In 1876 Heffers books were founded by William Heffer in Cambridge and soon they became a publisher too. With many shops in Cambridge, today we eulogise their gallery at 18 Sidney Street, Cambridge.
A major brand in Cambridge in the late 1990s they had six shops in the city, each catering to different areas of the business. The Trinity Street shop was the largest for both general books and text books. Rose Crescent – Classical Music, King Street – Art Supplies, Grafton Centre & St Andrews Street – General books.
The Sidney Street shop at that time was for new best sellers on the ground floor and stationary with an art gallery on the top floor. As seen in the photograph above, it was a traditional setting on two levels, with roof lights.
In 1949 Bryan Robertson became curator at the Heffer Gallery in Cambridge and for a year he hired the Newnham student and cookery writer Jane Grigson to help run the gallery. Although he was only there for three years, he helped bring in fashionable artists and ceramics and helped change the gallery from selling reproduction prints of the university colleges and Victorian watercolours.
One of his first exhibitions was of New Paintings by Francis Rose, Cecil Collins and Merlyn Evans held at Heffer’s Gallery in Cambridge in 1950. The next year Josef Herman exhibited in a solo show.
As curators changed over the years the gallery would have a routine of exhibitions of historical works, maps and archaeological prints, and then modern art. From the advert below from 1955 Heffer’s are promoting the latest new ceramics by Lucie Rie and Bernard Leach. By this time they had their own picture framing department, so it’s not uncommon in East Anglia to find the Heffer’s label on the back of pictures that were framed there.
The fate of the gallery came when Heffer’s sold the business to Blackwells in Oxford who closed many of the shops in the city in order to focus on the Trinity Street shop.