London Antique Markets
by Terry & Doris Michaud
As a result of conducting annual tours for collectors to Great Britain and based on our own collecting hobbies, we have discovered that Britain is a grand hunting ground for collectables of every type, from early antique items right on up to modern-day collectables.
High on our list of places to check out are the weekly antique street markets in and around London. There you can find literally everything, from choice early antiques to not-so-old Beanie Babies!
A word of caution - watch for fakes and reproductions, typically found anywhere antiques and collectibles are sold.
Probably the most popular of the street markets for tourists is the famous Portobello Road antiques market, located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
While a few of the shops are open during the week, the majority of activity takes place every Saturday with an estimated 1500 dealers filling the streets and buildings for several city blocks.
On the negative side, the market is very crowded and noted for pick-pockets, so guard your purses and wallets. On the bright side, many of the best antiques found in Britain eventually make their way to Portobello Road.
Do you collect dolls, toys, teddy bears and juvenalia? Some of Britain's finest dealers have stalls at this market. Antique jewelry, fine china, silver, you name it, it's here. Because the market appeals highly to travelers, antique furniture is not commonly found.
Hours: While some dealers are ready by 7 or 8 AM, primary activity begins around 8:30 or 9 and runs until 4 or 5 in the afternoon, although you will see some dealers packing by mid day.
How to get there: Taxis are a great way to get around London, and typically inexpensive. You can also reach the market by Underground on the tube, exiting at Notting Hill Gate and follow the crowds or signs.
A market that is less well known but equally fun to shop is Camden Passage, held every Wednesday and Saturday. Here also are dealers lining the narrow street and filling the adjacent buildings for a few blocks. It is not as large as Portobello Road market, but your chances of finding "a sleeper" are probably better at Camden Passage.
Their selection runs the gamut from Art Deco, Victorian treasures, watercolours and much, much more. Activity starts mainly after 8 AM and runs until 4, with some dealers packing up by mid day. Take the Underground Northern line to Angel station.
For this market, held every Friday, you have to get up early and be there when the dealers are unpacking before dawn! Known as the market where the dealers shop, it is at the corner of Long Lane and Bermondsey street, and a torch (flashlight) might be handy If you arrive early enough.
It's a fun market to shop and chances of finding a bargain are best here, but it is not easy to get to by underground. Take the tube to London Bridge station, and from there it is a fair walk to the market. At this hour of the morning you might be better served to take a tax!.
Other markets worth exploring include Camden Lock (Sundays), Covent Garden (Mondays), Alfies (daily, but primarily weekends) plus a host of others for those who have the time. Information is readily available at any tourist information centre or at your hotel.
Most hotels in London do not offer washcloths, so a package of handiwipes cut in half and discarded after use are a valuable item to carry. Take extra caution crossing streets, as the traffic is coming at you from the right, not. the left! Many a tourist has ended up in the casualty ward as a result of looking left and stepping into the path of a fast moving car. For more traveler's tips see the free booklet offer below.
Britain for Collectors is written by Terry & Doris Michaud, internationally known in the world of teddy bear collectors. They have authored 5 books on collecting and regularly write features for magazines in the U.S. and abroad. In a partnership with Bill & Rosemary Hayes they conduct annual collector's tours to Great Britain.