19 October 2011

Buying Vintage In England

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

In the US I always enjoyed shopping
in thrift shops and at yard sales,
finding interesting tidbits to add to my eclectic nest

Like a 'truffle pig' rooting for its delicacy,
I savor the forage of a good find with a
gentle price tag

{ and yes, I just called myself a pig :)  }

So naturally I was curious to see what this process would be like
in the fertile antique hunting grounds in the UK

Sunbury Antiques Market

A charity shop is England's equivalent to a thrift store in the US

There are numerous ones from which to choose
often on the High Street (main street) in many towns

- Cancer Research, Princess Alice Hospice, & Oxfam to name a few -

However, these storefronts often are quite small and rarely offer furniture
Mostly clothing, jewelry, shoes, a few knickknacks, and books

Nothing I'm looking for with a cool, vintage look

Sunbury Antiques Market

I've visited towns with a line of storefronts selling antiques
which rarely satisfies my quest for bargain vintage

So what's a girl to do?

Sunbury Antiques Market

Ah, Antique Fairs... The first one I went to brought tears to my eyes
See all the cool stuff I'd love to just walk away with in these photos?
{ well, maybe not the ship painting }

Although vendors will often tell you
they know little about the piece and could only guess at its age
{ I like their honesty },

they do have a good feel what people will pay for their goodies
so there are few bargains to be had

{ One can haggle, but I stink at it }

My general rule is to buy only what I love, can afford, and can carry :)

Arriving early gives you the best selection, but prices drop as the day lengthens

And like most events in England, fairs are held rain or shine

My loot :)

There are antique auctions, which I would love to observe one day
weekend boot sales, where people sell unwanted items out of their car at a good price

If you feel comfortable going to people's homes,
there is always CraigslistGumtree and other equivalents

But in general,
real bargains are hard to come by in England

Not even a 'Free Kittens' sign to be seen

My newest acquisition :)

So if you plan to move here,
don't come without a dining room table with thoughts of buying one here
{ like I almost did }

Vintage purchases tend to be of the serendipitous nature

And ooooh, how I still revel in the hunt :)


Hampton Court Emporium, East Molesey
Princess Alice Hospice, Kingston-Upon-Thames
along West Street*, Dorking
The Antiques Warehouse, Farnham
The Packhouse*, Farnham
Snoopers Paradise Flea Market*, Brighton
The North Laine Antiques & Flea Market*, Brighton

Bermondsey Square (London, Fridays)
Portobello Road (London, Saturdays)
Sunbury Antiques Market * (Middlesex, 2x/mo)
International Antique & Collectors Fairs (various locations & dates)

Antiques Atlas
Antiques News

BBC’s Homes & Antiques Magazine (my fav)

With so many places to visit on my list, I marked the ones I've been to so far and worth a look (*).
I just had to share my complete list with you here :)

- all photos by me -

Postscript: Thanks to Gris Fleur for the tip of a Sunday Car Boot Sale in Walton-On-Thames here

Related post: Vintiquing In England


thingshelenlikes said...

I love antique fairs too! But only if I'm feeling like splashing out a bit. The best deals are to be found at car boot sales and auctions - that's where the dealers go to buy all their stuff. When you shop at an antique fair, you're paying their mark-up!

Diane said...

You need to come north. We have all the bargains up here. My southern pal always goes home with a boot full of goodies. xxxx

Jane The Booklady said...

I did enjoy reading this post. There's nothing like a rootle though a flea market! I can't wait to get out hunting again. Jane

TexaGermaFinlaNadian said...

Shops like these are so much better over on this side of the Atlantic! Always can find better antiques and just more unique stuff. Love it!

lisaroyhandbags said...

I'm having thrifting withdrawal here in Dubai and all of your UK markets is one of the reasons why I wanted to move there instead! I'm so envious! There's nothing like rifling through someone's car for a deal ; )

Ciccia said...

Here in Italy these shops are just starting to appear. Thank you for the information, it was so interesting. I found you through my friend SnapThat and I'm following you all the way from Rome.

Robynne's Nest said...

Hi Laura, lovely shot of you...love those plaits...we call our charity shops 'op shops' in Australia..short for opportunity shop...and I love the American term 'junking'...cause at the end of the day a lot of it is 'junk'. I've always wanted to visit the American flea markets (like Brimfield etc) and I'm guessing that the big collectible fairs here are something like that...I am loving the access here to so much 'great crap'...there is so much more here than there is in Australia...and as Miss Sew & Sew says...we will be going home (eventually) with some great finds! Robx

Barbara said...

