Trevor Hamilton speaking at Topsham Bookshop on 6th December 2017

Could there ever really be


Come to the launch at The Topsham Bookshop on

Wednesday 6th December from 6.30 - 8.00 pm of
Arthur Balfour’s Ghosts

An Edwardian Elite and the Riddle of the
Cross-Correspondence Automatic Writings
a new book by Trevor Hamilton, and find out the truth!

Arthur Balfour?  Who was he?
On 2nd November 1917, while World War I was still raging, Foreign Secretary and former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour signed a letter to Lord Rothschild on behalf of the British Government, supporting the idea of a permanent home in Palestine for the Jewish people.  That document (known as The Balfour Declaration) has had many long-lasting consequences, and although it is considered by some to have been the root cause of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was seen at the time as a great humanitarian gesture.

The Declaration is probably the main reason for which Balfour is now remembered, but who was the man himself?

Well, for a start, he was an aristocrat who had been educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge and he was the nephew of three-times Conservative prime minister the influential Lord Robert Salisbury.  This august uncle provided him at the beginning of his parliamentary career with the prestigious government position of Chief Secretary for Ireland (a nepotistic appointment which gave rise to the expression “Bob’s your uncle”!)  In all, Balfour completed 28 years of government service and is considered to have had one of the longest ministerial careers in modern British politics, second only to Winston Churchill.

What did Arthur Balfour have to do with life after death?
Although as The Right Honourable The Earl of Balfour (to give him his full title) he enjoyed a late-nineteenth-century upbringing of privilege and luxury, his family’s wealth and connections were no proof against illness and disease and in 1875 the 27-year-old Arthur lost a much-loved cousin, May Lyttelton, whom he had hoped to marry.  Her early death from typhus affected him profoundly and he remained single for the rest of his life.
Balfour was interested in philosophy, publishing several books on the subject, and he combined a deep religious faith with an interest in the paranormal, helping to found the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in 1882.  Other members of the SPR included Arthur’s brother Gerald, a Cambridge classicist and philosopher, his sister Eleanor (who was to become Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge in 1892), Frederic Myers and Edmund Gurney.  

These wealthy intellectual members of the SPR spent a great deal of time sifting and corroborating reports of spontaneous paranormal experiences. They had scientific ideals and, determined not to be misled by tricks, illusions and wishful thinking, they quickly learned to spot fake mediums.  They were prepared to sit through endless dull séances in the pursuit of scientific explanations.

Distraught by May’s death, Balfour had sought communication with her through mediums, and the mysterious “cross-correspondence” which resulted is recorded and evaluated in Arthur Balfour’s Ghosts.  This new book by Exeter-based historian Trevor Hamilton tells the story of the efforts by Balfour and his associates to contact the dead through mediums using “automatic writing”.

Trevor Hamilton’s earlier books Tell My Mother I’m Not Dead (about the early death of his own son) and Immortal Longings (the biography of Frederic Myers) have also been concerned with psychical research and have both been launched here in Topsham.
So please do come along on 6th December to The Topsham Bookshop, have a drink, meet the author and hear more about this latest book.  Tickets are free, but must be reserved, as space is limited.  Telephone Lily Neal on 01392-877895 or come into the bookshop to reserve a place.

A happy customer - Freya, aged 10, lives in Topsham and sent us this lovely letter.

Graham Fawcett’s Chaucer Evening at Topsham Bookshop on 5th April 2017

The Topsham Bookshop played host to Graham Fawcett who presented a learned, thoughtful and amusing evening focusing on the writing of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Again, the bookshop was packed with an enthusiastic audience who heard many excerpts from Chaucer’s writings, including in the original Middle English read by the Bookshop’s owner, Lily Neal herself. 
That audience learnt much about Chaucer’s life and influences – his close friendship with contemporary writers in Europe, his patronage by John of Gaunt and his knowledge of Ovid, Homer and Dante amongst many others. 

Graham described Chaucer as a ‘Renaissance man before the Renaissance’ – Chaucer was writing at the end of the 14th Century.  His popularity now proves that appeal has been enduring.

Graham continues his ‘Olympians’ tour and more details can be found on his website

Anne Glyn-Jones speaking at Topsham Bookshop on 29th March 2017

On the evening of 29th March 2017, a happy group gathered at The Topsham Bookshop to listen to local resident, Anne Glyn-Jones talk about her experiences as a Wren during World War II, the inspiration for her newly-published memoir, Morse Code Wrens of Station X. 

Anne signed up to the Navy rather than the Air Force or the Army after a childhood of regarding the Senior Service as the elite armed force. She had particularly been impressed by seeing the immaculate drillling of the “Bluejackets” who accompanied the coffin at the funeral of George V.

