Interiors Journalist (and Vintage Shopping Addict), Ellie Tennant IACF VIntage Shopping Blogger

It was while I was at an antiques fair last year that I spotted them. Two. Together. Perfect. Slightly rusty. But not too rusty. Matching. Gorgeous.
‘FEUERHAND’ (firehand) proclaimed the engraved banners across their bases and, once I’d rubbed off some grime with my thumb, more lettering was revealed: ‘275 BABY’, ‘WESTERN GERMANY’.
I tried to act cool. Continue reading

April Fairs


Newark International Antiques & Collectors Fair
Largest Antiques Event in Europe

Thursday 3rd ~ Friday 4th April

Newark & Nottinghamshire Showground, Newark


Continue reading


Interiors Journalist (and Vintage Shopping Addict), Ellie Tennant IACF VIntage Shopping Blogger

This obsession is tied up with many others. My ‘Billy Can Thing’ is merely the tip of a rather large and ever-expanding iceberg of an obsession: The Wild. Continue reading

March Fairs


Swinderby Antiques & Collectors Fair
One Day Monday Fair

Monday 10th March

RAF Swinderby, Nr Lincoln

IACF Swinderby

Shepton Mallet Antique, Vintage & Collectors Fair
The West Country’s Premier Antiques Event

Friday 14th – Sunday 16th March

Royal Bath & West Showground, Shepton Mallet, Somerset

IACF Shepton Mallet Map

Newbury Antiques & Collectors Fair
One-Day Monday

Monday 24th March

Newbury Racecourse, Newbury, Berkshire


New Buyers

Mark HillAntiques & Collectables Expert ~ Author & Publisher Mark Hill

There he was, in a tent in a park at London’s top decorative antiques fair. Standing in funky trainers, Tom Ford glasses, designer jeans and a Prada jacket. A successful City banker friend of my boyfriend, trying to look at least ten years younger. A mid-life crisis and an attempt to stay relevant maybe? It doesn’t matter, it’s what’s in his wallet that the mercenary are interested in. And isn’t every dealer and fair organiser (rightly and fairly) looking for exactly this sort of buyer, who they may be able to turn into a regular client and even, dare I say it, a collector?

He’d just bought his first million-pound Continue reading

Stoneleigh Fair to Close

International Antiques & Collectors Fairs Ltd (IACF) will no longer host an event at Stoneleigh. Despite trialling the venue in various formats throughout 2013, the organisers have concluded that it does not lend itself sufficiently for the needs of an antiques fair.

“Logistically the site did not meet requirements for our events”, said Keith Harris, Director of IACF. “Parking in particular was a real issue, with buyers being unable to park nearby. We carefully researched the disappointing visitor figures received throughout the year, and decided that whilst the site did offer a reasonable amount of undercover space, there was no real capacity for the event to grow beyond a few hundred stallholders.”

IACF had been approached to trial the venue by the Stoneleigh management team, having hosted a fair there some years before in more buoyant times. “Unfortunately,” continued Keith, “it didn’t work before and it’s not worked again. We want to provide the very best events for our dealers and buyers – and to do that we need everything to be sound logistically – and for the pricing to be right”.

In addition to the limitations for expansion, a change of management team at the venue also brought a considerable increase in venue hire charges, which says Keith, would be prohibitive for delivering a cost effective event. “The new charges at Stoneleigh would have meant an increase in costs for our customers – in these already difficult times this is not something we are prepared to do.”

February Fairs


Newark International Antiques & Collectors Fair
Largest Antiques Event in Europe

Thursday 6th ~ Friday 7th February

Newark & Nottinghamshire Showground, Newark


Ardingly International Antiques & Collectors Fair
Largest Antiques Fair in the South of England

Tuesday 18th ~ Wednesday 19th February

South of England Showground, Ardingly

Ardingly Antiques Fair Map


Interiors Journalist (and Vintage Shopping Addict), Ellie Tennant IACF VIntage Shopping Blogger

January is traditionally the month when our thoughts turn to weight, but I’m much more interested in ogling antique Avery scales than dieting…

The firm W&T Avery (now called Avery Weigh-Tronix) has roots stretching back to 1731, but it was during the Industrial Revolution that brothers William and Thomas Avery became household names, manufacturing domestic weighing scales and industrial ones such as weighbridges in their Birmingham workshop. (If you’re ever in the area, there’s a museum at the firm’s HQ where you can explore the fascinating 6,000-year history of weighing.)

