Saturday, 27 August 2016

Finding Antiques and Vintage Treasures in the UK

Hello everyone! 
I hope you're all enjoying a good summer and making the most of this glorious sunshine we're now having in the UK!

As I prepare for my summer holiday, as well as packing the sun lotion I make time to go online to check out the best places to visit near where I'm staying, including where to head to pick up a few vintage and antique treasures for my home.

I rarely come back from holiday without some  "new" antique or vintage addition to my home. Whilst having a rummage in a shop or stall I'll spot a little gem amongst all the vintage and antique treasures that I know I can't leave behind!

vintage china found on holiday in a charity shop in Devon

Seeing a post on Summer Antiquing in the US on the online auction site  made me think it would be fun, and hopefully useful, to write a similar post about finding antique and vintage treasures here in the UK.

I know many of my followers are already experienced vintage treasure and bargain hunters, but for those of you new to this (very addictive!) way of life, I hope this post will be of interest!

vintage and antique linens from charity shops, 
antique shops, flea markets and online auctions

Although we are at the tail end of summer now and heading into autumn, holidays and days out all year round are an ideal time to pick up a few special vintage and antique treasures to grace your home, as wherever you go in the UK you will always find a few antique and vintage shops to poke around, as well as charity shops, outdoor and indoor fairs and markets with vintage and antique stalls, large country antique fairs and, of course, boot fairs!

Whitby, Yorkshire

It's always worthwhile doing a little bit of online research before you head off for a day out or on holiday to discover the best towns and villages for antique and vintage shops and markets whilst away.  Holiday homes often have a good selection of leaflets advertising local events, and local papers and notices around towns will advertise any boot fairs or local antique fairs, so it's usually not too difficult to find the best places to stop at for a stroll about and a quick look for anything that catches your eye.

vintage linens and glassware from charity shop

You might not have room for furniture or large pieces in your car, but there's always room to squeeze in some vintage and antique china, books, linens and laces!

 I've been doing this for decades, searching out special and unique old, beautiful and well made pieces to have in my home, whilst on holiday in Europe ( where I have found beautiful antique soup tureens, china and textiles in France ) and when holidaying nearer to home in England, Scotland and Wales.

vintage plates found at a charity warehouse

I'll always remember buying some beautiful vintage china at a little antique and bric-a-brac market with a handful of stalls overlooking the Taf estuary in the sleepy and picturesque village of Laugharne in Carmarthenshire, Wales, where Dylan Thomas, famous Welsh poet and writer lived.

Staying in North Devon on another holiday, three beautiful antique blue and white Asiatic Pheasant bowls (one dated from the late 1800s) and a 1930s cheese dish picked up in an antique shop in Bideford for under £10 made the best type of holiday souvenir for my home. I now use them as fruit bowls and enjoy their faded, chipped and crackled glaze beauty every day.

antique asiatic pheasant crockery found on holiday

Closer to home there are lots of great places to pick up antique and vintage items from antique shops, antique centres, markets and fairs, and I've listed a few of my favourite places to check out in Kent and Sussex.

complete vintage tea set from the 50s/60s from chairty shop for under £20

A few favourite antiquing places in Kent and Sussex in no particular order!

Otford - pretty village nestling in the foot of the North Downs near Sevenoaks, Kent, has a good Antiques Centre shared by many sellers, a few other antique shops and a good charity shop with tea room. Free parking in village hall car park nearby.

Westerham and Brasted - also near Sevenoaks, both have several antiques shops as well as interiors shops with vintage, antique and new items. Pay parking in both places although some street parking, tea and coffee shops in Westerham.

Nutley - Nutley Antiques on the A22 near Crowborough and Uckfield, a collective of dealers selling country antiques, shabby chic and vintage items.

Hadlow - Weathered and Worn - lovely vintage and antique furniture and homewares with a country feel, free parking nearby, coffee shop inside for tea, coffee, cakes and light lunches. Small village near Tonbridge.

Tenterden - attractive small town with several antique shops, charity shops and interiors shops. Pay parking, limited time street parking.

Ticehurst - The Old Haberdashery is a wonderful little emporium of all things vintage for the home, run by a lovely and friendly lady who also exhibits regularly at the Decorative Living Fair.

Tonbridge - weekly antique and flea market on Friday mornings 9 - 1 at the Angel Centre. Great place for vintage jewellery, textiles, china, bric-a-brac, haberdashery and war memorabilia. Pay parking in Sainsburys car park adjacent. Also numerous charity shops.

Paddock Wood - large village with plenty of charity shops, free parking for up to an hour, coffee shops, large Bridge Trust charity warehouse on industrial estate near railway excellent for old and vintage furniture.

