London is probably the best place on the planet for collectors of antiques and art. How come? A busy trading centre before the Romans got here, it has been stuffed full of coveted rarities for over a thousand years. Then it became the hub of a vast empire – and the British, like magpies, grabbed everything that glistered.
When the East India Company, overran India in the 18th Century it was as a private commercial enterprise that was primarily interested in securing trade and loot. During the Opium Wars (again fought for trade, this time over narcotics) the British stripped and sacked the Chinese Emperor’s Summer Palace, shipping tons of valuables home. Even countries like Greece and Egypt, that were never in the empire, had their heritage hoovered up – the Elgin Marbles are still in the British Museum, despite the fact Athens wants them back.
London is still awash with imperial swag that regularly finds itself onto the open market. Plus back then, with half the world as a captive market, Britain was known as “the workshop of the world” – so it produced prodigious quantities of high quality “stuff” of its own accord. The trick is knowing where it is most likely to surface when the family hits hard times.
Leaving aside the world famous salerooms of Sotheby’s and Christies, and some of the better known dealers (I’ll cover them in another post) these are my recommended collectors hotspots and my top picks for art and antiques fairs. Most are located in an area well served by our five star hotel in Kensington The Milestone, of course, and our other five star hotel in Knightsbridge The Egerton House Hotel.
- Portobello Road. The world’s largest antique market. Nearest tube Notting Hill Gate. Saturday is main trading day with about 1500 dealers, but some shops open during week. The setting for the film “Notting Hill”.
- Bermondsey Market, every Friday. Nearest tube London Bridge. Tip – get up early, bring flashlight, and be there when the dealers are unpacking before dawn! It’s where dealers shop.
- Alfie’s Antiques Market, nearest tube Marleybone Station. Tuesday to Saturday 10am-6pm. 70+ dealers, great for 20th century collectables and vintage fashion.
- Grays, right next to Bond Street tube station. Over 200 dealers. The famous River Tyburn runs through the building! Mon-Fri 10am-6pm Saturday 11am-5pm.
- Camden Passage, Nearest tube station, Angel. World famous for enormous range of shops, arcades, malls, and markets. Main days Wednesdays and Saturdays but many shops open weekdays.
- London Silver Vaults, nearest tube Chancery Lane. World’s largest retail collection of fine antique silver. Mon to Fri 9am-5.30pm and Sat 9am-1pm.
- London International Fine Art Fair Olympia, June 4th -13th . The largest such fair in London, offering an unparalleled variety of world class art and antiques for sale.
If you fancy enjoying a night in London and a visit to this fair, our Art and Antiques packages including tickets and a host of other extras is ideal.
- Masterpiece London Antiques Fair, in former Chelsea Barracks June 24th- 29th. Fine art and antiques with contemporary works, jewellery, wine and cars.
Best advice. If you are interested in finding a particular type of item, whether it’s a Meissen plate or medieval sword, an 18th century watercolour or a first edition of Robinson Crusoe, talk to myself, or any of the concierge teams at any of our London hotels.