I admire the 19th Century Avery models with wooden bases and marble or ceramic slabs (which often get separated from their bases but make excellent little cheese boards, incidentally) – but it’s the 1950s metal designs that I love most. I like the green stripe and logo. I like the pink arrow that whizzes around the dial. I like the way I can’t understand the numbers at all – it’s all pre-metric pounds, ounces and ‘half new penny divisions’, whatever they are.

These chunky scales that were often used in grocers’ and butchers’ shops to weigh out food can often be found at antiques fairs and, a few years ago, I caved in and finally gave into temptation. I soon found out the hard way that they’re enormously heavy themselves…so heavy in fact, that I could only just pick them up.

After much lugging (and complaining), the bulky-but-beautiful Avery scales were installed on our kitchen sideboard, where they have stayed ever since – partly because nobody can physically move them.

As The Husband has helpfully pointed out on numerous occasions, yes: they’re essentially useless. I have smaller scales for baking and am a fan of the measuring cup system anyway (lazy, you see). Typically, the Avery scales get mentioned in any ‘discussion’ about ‘clutter’, in which we both agree that:

Yes, they gather dust.

Yes, they take up a massive amount of precious worktop space in what is, arguably, already a smallish kitchen.

Yes, they’ve triggered a number of other inexplicable and rather odd grocery-shop-related vintage purchases such as old Danish Bacon price labels (styling props? one day, perhaps…) and pretty-but-perfectly-pointless punnets.

Yes, they are bloody impossible to move.

‘But I like them,’ I always conclude, weakly.  ‘And, sometimes, the cat sits in the steel pan, so they do sort of have a use.’

The Husband just rolls his eyes, as if he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.

AVERY scales


Interiors Journalist (and Vintage Shopping Addict), Ellie Tennant IACF VIntage Shopping Blogger

Since the very first ones were sent in 1843 by Henry Cole (funnily enough, the same clever chap who had launched the Penny Post just three years earlier), Christmas cards have been spreading festive cheer every year. One of these early cards fetched over £22,000 at auction in 2001, but the numbers of new cards bought each year are dwindling now, thanks to free, eco-friendly, super-speedy – and rather impersonal – emails.

It’s old fashioned and appallingly expensive, but I still send cards every year, so I’m always on the lookout for inspiring vintage ephemera to recycle into a ‘new’ design. This year, I used the cover of some old Christmas carol sheet music I found at an antiques fair. Last year, it was a carefully typed 1949 recipe for Christmas cake, found tucked inside an old cookery book.

The first Christmas cards were pricey, but by the late Victorian period, they were much more affordable and it’s cards from this era that I’m fascinated by.

Forget the overtly festive ones with robins, holly and charitable gestures – it’s the ornate hand-painted flora and fauna ones I love; all swooping swallows, rustling reeds and colourful butterflies – not images we’d usually associate with Christmas now at all.

At a recent Christmas event held at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, I spent hours admiring a beautiful Victorian leather-bound ‘album’ – put together by a lady of leisure, no doubt – which was filled with beautiful Victorian Christmas cards, all meticulously collected, preserved and treasured.

Of course, there’s no substitution for leafing through an old album like this – or rummaging through a box of old greeting cards at an antiques fair, reading the personal messages, marveling at the spidery handwriting, noticing a thumb print, the smudge of a tear, a kiss – but the same technology that’s behind the sad demise of the Christmas card also lets us access more ephemera than we could ever dream of, without even leaving the house.

The Telegraph has a beautiful online gallery of weird and wonderful Victorian Christmas cards, which features everything from a clown stealing sausages to musical insects and an anthropomorphic bottle of port, while craft company Joanna Sheen peddles CDs of high resolution Victorian Christmas card images for you to get creative with.

Inspired? The BBC has a handy downloadable craft kit for making your own Victorian-style cards. (Please note: there is a lot of pain-staking intricate pin-hole-pricking involved, so this is a good one to give to the kids over the Christmas holidays when you want to keep them busy for a very long time…)

My New Year’s resolution is to visit the Victorian Ephemera collection at Manchester Metropolitan University, which includes the Page Collection (with around 300 original albums mainly compiled by Victorian and Edwardian ladies and filled with original watercolour paintings, verse and prose, prints, cuttings, and Christmas cards) and the Laura Seddon Collection (which contains about 32,000 Victorian and Edwardian cards by major publishers of the day such as Marcus Ward and Raphael Tuck).