Anne described how, unlike the girls in any other generation, she and her fellow-Wrens never talked about what they wore.  Because they had been issued with a uniform, they did not qualify for the clothing coupons which other women were allocated in wartime, and therefore could not buy clothes.  However, the girls were drawn together by a strong sense of community and felt proud and secure to be part of the naval family.

Anne began her training in Devonport and then spent five months learning to be a telegraphist in Hampshire.  She was immersed in Morse Code so that, despite the fact that the words made no sense, she could transcribe coded messages automatically.  She and her fellow-transcribers were required to take down Morse Code continuously for many hours at a time when "on watch" - and some of the wartime watches were very long indeed.

Halfway through her training Anne was told that her work would be as an intercept telegraphist of enemy signals, one of whose primary roles was to help British “direction finders” locate enemy ships and submarines.  At first she was reluctant to take on a job which could so directly condemn young German sailors to death.   However, when the plight of the Jews in Germany began to emerge, she understood how important it was to defeat the Nazi regime, and overcame her scruples.

Secrecy was drilled into the intercept telegraphists.  Their transcriptions were passed to “Station X”, and it was only many years later that Anne learned that this was Bletchley Park.

Anne initially worked in Scarborough which was the hub monitoring the North Atlantic naval battles.  Then in the summer of 1943 she was sent to Gibraltar, from where all the local women and children had been evacuated.  With 18,000 (male) troops on the island, Anne and her fellow Wrens were some of only 150 female service personnel present.  They realised that, as well as working hard on official business, their role was also to maintain the servicemen’s morale.  This was as challenging as the local conditions, where resources were very limited.

After a year, Anne came home and learned to transcribe Japanese Morse code, which was extremely difficult because of Japanese being so different from European languages.

Anne spoke at the launch of her new book with great humour and clarity of mind, given how long ago the events she described took place.  She said that life had never been dull during her time in the Navy.  Fellow male sailors usually treated the Wrens like sisters but she was aware that there was pressure for women to do their job doubly well to prove themselves in a male-dominated service.  There were also tensions when officers were given privileges not granted to those of lower rank, and this left Anne with a lifelong understanding of how it feels to be the underdog.

All in all, the launch of Morse Code Wrens of Station X was a wonderful evening’s entertainment, both informative and fun!

Copies of Anne’s book can be purchased at The Topsham Bookshop - £9.95 Paperback and £20 Hardback.

22 March 2017 - 
On the evening of 22nd March 2017, The Topsham Bookshop gladly opened its doors to welcome visitors attending the launch in the South West of Pippa Kelly’s excellent first novel, Invisible Ink.  Pippa has been writing all her working life but this is a new departure into the world of the novelist.

Around 30 people gathered to hear Pippa speak very movingly of the emotional circumstances of her own mother’s loss to dementia, which partly inspired her novel. 

The book itself was written during the period of her mother’s illness and Pippa revealed that on re-reading the manuscript she was struck by the extent to which her own emotions were reflected in it.  She wrote the book with a male voice to ‘protect’ herself but those feelings were still there.  Interestingly, the story had undergone many drafts and Pippa had consulted two mentors to bring it to its final published version.

It was one of these mentors who encouraged Pippa to increase the variety and pace of her story – and suggested that the central character, Max, speak with both his adult and childhood voice.  Max is forced to reflect on the long buried childhood experience of the birth and then loss of his baby brother, the angelic Peter.  Pippa has a rare gift in capturing his childhood thoughts and responses and the guilt he feels in relation to his brother.

That guilt follows Max through his life and Pippa explained that behind all of us there is, written in invisible ink as it were, a tail (and a tale) that informs who we are, and how the loss of her mother’s memory of her life (her tale), caused particular distress both to her mother and then to Pippa too.

Pippa ended her talk with an impassioned plea for further understanding, recognition and research into dementia, which affects so many of us.  She paid tribute to the work of Sallie Rutledge of The Mede in Topsham – a holiday ‘home from home’, providing respite care and day care for those with dementia with or without their carers.

You can find out more about Pippa from her website: and follow her on Twitter @piponthecommons.
The Mede can be contacted through its website:

All of those at The Topsham Bookshop thank Pippa for visiting us from London and Sallie at the Mede for contributing to the success of the evening.

21st February 2017 - Great Western Railway have hidden hundreds of tickets in books around the country in order to help people escape with their book on a city break through the South West of England. When people find the tickets, they can redeem them for a free return journey to any destination Great Western Railway travels to. The tickets will be hidden for the next five weeks.
The scheme was launched on Tuesday 21st February and Topsham bookshop is participating.
Another great reason to come in to see us! 
Update: 10th March 2017 - all the tickets have been found!

