A NEW, independent church bookshop has opened in Salisbury.

Sarum Books in Catherine Street is run by Mark Clifford, who until recently ran the bookshop at Sarum College.

He says he hopes to fill the gap in the market left by the loss of the old SPCK shop in the High Street.

As well as Bibles and a wide range of books he stocks music, greetings cards and church supplies such as candles.

He intends to develop the first floor into a retail area with a coffee machine, so it can become a meeting place for customers.

Mr Clifford is chairman of the main trade body, the Christian Booksellers Group of the Booksellers Association.

He said: “I decided to go it alone, with the support of the religious book trade and publishers.

“We will pick up email order work as we go.

“There’s already been a great deal of interest, and we expect to do a lot with local churches and schools.”

The SPCK has voiced its support.

A spokesman said: “We are delighted that Mark is opening his own shop. It’s very exciting.”

The old SPCK shop was sold, like the 22 others in the chain, to an American charity, the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, in 2006, and no longer trades under the SPCK name.

Some of the 23 shops have now closed, and the Salisbury one is only open intermittently.