Christmas card Victorian

Is Antiques the wrong word?

Mark HillAntiques & Collectables Expert ~ Author & Publisher Mark Hill

Antiques. I can’t afford them and I don’t understand them.

Much has been made recently about the difficult state of the antiques market. In an increasingly fast-paced world led by interiors magazines and the pure, hard drive of commerce from high street and retail park retailers, some say antiques have fallen by the wayside. Even more so as these retailers build their offerings of new versions of the objects we love, buy and sell.

For many, the very word ‘antiques’ conjures up images of polishing heavy brown furniture, tweed covered gentlefolk from the shires, and the tick tock of a grandfather clock in an otherwise silent antiques shop ruled by a rather grumpy looking dealer engrossed a newspaper. All once appealing, but now not so to much of the public. Then there’s granny’s china cabinet, bursting at the hinges with trinkets and bibelots. “Look, but don’t touch anything!” she cries as she serves a cup of tea in her precious tea service. “It’s very old you know, it used to belong to my granny, so be careful!” She says with a certain smile.

And then there’s the price. “Surely I can’t afford ‘real antiques’, the stuff of stately homes and grand antiques fairs or Bond street shops? And, if I do go in and try to buy, because I actually quite like them, what if I make a mistake or say something out of turn? Why do people turn a vase over to look at the bottom, or take a drawer out to look at the back, before nodding sagely? I don’t want to look or sound like a fool! Antiques, they’re not for me, surely?”

But as it’s plain to see if you attend any well-run fair, centre or shop, there are plenty of visitors, and plenty of them are keen and willing to buy – especially if the dealer gives them the right encouragement, information and attention. Despite the doom mongers, many people are still buying our lovely old stuff.

Interiors magazines have gone cold turkey on their addiction to 100% pure mid-century modern and the clean lines of minimalism. Instead our addictions to keeping ‘on trend’ are fed with images that clearly show a mix of objects both old and new. The curves of a Rococo sideboard are echoed in the neoclassical urn that sits upon it and in the colour saturated shapes of the Terry Frost painting that hangs above them. They shouldn’t work together, but they do. And all are displayed against a simple, easy-on-the-eye painted wall that encourages you to tuck in to the visual feast presented in front of you.

Others readily mix Art Deco furniture with chintzy Edwardian tea sets, a mid-century modern lamp and wire magazine rack, granny’s favourite comfy armchair and that quirky vase found in a French flea market for a song on holiday last Summer. Whilst wearing something from the 1950s to serve the tea and cupcakes. That vignette comes under the banner of ‘vintage’, which some argue has saved our beloved industry. Mix and match is back stronger than ever, and it’s all about expressing individuality, yourself and your loves and life experiences through the objects in your home.

‘Vintage’ has meant that many of the antiques we love and buy and sell have found a practical second life – most of these buyers actually use the objects they have amassed, as well as displaying them. And these objects really bloom and blossom when there’s a story behind each piece, which their proud owners delight in revealing.

But some in the trade have a problem with the ‘vintage’ movement, even though it’s almost certainly here to stay. It’s true that many pieces are under a certain level of price and quality, and it can be true that there’s often a lack of what used to be grandly titled ‘connoisseurship’. Condition also counts, and here it’s often the shabbier the chic-er. But we should be grateful for and celebrate the facts that buyers choose our objects over new ones, and that new generations are even interested in what we love and have to sell. It’s typically eye-appeal combined with Jackanory over expertise, and the ‘decorative’ angle increasingly seems to be the way the market is going, particularly if you wish to attract new generations of buyers.

But the people who buy these pieces don’t call them ‘antiques’. That word appears to be almost too loaded with unappealing connotations for them. Certain fair organisers keen to attract this vibrant market have realized this and are toying with new titles for their fairs to do so. When I worked with Judith Miller and DK we struggled with the title ‘Decorative Arts’ for a book about the subject as it seemed somehow too elitist and off-putting. I think we’re all in agreement that the dreadful term ‘brown furniture’ needs a marketing makeover to develop the nascent return to popularity of the stuff, but do we need to extend that makeover to the word antiques too? Or is ‘vintage’ it?