The Decorative Living Fair - annual fair held in May on the Eridge Park estate between Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough, numerous excellent quality stalls full of vintage and antique English and French furniture and decorative items, including vintage textiles and vintage garden tools and ornaments

antique fabrics from the Decorative Living fair at Eridge

Detling Antiques, Vintage and Collectors Fair - Detling, near Maidstone, on site of old airfield - huge fair held four or five times a year, mainly outdoor stalls and several covered marquees. Lots of walking involved and can get very muddy out of season so go prepared.

Victorian chair bought from Detling for £20

Ardingly Antiques and Collectors Fair - great place to pick up antiques, vintage etc on a huge scale, mostly outdoors. Held regularly several times a year. Held at the South of England Showground near Haywards Heath, West Sussex

picturesque Rye, East Sussex

Rye - very picturesque and popular town with lots of antique shops near the quay, you'll be bound to find something here!


Hastings - old town near the fishing boats has lots of antique and vintage shops.

St. Leonards - just along from Hastings, a few vintagey /antique/junky shops

Bexhill on Sea - numerous antiques and junk shops

Lewes - this is a brilliant town for antiquing as there are many antique and vintage shops here as well as a large antiques centre. Pay parking, plenty of places to eat. Lots of antique shops near the river and brewery plus more further up the hill including the antiques centre, which is in a street that runs parallel to the shopping street up the hill.

The above are just a few of the many places you can find antique and vintage treasures for your home in Kent and Sussex.

antique serving platters from a charity shop in Kent

I'd love to hear about your favourite places for antiquing and junking in Kent and Sussex if you've visited this area, as well as your favourite places elsewhere in the UK for both me and any readers of this post to check out, so please, please leave a comment and share the best places you've discovered in your neck of the woods or whilst travelling!  

beautiful antique fabrics found at the Decorative Living Fair at Eridge, Kent

There are many potential sources of antiques and vintage items for your home and below
are some of them along with some tips and information that I have picked up over the years, but please be aware I am not an expert, just someone with a love of vintage and antique items sharing what I have learnt over the years.

vintage wood and glass cabinet painted to give new lease of life

  Keep a look out for estate sales (look for announcements in local papers or magazines or boards up nearby) as these can be a great place to pick up elegant and high quality antique and vintage items. A few years ago at a local estate sale I picked up an elegant side table, bed side cabinet, old fashioned glass garden cloches, vintage floral linen fabric, old fashioned roller towels, and numerous other items for little more than £20 the lot! The table is now painted and used in my sitting room, the bedside cabinet painted and used as a bedside cabinet. This was an informal estate sale run by family members keen to get rid of a barnful of surplus items, where fixed prices were few and far between, so it all came down to haggling for a price that suited both buyer and seller! Other estate sales may take the form of an auction or fixed prices.

vintage and antique linens

Boot Fairs are still an excellent place to pick up vintage and antique treasures. Usually only held in the spring and summer months as they usually take place in fields. Best to either get there early to pick up the best and choicest items, or late like an hour or so before it finishes to get the best prices, as sellers will often take a low price just so they don't have to pack an item back in the car to take home. For non-UK readers, a boot fair is where sellers sell their unwanted items from the back of their car or from a stall by their car, usually arranged in rows in a large field or area. Sellers pay for a pitch, buyers pay a small entry fee. Many bargains to be had as people are keen not to have to go home with all the stuff they bought. Ask what the seller wants, say what you're prepared to pay, and be prepared to bargain. You can always say you'll think about and go back later if the price is initially too high, and they are probably more likely to come down in price to make a sale. Take a few bags with you, plenty of cash in low denominations as often sellers are low on change, and a cute dog helps!!! I always like to chat with the seller and find out what I can about the item, a bit of history is always interesting if its been in the family, and can help with working out dates or values, plus you get to meet some interesting people!

antique flow blue jug found in charity shop

Over the last few years at local boot fairs I have bought beautiful ornate gilt framed mirrors for under £10, vintage kitchenalia for small change, lamp bases, a vintage standard lamp (beware wiring, best to get them rewired or checked by a qualified electrician before using) several chandeliers, china, books, designer curtains for a few pounds and a pair of signed, original Victorian oil paintings in ornate frames for £12!

vintage typewriter from the 1960s found at a local antique and flea market

Antique and flea markets and fairs are a great place to find treasures, whether it be at small local weekly markets or larger county wide fairs held just a few times a year. I have bought many wonderful antique textiles, vintage haberdashery, vintage and antique jewellery, china and furniture from this sort of fair over the years and always come away with some little gem!

vintage haberdashery from antique and flea market

An old, unloved piece of dark wood furniture can easily be transformed with a coat or two of paint, although if its obviously a good antique piece then it's best left unpainted and just restored.

