Floating bookshop scoops national award

A historic ship, now home to a floating bookshop, Marjorie R, has been awarded Flagship of the Year 2023 by National Historic Ships UK. The Hold Fast bookshop is run aboard Marjorie R, moored in Leeds Dock, by Victoria and Chris Bonner.

National Historic Ships UK (NHS-UK) has appointed six vessels from around the UK to act as its Flagships of the Year and ‘fly the flag’ for maritime heritage. The awards provide an opportunity to demonstrate and celebrate the value of historic vessels to the wider public.

Marjorie R was chosen in recognition of her unique offer as an independent bookshop and community base. Built in 1946 by Harkers of Knottingley she spent her working life carrying coal in West Yorkshire.

After many years of retirement and neglect she was relaunched as a bookshop in November 2022. Whilst the cargo has changed we are proud to see her remain in the county she has always called home.

The boat has been restored to preserve the 76 year old structure, using only recycled materials as much as possible, to create a space for both Leeds locals and visitors to enjoy. She is moored in the city’s former commercial dock which is a wonderful reference to our industrial past and the contribution that shipping made to the growth of Leeds. It’s a rare opportunity for people to have free access to an historic ship and we are really happy to have such a lovely location.

The name Hold Fast comes from the old nautical saying, often tattoo’d on sailor’s knuckles, meaning hold on in stormy seas. It was chosen to reflect how opening the bookshop is a way to save the ship – giving her a secure mooring place and income to help maintain her which is essential as they receive no grants or funding. It’s also a way to help us, and hopefully our customers – a little retreat to pop into as we all navigate life’s ups and downs. The bookshop stocks a wide range of styles and genres, both new and second hand. The shop also sells online as part of bookshop.org – find them at uk.bookshop.org/shop/holdfastbookshop

Victoria commented:

“We have always loved Marjorie R – she means the world to us and we love sharing the stories of her past and her working life with our customers. This award is a fantastic recognition of just how important it is that we keep those stories alive – and what better place to share stories than a bookshop? Receiving the award today is good timing too as we are just about to start our celebrations for Independent Bookshop Week, an initiative by The Booksellers Association to encourage people to seek out and support the local indy bookshops in their community.”

Chris added:

“I am passionate about sustainability – I have driven the water taxi in Leeds for several years and that short journey contains so many references to our city’s history – the docks, the industry, the inventiveness (pop and the movies!). I’m so proud to have Marjorie R moored in Leeds Dock as a reminder of the industrial past that helped build this city. By repurposing a cast off from the coal industry into a vibrant space filled with plants she is also part of an exciting future for this area.”

The Bookshop is open:

  • Thursday 11-8pm
  • Friday – 11-6pm
  • Saturday 10-5pm
  • Sunday 11-4pm

For more information visit the website at: holdfastleeds.co.uk, email: holdfastleeds@gmail.com or follow them on Instagram: @holdfastleeds


This post is based on a press release issued by Hold Fast


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