London offers many antique buying opportunities. Whether you are trying to find a gift, a piece of furniture, work of art for your home, or whether you are trying to enhance your collection, this city caters for all buyers and at every price level.
Shopping for antiques can be a highly enjoyable hobby whether you plan to make a purchase or are there just to browse. You never know when something exciting will catch your eye. I’ve put together this guide for the benefit of first time antique hunters and people who do not know their way around London, or wish to discover it in more detail. I’ve also included some places here and there where you might stop and rest to enjoy the culinary and cultural things London has to offer.
Straddling the boarders of Chelsea, Belgravia and Pimlico, this street is my stomping ground. It has been associated with fine art and antiques since the 1960s and is synonymous with the antiques trade. It is now regarded as London’s ‘design centre’ and the businesses here, all trading from charming 19th century gallery spaces, stock pieces of tremendous quality and individuality. It is of course the home of my own antiques gallery, Timothy Langston Fine Art & Antiques, where we stock seating, furniture, tables, mirrors, cabinet furniture, vases, objects of art and fine oil paintings. Within our small, red fronted shop, the scope and variety of items available will provide an excellent starting point for your antiques search without overwhelming you. The following are also worth visiting if you are looking for decorative and traditional furniture: Rose Uniacke, Anthony Outred, Hilary Batstone, Patrick Jefferson, Ossowski, Gordon Watson, Gallery 25, Ebury Trading and Tarquin Bilgen.
The street has a tremendous energy and a short stroll from Sloane Square will take you to this charming neighbourhood. While taking in the antique shops, why not pop into Tinello’s for lunch – one of London’s best Italian restaurants. For afternoon visitors, tea at Daylesford Organic provides sustenance for your shopping adventure. For the evening visitor, don’t forget to look at La Poule au Pot – London’s most romantic restaurant.
Don’t miss the Saturday farmer’s market which takes place on Orange Square just under the gaze of the statue of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, our most famous resident!
Whilst in SW1, walk to Morton Street – 10 minutes away (or 3 minutes in a taxi) – a secret antiques enclave with dealers specialising in early furniture, textiles and folk art. Visit Kate Thurlow, Peta Smyth and Martin Murray.
Portobello Road Market, W11
For those who wish to travel a bit further afield, Portobello Road is the most famous antiques market in the world. Only open on Saturdays , here you will find street traders and stall holders, a myriad of antique objects, paintings, and jewellery from a labyrinth of bustling arcades.
Portobello Road is a short walk from Notting Hill Gate and I would recommend that visitors come on foot or use public transport as parking is difficult. The street market extends all the way up to the Westway and beyond the initial antiques hub you will find traders selling vintage clothes, modern fashion and ethnic foods.
It is worth remembering that Portobello is covered by the entire London antiques trade which means there are some remarkable discoveries to be made. Of particular note is The Admiral Vernon Arcade where you can buy anything from Chinese ceramics to English folk art and vintage photography.
The Lillie Road, W6
Another decorative source, The Lillie Road, is an extension to Old Brompton Road and runs through North Fulham into Hammersmith. The antiques dealers here sell affordable furnishings with an emphasis upon French, Scandinavian and Modern design. For the French inspired look, a visit to M.Charpentier is a must. For Modern Design, go to Quindry and 52 Meters. If you’re coming by car, there is ample parking.
Kings Road and Core One, SW6
A short distance from The Lillie Road, the antiques tourist should stop at the Kings Road. This stretch of one of London’s most famous streets is located in East Fulham and is home to dealers such as Guinevere and Julia Boston. Both dealers stock an exciting mix of fine and decorative furniture, lighting and stylish accessories. For antique chandeliers, go to Mora and Upham – an Aladdin’s cave of ormolu and rock crystal.
Core One is located just off the Kings Road behind the Chelsea Gas Works. It is home to some big names in the London furniture trade including James Graham Stewart, Glaisher + Nash, and Blanchard. For decorative furniture, vintage objects and antique gifts there is Woodnutt Antiques.
Core One is a particular favourite with the London and international interior decorating industry.
For refreshments, go to Megan’s and try their wonderful selection of quiches.
Kensington Church Street, W8
For those who are interested in Oriental art, a great place to venture after The Pimlico Road is Kensington Church Street. It is especially associated with dealers in Oriental ceramics and works of art. For Chinese pieces, visit Marchant Antiques, established in 1925 – a family firm dealing in the finest Chinese market porcelain. For Japanese screens, I would recommend a trip to Greg Baker, whose minimalist gallery is a beautiful and calming setting where you can view important Oriental works of art on paper.
