The Best Towns For Antiques Shopping

The Best Towns For Antiques Shopping

Across the country, there are handsome small towns hiding world-class antiques shops. To help you plan your next shopping trip, we’ve rounded up the best of them…
Photography: Kim John Of Tetbury

Petworth, West Sussex

Petworth is the only place outside London to boast more than 30 art and antiques dealers within a one-mile radius. As a result, it attracts buyers from around the world. Shops cater for varying tastes: traditional, vintage and even contemporary modern are covered, although the emphasis is on antiques. Pop into Nigel Williams for silverware, Ottocento for fine art or Tallulah Fox for painted antique furniture. Tudor Rose Antiques & Interiors is a collection of ten dealers offering high-quality English, French and continental antique furniture, as well as a selection of silver and reclamation items. Petworth Antiques Market hosts 25 experienced dealers selling furniture, paintings, garden ornaments, clocks, watches, jewellery and textiles.

Tetbury, Gloucestershire

Around its iconic Grade I-listed Market House, Tetbury is a hub of shops, galleries and dealers in the heart of the Cotswolds. Among the plants and vegetables of the Saturday market, you can find bric-a-brac, old books and vintage jewellery. There are also regular craft fairs and art exhibitions upstairs in the Market House itself. Four pretty streets– Long Street, Church Street, Market Place and Chipping Street – are lined with interesting independent businesses. The range spans architectural items such as teak and iron barred gates and Anglo-Indian painted cupboards (Artique), ornate French furniture (Twig Antiques and Interiors) and homeware and accessories (Willow Munro). Loved by interior designers such as Joanna Plant and Nina Campbell, Lorfords is an industry stalwart, with more than 5,000 unique pieces and 150 new items each week.

Hungerford, Berkshire

This market town on the Kennet & Avon Canal is best known for its antiques shops and fairs. Bridge Street is known as the ‘Bond Street of Berkshire’ for its remarkable array of independent retailers. Styles Silver is a family-run business with an exhaustive range of antique and modern silver. William Cook Antiques deals in fine-quality furniture, objects and art. On the High Street, Below Stairs has five themed showrooms around a courtyard, showcasing furniture, kitchenalia, fireside accessories, door and window fittings, collectables and garden items. The Emporium – made famous on TV’s Bargain Hunt – occupies three floors of a 17th-century beamed building and offers silver, jewellery, furniture, china and glassware.

Frome, Somerset

Founded by St Aldhelm in 685, Frome is bursting with history. For a long time, it was bigger than its notable neighbour Bath. Today, its must-see destinations include Cheap Street, an ancient thoroughfare noted for its historic shop buildings and the small stream running down its centre. Seventeenth-century Frome Bridge is lined with shops, while Rook Lane Chapel is an arts centre with a lively events calendar. Then, of course, there are the shops themselves: Frome Reclamation, Barton House Antiques and Eclectamania focus on interiors, while The Dandy Lion, Lark Vintage and Donna May Vintage will ramp up the retro in your wardrobe.

Honiton, Devon

Famous for its lace and pottery, Honiton is regarded as the antiques capital of the south west. On the banks of the River Otter, this beautiful town hosts a lively art scene. Merchant House Antiques on the High Street deals in large items of furniture as well as smaller, decorative homeware. Abingdon Antiques has a diverse portfolio spread over three floors, including furniture, clocks, pictures, metalware, ceramics and maps. Independent shops such as Butler Roderick, Lombard Antiques, Loot & Booty and The Loft will keep you browsing for hours.

Brasted & Westerham, Kent

These two towns virtually run into one another. Both boast homeware shops that are well worth a rummage. In Brasted, look up WW Warner Antiques, Red House Antiques and The Antique Boss. Down the road in Westerham, The Vintage Home Company and The Old Bakery are worth stopping for. They both sell decorative, vintage-style furniture and accessories, while Courtyard Antiques and Castle Antique Centre focus on fine-quality items. For a side of history, Winston Churchill’s old home Chartwell is close by.

What To Look For When Buying Antiques

Study your item closely
Understand what you’re getting. Do the drawers run smoothly? Is there woodworm? Is it clean enough to store things in? Expect a degree of wear and tear – that’s part of the quirk of an antique.

How will you use it and where will it go?
Make sure you measure your space and consider the surroundings before you buy. It should fit in with your overall look – contrast is good, a jarring clash is not.

Know where it comes from
If an item has come from a museum, it may have been treated with chemicals that are toxic for food storage but harmless for linen. Know the item’s provenance and use it appropriately.

Do your research
Dealers specialise in different things. Take time to make sure you’re visiting the right place. For example, a salvage yard could be a treasure trove of antique doors and gates.

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