hope a buyer will be found to keep the shop here. . . We think it could be bought as a viable going concern." Bryars, who described Watkins as "a Cecil Court Institution", added: "On the sentimental side, we feel Watkins is part of the history of the street."
Cecil Court is owned by Lord Salisbury, and although Bryars said tenants paid "a viable, commercial rent", he added that the family "want us to be here".
Cecil Court is a late Victorian thoroughfare linking Charing Cross Road and St Martin's Lane. The shopfronts have not been altered in more than a century and the street is home to a number of rare and antiquarian bookshops.