To read about hints on painting furniture click the link here. or see sidebar at top of page for post.

vintage oak dresser bought from an online general auction website 
and updated using chalk paints

Charity shops and warehouses are a great place to source antique and vintage furniture and decorative items for the home, and I have bought many chairs, tables and chest of drawers that have been refurbished and given new life and that are now loved and used in my home.

heavy vintage dark wood chair with a dark satin cover updated and transformed 
with pale paint and striped fabric.

Be aware that these charity shop sellers now know the value of items (you will see Millers Antiques guides at the till!) and so there are not many bargains to be had now on larger pieces unless they are damaged, but often a slightly wobbly leg can be glued, clamped and made good as new, and tatty fabric can be replaced with new. Avoid anything that shows signs of live woodworm (fresh dust around tiny holes in wood) or is unstable and can't be fixed easily. Also beware wood veneers that are coming away, warped wood or heavily stained wood surfaces unless you are planning to paint the piece or don't mind the shabbiness.

Antique Centres and Shops - these can be found all over the UK in many towns and villages or out in the countryside. Some are owned by individuals but there are many antique centres with multiple occupation where lots of different sellers cram in as much as they can into their space. These are a great place to browse round as there is so much choice and prices tend to be competitive.

Specialist Fairs and Markets - there are many fairs and markets held throughout the year specialising in specific items such a s works of art, decorative antiques, textiles etc. There are several specialising in vintage and antique textiles, especially in the south west of the country. Some of the best are The Vintage Bazaar held at Frome, and the Textiles Fairs and Rag Market at Honiton, but I know there are others so please shout out in a comment to share details of others that you know of.

Country Fairs and Brocantes - beautiful antique and vintage items can be found at country fairs and brocantes all over the country. In the south east one of the best is The Country Brocante in West Sussex and it is where quality sellers of vintage and antique decorative items and textiles gather to sell their wares. Again I know there are many so please let me know of others that you know about.

antique tip tilt side table given a new lease of life with chalk paint

Local Auction houses and online auction sites are a brilliant way to pick up antiques of all kinds. Many have online catalogues, and websites will give you viewing days so you can go and look at anything that you particularly fancy. I have attended a few auctions and find it best to leave a commission bid. This means I put down the maximum sum I am prepared to pay against a certain lot, and the auctioneers bid on my behalf up to my maximum - that way I cant get carried away on the day!! Those with firmer resolve than I could enjoy bidding on the day! You need to take into account the buyers premiums and VAT into your calculations, and be prepare to take away any items you have won either on the day or the day after depending on what the auction small print stipulates otherwise you could find yourself being charged storage. Also make sure you can physically fit the item into your vehicle!!!

painting bought from an auction house by bidding online, viewed in person before auction

Bidding on online auction sites is also an excellent way of controlling what you spend and getting access to an antique you otherwise wouldn't be able to purchase. I have bought a few works of art through online auction houses using this method, having first attended a viewing day to be sure of what I was bidding on.

vintage jewellery bought from a local antique and flea market

Unless you live close enough it is not often not possible to view in person the items on which you want to bid on with online auctions, take care to look at all photos thoroughly and check sizes, condition, provenance etc before placing a bid. As its a case of "buyer beware" in those cases where you can't view, it pays to do your research and check out the values of similar items when deciding what your maximum bid is going to be, and websites such as invaluable are very useful for this. The excitement when the bidding starts on the lots you have bid on has to be experienced, as you watch the bidding go up and up and then find you are either a winner or loser!!! You usually have to register to bid online and leave bank card details. You need to thoroughly check all the rules and regulations for each site so that you know how to proceed if you win, and can afford to pay for and collect your goods, or pay postage or delivery costs, as well as the premiums, on anything you bid on and win.

vintage floral textiles bought online and from antique fairs

Buying online - there are many antique and vintage bargains to be had from the well known general auction sites as well as auction houses, specialist websites and online shops dealing in antiques and vintage goods. Also other places such as Facebook, Facebook groups and even Instagram have people selling their vintage and antique items. Don't forget these will be items you haven't actually seen or handled so you are reliant on photos and descriptions.

vintage leather suitcases bought from a private seller via a facebook group

Check descriptions, measurements etc thoroughly and look at photos carefully. Don't be afraid to ask the seller more questions, and check around for similar items to see what they sold for so that you know the maximum you want to bid up to so you are paying a fair price. Also check returns policy and what to do if the item doesn't arrive. Make sure they are reliable and reputable sellers by checking their feedback and reviews.

antique china from a charity shop in Tenterden

I hope this post has been of  help and interest.

Happy Hunting!!!

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Vintage Treasures and Rhubarb Cake

Almost the end of May......another bank holiday .........the white lilac in my garden has bloomed already, the azaleas and rhodedendrons are at their very best, the apple blossom has been and gone as have the bluebells.

