Table Mats and Coasters Set

Article by Chris Butterfield

In 1985, the Westmorland Gazette organised a promotional campaign to celebrate the binding of their millionth Wainwright book, specifically the sixth volume, The North Western Fells. As part of this event, Alfred Wainwright consented to sign this milestone copy in black ink in the section titled “Some personal notes in conclusion.” Furthermore, it was arranged that if the owner of this particular book could be identified, with their agreement, the book would be specially rebound in leather and distinguished with gold lettering on the cover to denote it as the millionth copy.

In addition, the owner of this unique book would be rewarded with a complimentary week-long holiday at the Langdale Time-Share complex. This holiday package also included a special meal with Alfred Wainwright himself, during which the owner would be presented with a special No.1 Limited-Edition Silver-Plated set of table mats and coasters.

Table Mats and Coasters Set
A Limited Edition Silver Plated table mats and coasters set, and a copy of The North Western Fells printed in 1985
Table Mats and Coasters Set
Original advert

In 1986, an interesting turn of events unfolded around the millionth Wainwright book, a signed copy of The North Western Fells. Initially, this unique book was sent to a store in Manchester as part of a unique promotional campaign. However, Wainwright had a change of heart a few weeks later. Despite the public nature of the campaign, he decided he no longer wanted to participate in the meal with a stranger, which was a part of the prize for the finder of the millionth book.

This decision put Andrew Nichol, the General Printing and Book Publishing Manager at the Westmorland Gazette, in a difficult position, given the campaign’s publicity. Respecting Wainwright’s wishes, Andrew accompanied him to Manchester to retrieve the book. In an unexpected twist, Wainwright himself entered the shop and, after searching through the copies of his book, successfully located and purchased the signed copy, all without the shop owner realising its significance.

On their journey back to Kendal, a resolution was reached. Andrew suggested altering the prize terms by removing the meal with Wainwright. This adjustment addressed Wainwright’s discomfort about dining with a stranger while still honouring the spirit of the original campaign. Wainwright agreed to this change, effectively resolving the situation.

Only 100 sets were produced, despite the plate displaying 1000

The intriguing saga of the millionth Wainwright book continued after its brief return to the Gazette. The book was soon dispatched again, this time to Chaplins of Keswick, a popular retail outlet where it was expected to sell quickly due to the bookshop’s location.

In a humourous yet characteristic incident during one of their regular meetings at Kendal Green, Wainwright turned to Andrew and said, “Remember when we went to Manchester to recover the one-millionth copy? I went into the shop and paid for it. You never gave me the money back.” Andrew rolled his eyes and gave a slight smirk. It was typical Wainwright.

Further adding to the story, Wainwright, evidently still invested in the book’s fate, requested that he and Andrew visit Keswick to check its status. Upon arriving at Chaplins and examining all available copies of The North Western Fells, they discovered that the signed, millionth copy had been sold. Its whereabouts remain unknown to this day, dispelling any rumours that Wainwright might have taken and destroyed the book himself.

The mid-1980s saw a significant increase in foreign tourism in the Lake District, raising the possibility that an unaware international visitor purchased the book. Such a buyer might not recognise the significance of Wainwright’s signature or may not have even noticed it, further shrouding the book’s final destination in mystery. The story of the millionth Wainwright book remains an intriguing, unsolved puzzle, with its current location and owner still unknown.

How the winning book may have looked. Does it still exist?

The plan to produce 1,000 Limited-Edition Silver-Plated table mats and coaster sets as part of the promotion for the millionth Wainwright book encountered significant financial hurdles, as the Gazette had to pay the full manufacturing costs upfront. So, instead, 100 sets were made with the hope of producing more based on incoming orders. However, the high retail price of £169 per set proved to deter potential buyers. As a result, sales were lower than anticipated. The project was ultimately curtailed due to these economic realities, making the few sold sets rare and potentially valuable collector’s items.

Original order form
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