21st January 2013
Sophie: An Edwardian Childhood

by Sophie Leighton Harding

What was it like to be the daughter of a famous painter in Edwardian times?
In this vivid and funny book, Sophie describes what it was like to grow up in London from 1902 to 1918 with a famous painter father, Edmund Blair Leighton. She gives many details of everyday life in the period, and her engaging account is illustrated with her own vibrant watercolours and witty line drawings. Family photographs by Edmund Leighton himself also feature. Suitable for readers of ten upwards.

Musisca Publishing, 2013: hardback, 6"x9", 130 pages.
The book costs £12.99 plus p&p (UK £2.00; Europe £5.50; overseas air £8.60; overseas surface £4.86).
For further information, or to order copies, write to or e-mail Lily Neal at The Topsham Bookshop, 27 Fore Street, Topsham, Exeter, Devon, EX3 0HD ([email protected] / 0044 (0)1392 877895)

See Musisca Publishing for sample images.

Twelve Topsham Riddles

See Riddle-Me-Ree! for details of Alma Swan's book of Topsham riddles.

18th October 2012: Book Launch
'Tell My Mother I'm Not Dead'
What would you do if your 28-year-old son were suddenly killed in a car crash? Any of us would suffer enormous grief and shock. Some people, not wanting to believe in the total disappearance of the human personality after death, might be tempted to try and contact their lost son through a professional medium. This is what happened to Trevor Hamilton, a historian, academic and writer, but he took the business of contacting mediums one stage further by making a careful study of their statements and writing a book about the whole experience. Deeply moving but objective, it is a detailed account of his visits to ten different mediums and the way in which he set his own experience against classic cases and current academic findings about mediumship.

The Topsham Bookshop is very lucky to be able to host the local launch of Trevor's book Tell My Mother I'm Not Dead on Thursday 18th October at 6.30pm. If you would like to attend, please contact Lily Neal on 01392-877895 or send her an e-mail at [email protected]. You are very welcome to attend, but because of our limited space we need to know numbers.

Tell My Mother I'm Not Dead: A Case Study in Mediumship Research, by Trevor Hamilton, was published on October 1st by Imprint Academic, 190pp., £8.95 / $17.90, ISBN 9781845402600. It can be purchased either at the launch or from; it will be on Amazon later.

 9th May 2012
Topsham: A Framework for a Local Plan
We have in stock copies of Topsham: A Framework for a Local Plan, the 2012 update on the Topsham Society's townscape review and design statement for Topsham. 39-page A4 booklet: £5.00.

22nd February 2012
Exeter Air Raid Victims, 1940-43
We have in stock the latest publication from Precious Moments of Exeter: Exeter Air Raid Victims, 1940-43 by Christine Trigger. It is published to mark the 70th anniversary of the Blitz on Exeter on 4th May 1942. The A4-format books contains a general introduction on the "Baedeker Raids" (that targeted historic English cities in retaliation for the destruction of Lübeck), an account of the Exeter casualties and the aftermath, and an alphabetical listing of detailed information for each victim, referenced to the locations in Exeter's Higher and Exwick cemeteries where they were buried.  Exeter Air Raid Victims, 1940-43 is available from us for £7.99. See Precious Moments of Exeter for other titles.

15th February 2012
Simple pleasures
Our current window display is our Simple Pleasures Comparison Chart, rating various activities on a cost-per-duration basis. An as-new paperback from The Topsham Bookshop - £3.00 for 300 minutes - is at the top!

11th January 2012
Estuary Magazine

We are now stocking Topsham's parish magazine, Estuary Magazine. 60p.

17th December 2011:
Big Art Book Bonanza!
If you fall in love with any of the paperback art books now on display in the front of shop, make us an offer. Be inventive! Be bold!

14th December 2011
We have just taken delivery of a batch of the newly-published Education in Exeter by Christine Trigger, Volume 8 in the Postcards from Exeter series published by Precious Moments. This volume focuses on historical postcards of Exeter schools and colleges.

3rd December 2011
Here's our current flyer. We are looking for books: not just crime, but any good-quality paperback fiction in good condition, including Penguins and children's Puffins.

Update, 16th November 2011
If you reached us by a Google search, we apologise for any confusion over the contact details. While we are making every effort to contact the major human-run and editable listings to get their details changed, the web has a huge number of automated directories largely out of our control and too numerous to contact individually, so it will take a while for the changes to propagate across the Internet.

Announcement: 1st November 2011
From 1st November 2011, this shop is no longer operating under the name of "Joel Segal Books". Joel Segal and Lily Neal have agreed amicably to terminate their partnership.

The shop is now called The Topsham Bookshop and will be owned and managed by Lily Neal. The new website is, but the telephone number will remain the same (01392-877895).

Joel Segal will continue to trade under the name of Joel Segal Books and will be operating from The Cafe, 76 Fore Street, Topsham, and other Exeter cafes.  He can be contacted on 07790-906118, or via his website