All is lush, verdant, green growth in the greenhouse and vegetable plot although my climbing french beans and runner beans are madly twining around each other as I haven't yet got around to putting them in - hopefully today or tomorrow. The tomato plants are flowering and now need feeding, that too needs to be done, and the courgettes need potting on into large pots as there won't be room in the raised beds for them. The potatoes have been earthed up once new to growing them in the soil so be interesting to see how they fare.

Geraniums bought as small plants desperately need planting out and as usual I have failed to put in the sweetpeas which I bought in and are, like the beans, starting to twine their tender tendrils around each other. I only hope its all not too late, but in my garden things take a chance and hopefully they will all rally once in their proper beds and pots.

May has flown by!

Introducing a friend to a charity warehouse this week, I just couldn't come away without these vintage treasures. 

Woods 30's with the cream and green edge, the idyllic cottage garden scene with delphiniums and picket fence, the tudor house and red tiled roof, the blossom in colours so evocative of that era......they are all slightly crackle glazed with age and totally charming.

jelly moulds and patisserie tins.....

not really sure what the little silvered effect fluted tins would have originally been 
used for ( any guesses ??? ) but they make perfect tealight holders with their faintly tarnished edges!

.......pretty little toast rack

and a sweet old crazed oriental blue and white idea how old this is but it caught my eye

The other day I visited the Decorative Living Fair at Eridge, near Tunbridge Wells in Kent, which is full of beautiful country French style antiques, textiles and painted furniture etc....real eye candy, and I picked up this practical vintage blue and white enamel colander.

Our rhubarb has been a bit pathetic this year as it was dug up and dumped in pots whilst my raised beds were being built last spring, and there they sat sulking and miserable all winter until I re-planted the crowns after dividing this spring.

I left them to recover but did pick a few bits last week and turned them into a cake as there wasn't enough for even a crumble without adding some other fruit.

I couldnt be bothered to spend hours searching my cookery books for the rhubarb cake recipe that I know is there in one of them so just took the classic cake mix and made it up as I went.

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

6oz self raising flour
6 oz sugar ( I used 3 oz dark brown sugar, 1 oz light brown sugar, 2 oz caster sugar )
6 oz softened butter
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Quantity of washed and chopped rhubarb, enough to generously cover the base of a deep 8" (20cm) cake tin once gently cooked with a little water and sugar to taste until tender and sticky - cook off the water until left with a sticky syrup
 1 tsp or so ginger powder to sprinkle later - see below
Cook rhubarb as above and pre-heat oven to about 170 C fan
Grease and baseline a deep cake tin

Place all the cake batter ingredients into large bowl and mix with a stand mixer, hand mixer or wooden spoon until cake batter is smooth, creamy and light.

Place cooked rhubarb on base of lined tin
Sprinkle with ginger powder to taste
Pour over cake batter spreading evenly

Bake for 45 mins or until skewer comes out clean.
Cool in tin for about 10 mins then, gently easing edges away from tin with a spatula first, invert onto plate and leave to cool further, if you can resist!

You could add ginger to the cake batter too of course.

It is good on its own, or you could eat it as a dessert with a dollop of greek yoghurt, marscapone, cream or icecream!

The cake mix was lovely and light and moist on the first day, but as it contained fruit I thought it best kept in the fridge where it became firmer and heavier. 

My lovely blogging friend Mary, who has been with me on this blogging journey from the start, talented teacher and writer of a great US food blog Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes asked for the recipe so Mary, here it is, shared as requested! 

On the subject of the US, after sending one of my cushions across the pond last week, a few more are now heading off to Texas.

A pretty vintage blue floral linen with denim linen reverse, smoky blue ticking, and antique French ticking cushions are all finding a new home.

The same lovely customer also wants a chicken scratch embroidered cushion similar to one I sold a while back, so I shall be busy stitching that this weekend too.

These photos were taken at the time and I obviously enjoyed stitching these al fresco! 
Might well do the same this time as the sun is shining as I type!

I've started a new page on my blog here, Painted Furniture, (see top of the post under the banner for page) to bring together pieces of furniture I have painted recently.  

As I get lots of hits daily to visit my most popular post Hints on Painting Furniture, which I first published back in 2011, and I have used different paints and techniques since, I thought this may be helpful for those visitors or for anyone new to painting furniture.

It is currently being written so is far from complete, but here's a taster of what will be there.

This is a solid old oak wheel back chair that had seen better days ( bought for under £20 at a charity shop) and which I thought would look great painted.

Hating sanding and preparation, I tend to use chalk paint these days and I  mixed my own colour using Annie Sloan Chalk Paints - a bit of duck egg blue, Paris Grey and Original.


That's enough for now!

Thanks for visiting me here, I hope you all have a great Bank Holiday weekend and some sunshine, wherever you are!