The history of London’s Antique markets 

by | Jul 31, 2023 | London | 0 comments

London has always been a place for trade, where valuables could find their best price. In Victorian times, a passion for nostalgia and collectibles gripped the wealthy, expanding the antiques trade in the city.  With the colonial expansion, London became a trading ground for the treasures of the Commonwealth.  In keeping with the original mode of trade, markets have long been the place to find good antiques and collectibles and to partake in the dying art of bartering or bargain hunting.  While many auction houses have moved online, and international bidders can opt-in from overseas, some still prefer the original form of trade and head to the markets to browse and treasure hunt. The beauty of London’s antique markets is that they themselves represent a heritage of a bye-gone era. Often located in places of history themselves, it is possible to turn back time in historical London, while taking in the curios and crafts of the past. 

Top five London Antique markets 

Here are five London antique markets that are rich in atmosphere as well as opportunities for striking gold.  Situated in historical markets or shops they are destinations in themselves if you are visiting the city or are looking for a break from routine. Another to bear in mind is Bermondsey Market located close to Tower Bridge, from Friday, early morning until 2pm. 

Portobello Market 

Originally an unremarkable food market, after the 1940’s the area became a place for ‘rag and bone men’ to repurpose their wares, and soon other antique traders gathered around.  The perennial appeal for a bargain and lost treasures of antiquity drew crowds over time until Portobello became a renowned antiques market to visit on a Saturday.  Set in the cultural crucible of Notting Hill Gate, the bohemian atmosphere of the 60s and 70s gathered in even more shops and traders importing goods from the mystic East.  Combining a food market, boutique shops, and retro fashion emporiums, there are plenty of layers of time to explore in this iconic London market.  For antiques, head there early on a Saturday, but there are options throughout the week, all found here on the market website. 

Camden Passage Islington 

True to name, originally a quiet path between the villages of Islington and Camden, this old route was a simple thoroughfare. As both these small villages grew in the 18th and 19th centuries, Camden Passage became an important route and attracted residents and businesses. Both the advent of Angel Underground station and the cattle market on Chapel Market swelled economic interest in the area.  In the years after the second world war artists and creatives flocked to Islington and the passage became a place for antique dealers to sell from.  Decades passed and by the 70s Camden Passage was a clear destination for anyone interested in antiques, nostalgia and anything vintage.  Set in the picaresque Georgian and Victorian Passage, there is a sense of travelling back through time, which sets the tone for treasure hunting. In addition, these days there is a host of boutiques, coffee shops, and independent traders which keep an upbeat tone in this pedestrian-only zone. Wednesdays and Saturdays are when the traders come with their antiques and jewelry, and with them, the collectors and shoppers.  Check out the website for a preview of some of the dealers and their wares.  From Hearts and Daggers militia to vintage porcelain, and antique silver. Everything for the magpie’s roving eye. 

Greenwich Market 

On the historical map of London, Greenwich sparkles with interest. The Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site is known for keeping  time with the meridian Line at the Royal Observatory.  All in close walking distance are the Observatory, Greenwich Park, Greenwich University, and the National Maritime Museum, including the Cutty Sark.  Thameside Greenwich is beautiful, with great views from the park giving access to antiquated England amidst modern day life.  With a popular antiques market on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, there are also plenty of antique shops firmly anchored in the streets. Check the website for the different market dealers and information on the arts and crafts markets.  Plus, you can turn it into a day trip by travelling along the Thames, City Cruises, Thames River Sightseeing, or Uber Boat can all provide scenic transport via the river. 

Alfie’s Antique Market Lisson Grove 

If you are looking for the quintessential antique emporium spread over 4 floors, then Alfie’s in Lisson Grove is the answer.  With over 100 different dealers this is the Aladdin’s Cave of London, situated in an old department store.  A grove of opportunity for interior designers, stylists, and serious collectors, this is a perfect hunting ground.  Retro collectibles, textiles, ceramics, glass, silverware, and jewelry are all arrayed in this historic building, where you can find inspiration and investment alike. To view Alfie’s dealers, visit their site.  Also of note is their sister store, Grays antiques in Mayfair which specializes in stunning jewelry and their remarkable collections of Georgian, Edwardian, Victorian, and Art Deco pieces. 

Spitalfields Antique Market 

Since 1682 Spitalfields has been a market spot attracting immigrants to gather and trade in the vicinity. From the Huguenots to Bangladeshi’s this melting pot of diasporas has been a mecca for different immigrant communities in London. The Thursday Antique market has become a haven for treasure hunters, and the community of specialists and dealers that bring their vintage boons to market every week. With over 80 stalls, it draws all the retro lovers out of the city woodwork and is a great day out, full of London characters.  From art to homewares, jewelry, fashion, and furniture, it is a great place to hunt for endangered rare breeds.  

Anthony Ward Thomas – Fine art and antiques removals in London 

As any collector will know, preserving the condition of your antiques and art is paramount to safeguarding your investment. When it comes to moving house, or hanging an art exhibition, at Anthony Ward Thomas, we approach both with the same specialized care. Over the years we have developed a dedicated fine art logistics team that can handle installing an art exhibition or transporting sculptures, grand pianos, and French 18th-century clocks. From artists, private collectors, galleries, and auction houses we have built a loyal client base for going that extra mile in bespoke handling and care.  We extend this specialist service to our international customers and can help our customers move overseas if required, handling any difficulties with import and export that may arise.  If you are moving into a new home, our team can provide their dedicated picture hanging service which is popular with interior designers. Plus, if you need to send a valuable piece of art or an antique, our team are well versed with the best way to arrange transportation and shipping. We cover moves around London of all sizes, and work with small businesses that may just require the expediency of our Small Moves team.  Our team are available to discuss any removal and storage question with you, and you can consult our reviews for a golden recommendation!  For expert removals and storage in London, Anthony Ward Thomas is the traditional and informed choice.