I haven't been able to find these kinds of shops or markets either in France. It is kind of disappointing!

Carol-Anne (Use the Good Dishes!) said...

I wonder what the 'cultural' difference is that makes them not have good, cheap junk available? Do you think that maybe we North Americans get rid of things too easily?

It's an interesting thought. Thanks for sharing it!

Megan (Best of Fates) said...

I love the "only what you can carry" rule - I often forget such important things!

TexWisGirl said...

you are so cute with your box o' loot! :)

Jenny said...

I had the best time gawking at everything at the Sunbury Market earlier this month. Sadly, since I had a baby in a pushchair my ability to carry anything was seriously hindered. Love the photo of you with your goodies!

chris said...

Love your finds! Don't you look gorgeous with your braids. :)

elaine said...

A girl after my own heart.

Antiques And Teacups said...

Boy did you make me homesick...antique fairs & boot sales are my fav! You left out 2 of my favorites in the London area...Camden and Covent Garden. Did a post about Covent garden on my blog a week ago, here: http://antiquesandteacups.blogspot.com/2011/10/teacup-tuesday-wedgwood-covent-garden.html

and will do Camden markets (there are several) next week, I think. We are a Brit & 1st gen Yank and the UK's our 2nd home.

Eli said...

So much fun. I love the cheeky pics and of course, your smiling face. Miss you!

Zosia said...

Love your braids and your hat! The thrill of the hunt and finding the unexpected - priceless.

Gail Dixon (Louisiana Belle) said...

LOVE that vintage box you snagged! And that old street sign is so charming. Great finds!

Pet said...

Thanks for the tips. I'll keep them for a next visit. I'm still looking for a dinning table myself. The one in Liberty I liked it very much, and at LS1100 (with a 15% discount) was a good buy, but the LS700 for delivery to Spain made me try to find something similar elsewhere. It is called a Zealand Dining Table (220X100cm), an oak table designed by Richard Stamp for Liberty, in case you might be interested in these things. And free delivery for the UK. People do not think of Liberty for furniture at reasonable prices, but they do have always some really interesting things.

donna said...

So much FUN finding treasures!! Your sign adds just the right antique flavor to your charmng window!! I'sd love to be there wandering with you...ahhh! The challange of the hunt!!

A Tale of Two Cities said...

Just went to Sunbury last week for the first time,even though I've lived here for 3 years. Taking the train from central London is a bit of a chore, but so much fun when shared with friends. I didn't find as many goodies as you did, but I did promise myself to go back soon. Happy hunting!

camp and cottage living said...

I love your sign! I don't find the bargains where I live in Canada that my U.S. blogger friends do either.

Pondside said...

There are no bargains on Vancouver Island - and precious little interesting bits and pieces. It looks like you had a fun day!

Anonymous said...

Hi dear Laura!
I loved this post and must say that I've had daydreams of you out and about doing just this- treasure hunting! I love the picture of you in your hat and sweet braids with your box of finds. I adore the sentence about the "gentle price tag". I often like to use the term *accessible* in this instance, however, I will now quote you, my friend from over the pond, who enjoys a *gentle* price. Thank you for your posts. They are so well written, entertaining, + intriguing!
~lizzie mara

lizzybradbury said...

Loving the road sign on the window sill - I like going to bootfairs etc but quite often buy something I think looks good amongst everything else and when I get it home I realise why the owner wanted to be rid of it!

I really need to improve my bargain hunting eye! And your general rules seem like a good way to go.

Lizzy x

Meera @ firstsense said...

My love for vintage is growing at an exponential rate! I love the character and quality of antiques that have stood the test of time and can't get enough! I recently visited the Newark Antiques Fair, apparently it's the largest in Europe, and I was on cloud 9 the whole time. There was so much I wanted to buy, alas I first need a house that I can refurnish from top to bottom.

Antiques auctions are becoming a bit of an addiction too... I bought my dining table from one and I can't tell you what a thrill it is to bid and win an auction!! Addictive, for sure. Uh oh.

Love your antique road sign and you look so pretty in your hat and plaits!

Meera xx

Happy Homemaker UK said...

@ Robynne's Nest: going home with great junk :)

@ Carol-Anne: Yes, maybe. And perhaps it is because so much in the US is made in China, which makes thrifting in the UK more interesting?