The area is also home to a number of traditional English furniture dealers including Patrick Sandberg, Eddy Bardawil, Rolleston, Raymond Horneman, Reindeer Antiques. For horologists, visit Howard Walwyn and Raffertys where you can find early timepieces by great names such as Thomas Tompion. For the grand 19th century home, a final stop must be made at Butchoff Antiques, where you can embrace the belle époque.
The Fulham Road, SW3
A 20 minute walk from The Pimlico Road where Old Church Street dicects The Fulham Road, you will find some of London’s grandest English furniture dealers. These include Apter Fredericks, founded in 1946. This family firm is one of London’s most prestigious dealerships and stocks only the finest 18th and early 19th century English furniture. 100 yards down the road, you should visit Godson and Coles, who also specialise in museum quality English furniture. Both businesses stock masterpieces by cabinet makers such as the famous Thomas Chippendale.
You might like to have lunch at Riccardo’s, the famous Italian restaurant. I recommend the black ink squid! After lunch why not walk around the corner to the Victoria and Albert Museum for additional inspiration.
Mayfair, W1 and St James’s, SW1
Mayfair and St James’s are host to some of London’s great names in fine art and antiques dealing. If you are looking to acquire an old master painting or an impressionist oil you should visit Richard Green whose galleries in New Bond Street contain the most important pictures available outside the auction world. Just around the corner in Bruton Street, collectors of rare and important English furniture must call in at Ronald Phillips where you can buy – or at least look at – museum-quality pieces by the most significant cabinet makers.
Depending upon your budget, you might take lunch at Gordon Ramsay in Claridges or if you fancy something more traditional, try an award-winning steak and kidney pie at The Guinea Grill in Bruton Place. After lunch, stroll up Brook Street to Colefax & Fowler for decorative antiques set in one of Mayfair’s most charming town houses.
A good place to find a special gift is Gray’s Antiques Market in Davies Street, W1 . This emporium is home to dozens of specialist dealers stocking fine antiques, vintage fashion, jewellery, toys and more.. This approachable centre is guaranteed to impress any antiques enthusiast and has always provided dealers with a wealth of opportunities.
Dover Street is increasingly synonymous with the antiques trade: important English and Continental furniture dealers Mallett’s moved here in 2012 and now occupy the extraordinary Ely House which was home to the Bishop of Lincoln when it was built in the 1770s. A tour of this grand London palace will appeal to any architectural historian and the treasures it houses are exemplary. If you like historical portraiture, visit Philip Mould, whose gallery is 50 yards up the street.
Whilst in Central London, the network of old Georgian streets around St James’s remains home to a number of important specialist dealers. For English furniture visit Mackinnon Fine Art. Other specialists include Sims Reed Gallery for 20th century prints and antiquarian books. Arnold Wiggins have been dealing in fine antique frames since the early years of the 20th century and will supply you with the perfect frame to house your Monet or Van Dyck. Their neighbours John Carlton-Smith deal in fine antique clocks and are a well established name.
If you find yourself in Jermyn Street, look up Harris Lindsay. This is one of a number of well established dealerships that is hidden behind closed doors. St James’s is full of them, but don’t be put off by the doorbell.
When you have finished your tour of St James’s, don’t forget that Fortnum and Masons does a wonderful afternoon tea.
Alfie’s Market and Church Street, NW8
Just north of the Marylebone Road lies one of the London antique trade’s hidden secrets: Church Street. This quirky street is set within a network or Georgian terraces and is home to Alfie’s Antiques Market – a popular destination for antique dealers and bargain hunters. Here you will find everything – from vintage jewellery and fashion through to mid century design. Whilst in the street do visit all the independent antique shops such as James Worrall, Magus Antiques and Patricia Harvey. This street is very much tailored towards the decorative eye and the shops all offer buyers tremendous furnishing opportunities.
For lunch, why not try a very English experience! Seashell of Lisson Grove does a splendid fish and chips.
London Silver Vaults, WC2
Located on Chancery Lane in London’s legal district, collectors of silverware must visit the London Silver Vaults. Built in 1876, the vaults were originally designed to house valuable property belonging to the rich and famous. Since the Second World War, silver dealers have traded from this underground treasure trove. There is something for every buyer from antique silver cufflinks, picture frames and cutlery through to lavish urns and candelabra.
When visiting, do take a moment to walk though the grounds of Lincoln’s Inn – the most picturesque Inn of Court with its 17th century chambers and well manicured garden stairs and for Georgian enthusiasts I would recommend visiting the Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields where you will experience the classical world through one of the most fascinating and original collections in London.
… and finally.
I do hope you will enjoy some of these highlights. Should you find yourself on The Pimlico Road, do pop in as I would love to hear about your antique buying adventures and discoveries in London.