10 of the best second-hand shops in Britain

Britain has a cornucopia of second-hand shops. Flora Watkins rounds up 10 of the best.

Adrian Harrington Rare Books

Ideal for first editions

Hooray for Adrian Harrington! An analogue bookseller in a digital world (not that he doesn’t have a website; it’s as stylish as his shop in the heart of Tunbridge Wells, Kent). Readers outraged to browse www.abebooks.co.uk head to Mr Harrington’s bricks and mortar store for the heady success that only opens a signed vintage copy of Casino Royale can provide.

Indeed, recent acquisitions include a large and “extremely important collection” of works by Ian Fleming. You will also find works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Winston Chur-chill and JK Rowling, as well as books of almost every genre, maps, periodicals and fine bindings.

20–22, Chapel Place, Tunbridge Wells, Kent — 01892 547531; www.harringtonbooks.co.uk


The Department of Liberty Oriental Rugs

Ideal for fabulous floors

John Betjeman once joked that if the Russians dropped the bomb, he would head for Peter Jones’ haberdashery department, because nothing unpleasant could happen there.

With Putin’s finger hovering over the nuclear button, self-soothing in spades can be found on Liberty’s fourth floor – amid some 4,000 antique, hand-woven rugs. Buyer Bruce Lepere selects each rug and carpet himself. He traveled to the bazaars of Iran, the Hindu Kush and the Khyber Pass to find his rare pieces, which are less floor coverings than woven works of art.

Fourth Floor, Liberty, 202–208 Regent Street, London W1 — 020–8159 6551; www.libertyorientalcarpets.com


Grays Antique Market, London

Ideal for a unique engagement ring

Diamonds might be a girl’s best friend, but an Edwardian or Georgian gold and ruby ​​emerald ring sparkles just as brilliantly – not to mention the fact that you’re guaranteed to never see another like it.

Tucked away in a small alley off Bond Street is one of the world’s largest and most scintillating antique jewelery collections. Don’t be put off by the lack of price tags (it’s for safety reasons), there’s something for every budget here. Lots of militaria and other trinkets to keep future husbands busy.

58 Davies Street, London W1 — www.graysantiques.com

Grays Antiques Market, Moulton Street, Mayfair.


vintage hilson willow

Ideal for a perfect pinched waist

In a crowded market, Willow Hilson has one of the best eyes in the business. The window in her Cheltenham shop changes every week and it’s rare not to want to display every piece.

Whether you’re looking for a vintage Dior houndstooth, a 1940s Lilli Ann skirt suit or a flapper dress adorned with beads and sequins, Miss Hilson is your first stop.

36 Suffolk Parade, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire – 01242 269200; www.willowhilson.com


Prospect House Hospice Charity Shop

Great for finding bargains

It’s no secret that charity shops in wealthy areas make the happiest hunting grounds, but the path is clear to the British Red Cross in King’s Road, Chelsea and Oxfam on Westbourne Grove, W11 (the favorite of uber-stylist and thrifter Bay Garnett).

Instead, think laterally and head towards Marlborough in Wiltshire’s North Wessex Downs, home to some of the finest private homes and gardens in the country. The Prospect House Hospice shop at 130a High Street has produced ‘the most incredible things’, a regular divulges. “A Burberry raincoat, two antique quilts, several silver teapots and a long dark blue beaded dress that is so gorgeous it is always borrowed by friends for formal events.”

130a, High Street, Marlborough, Wiltshire – 01672 516956; www.prospect-hospice.net/retail/our-shops/


Replacement of parts

Ideal for replacing rare porcelain and glass

If the vicar has drunk too much Prosecco during the village Jubilee celebrations and has dropped one of your Wedgwood Blue Siam teacups, help is at hand. Jenny Brooks has been sourcing rare and discontinued china and glass (as well as crystal and flatware) for her customers for 20 years. If anyone has lost or broken a piece or two of their dinner service, hopefully Miss Brooks will have it on the shelves of her warehouse in Hertfordshire (she has over 300,000 items in stock) or will be able to obtain it, free of charge.

Classic Wedgwood, Spode and Worcester designs are the most in demand, although there is growing demand for retro 1970s Denby pieces, particularly Arabesque.

Parts Replacement, Broomshawbury Farm, Hatfield Broad Oak, Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire – 01371 398002; www.replacerpieces.com


Blackdog Antiques and Vintage

Ideal for furnishing a home

Lovejoy Country in Suffolk has been eclipsed by the Waveney Valley on the Norfolk border as the ancient feeder of eastern England. Beccles, Bungay and Har-leston have all become seductive repositories of good things.

However, Blackdog Antiques dominates the Market Square in Halesworth. Selling everything from English pine and mahogany furniture to perfectly weathered garden urns, textiles and taxidermy, “this is where I’d go if I’m furnishing a house,” says one inveterate shopper.

12 Market Square, Halesworth, Suffolk – 01986 948546; www.blackdogantiquesandvintage.co.uk

Blackdog Antiques, Suffolk.


The hunting shop

Ideal for stylish sports enthusiasts

Riders looking to emulate the classic Sir Alfred Munnings aesthetic are well catered for here, with vintage Bernard Weatherill ‘elephant ear’ breeches, top hats, coats and boots. It’s a repository of good things for those who appreciate tradition and the countryside, with a selection of antique flasks, vintage furs and men’s evening dresses.

16, The Woodlands, Coed Cae Lane, Ponty-clun, Mid Glamorgan, Wales — 01443 524090; www.thehuntingshop.co.uk


Interior Agapanthus

Ideal for eclectic antique lighting

Exquisite antique chandeliers, lanterns and sconces adorn this lovely boutique. Lighting is Agapanthus’ specialty, with a bespoke catering and design service also offered. But nothing is too much trouble for the friendly staff. Looking for a Belgian chest of drawers or a 6 foot Regency cherry wood sofa delivered to an address 200 miles away? No problem – the staff will be happy to drive it for you.

77 Wellington Street, Stockport, Cheshire — 0161-429 9710; www.agapanthusinteriors.com


Pigeon Post Gifts

Ideal for delighting bookish friends and family

From her nest in the Cotswolds, the Pigeon (also known as Amy Bethel) collects volumes of vintage penguins and puffins to curate thoughtful packages themed around her favorite books. Beautifully packaged and presented, they come with a handful of original period treats. The wind in the willows the set, for example, includes a vintage driver’s license and The Beetle Book of Motor Cars. The perfect gift for a deserving godson (or a gift from self).

Online only – www.pigeonpost.gifts


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