@ Antiques And Teacups: Great places indeed ;) I did a post about Camden last year here: http://happyhomemakeruk.blogspot.com/2010/09/retail-therapy-camden-markets.html

@ Pet: you are right, I've never thought of buying furniture at Liberty - I assumed it was out of my price range. I'll have to take a peek next time I'm in the area :)

Thanks for everyone's sweet comments :)

wellywoman said...

Just discovered your blog. I love vintage too. I'm particularly into vintage containers for the garden and vintage containers I can use as vases. I,m lucky enough to live not too far from Bath where there are some good flea markets and we have a great shop nearby called Baileys Homeware that scours the land for vintage. They've got a great website.

Sallyford said...

I love your posts as you and I have kind of swapped lives. You have moved to the U.K from the U.S and I have moved to the U.S from the U.K. I love hearing what you find. In the U.K E Bay is possibly the greatest way of buying antiques and vintage items, as the U.K if so small, it's relatively easy to jump in the car and drive to save shipping. I noticed when moving here that e bay isn't as popular, Craigs list is, though I;d never heard of Craigs list until moving here. Also shipping cost here are enormous! wow, this Country is so huge it's easier to buy local, but then you save Tax if you buy out of State, lol! I'm still learning. Happy hunting! I love the box you're carrying , take care, Sally @ enlightenment for the sleepy xx

beetree said...

It's funny how regional thrifting is! When I moved to northern California, all the thrift stores were really "junk"- nothing good, all at horrible prices. I stopped thrifting for 11 years and missed it terribly! Now that we are back in southern CA, we have amazing thrift stores in our area. You can get lots of cool vintage on the cheap- and I agree- the thrill of the hunt is the best! :)
Super cute pic of you- love how your braids are also called "plaits". :)

Tabiboo said...

Wow - that looks like a fabulous antiques market, but I have to agree - bargains are seldom found in the UK, everything has a price.

I'd love it if the UK had one of those leave on the street collection days so you could go have a look and maybe help yourself before all is taken away.

Even the junk yards sell other peoples unwanted stuff. :(

Looks like you found a few bargains though.

Nina x

My Garden Diaries said...

Ok soooo love your vintage sign! I too would get teary if I walked up to those fairs.... nothing beats cool finds like that!

Privet and Holly said...

Well look at you,
Miz Laura, all cute
and braid-y and
having fun at the Flea!
My heart would be
racing if I attended a
sale like that; so many
goodies! And I love
the sign : )
xx Suzanne

Pink Princess said...

Love this post! Going to write down all your tips for the next time I'm visiting!!!

Gris fleur said...

You forgot something that it's only seasonal but you have to wake up early is the car boot sale; the one on the A3 is worth a visit ...and a very very few amount of pounds!There is only two left before they close and then you have to wait till the first Sunday of April!

Lily Riani said...

i thought of doing the same when i travel, thus i went to athens' flea market, everything was sooo nice and cool... i can buy them all BUT i can carry in on flight to come back to malaysia....sigh....

Nieves said...

I love visiting this little antique markets, curiously yesterday I visited a British little flea market in an anglican church in Madrid (Saint George) and I bought a raincoat in perfect state by 4 euros and other things as books and decorations for my flat and next month I will visit a Christmas Charity Bazar.

All in all this is something I admire in British people, these Charity shops and markets, I would like people in my country would get used to these second hand flea markets, because of a charity and a recycling subject! Hugs and kisses and have a lovely Sunday!

Joyce said...

Have you been to the town of Hungerford? We found some lovely pieces there...if you go make a side trek into Dorchester on Thames, such a charming village with a stunning abbey.

Michelloui | The American Resident said...

Love this policy: 'My general rule is to buy only what I love, can afford, and can carry :)'

I;m a fan of car boot sales--can't resist, even the early starts!

Gesci said...

I've just found this post (the linkwithin brought me!) and I have to say that I found the complete opposite- I was quite fond of our local auction house, and did, in fact, buy a dining table! I got some amazing deals there, and some great finds as well- I don't know if auction houses are just a thing of the North, but have you found anything since this post? There were three auction houses around Harrogate; one was specifically high-end antiques, one was more current furniture, and then Thompson's had a great mix: http://thompsonsauctioneers.com . I intend to do a post on some of my favorite bits after we get fully unpacked and settled... if that ever happens!!