10 of the best second-hand shops in Britain

Britain boasts a cornucopia of second-hand shops. Flora Watkins rounds up 10 of the best.

Adrian Harrington Rare Books

Best for  first editions

Hurrah for Adrian Harrington! An analogue bookseller in a digital world (not that he doesn’t have a website; it’s as elegant as his shop in the heart of Tunbridge Wells, Kent). Readers who are outraged by the thought of browsing www.abebooks.co.uk head to Mr Harrington’s bricks-and-mortar store for the heady hit that only opening a signed vintage copy of Casino Royale can provide.

Indeed, recent acquisitions include a large and ‘extremely important collection’ of Ian Fleming material. You’ll also find works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Winston Chur-chill and J. K. Rowling, alongside books from just about every genre, maps, periodicals and fine bindings.

20–22, Chapel Place, Tunbridge Wells, Kent — 01892 547531; www.harringtonbooks.co.uk

The Liberty Oriental Carpet Department

Best for fabulous floors

Recommended videos for you

John Betjeman once quipped that, if the Russians dropped the bomb, he’d head to the haberdashery department at Peter Jones, because nothing unpleasant could conceivably happen there.

With Putin’s finger hovering over the nuclear button, self-soothing in spades can be found on the fourth floor at Liberty — amid some 4,000 antique and hand-woven rugs. Buyer Bruce Lepere hand-picks every rug and carpet himself. He’s travelled to the bazaars of Iran, the Hindu Kush and the Khyber Pass to source his rare pieces, which are not so much floor coverings as woven works of art.

Fourth floor, Liberty, 202–208, Regent Street, London W1 — 020–8159 6551; www.libertyorientalcarpets.com

Grays Antique Market, London

Best for a unique engagement ring

Diamonds might be a girl’s best friend, but an Edwardian emerald or Georgian gold and ruby ring sparkles equally as brightly — not to mention the fact you’re guaranteed never to see another one like it.

Tucked away in a little mews off Bond Street is one of the world’s largest and most glittering collections of antique jewellery. Don’t be put off by the lack of price tags (it’s for security reasons), there is something for every budget here. Plenty of militaria and other curios to keep husbands-to-be occupied.

58, Davies Street, London W1 — www.graysantiques.com

Grays Antique Market,Moulton Street, Mayfair.

Willow Hilson Vintage

Best for the perfect nipped-in waist

In a crowded marketplace, Willow Hilson has one of the best eyes in the business. The window of her Cheltenham boutique changes weekly and it’s a rare occurrence not to want every single piece on display.

Whether seeking vintage dogtooth Dior,  a killer Lilli Ann skirt suit from the 1940s or a beaded, sequined flapper dress, Miss Hilson is your first port of call.

36, Suffolk Parade, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire — 01242 269200; www.willowhilson.com

Prospect House Hospice charity shop

Best for finding brilliant bargains

It’s no secret that charity shops in affluent areas make the happiest hunting grounds, but the path is well trodden to The British Red Cross in the King’s Road, Chelsea and Oxfam on Westbourne Grove, W11 (the favourite of uber-stylist and thrifter Bay Garnett).

Instead, think laterally and head for Marlborough in the rolling North Wessex Downs of Wiltshire, home to some of the loveliest private houses and gardens in the country. The Prospect House Hospice shop at 130a, High Street has yielded ‘the most incredible things’, one regular divulges.  ‘A Burberry raincoat, two antique quilts, several silver teapots and a long, dark-blue beaded dress that’s so gorgeous, it’s always being borrowed by friends for formal events.’

130a, High Street, Marlborough, Wiltshire — 01672 516956; www.prospect-hospice.net/retail/our-shops/

Replacing Pieces

Best for replacing rare china  and glass

If the vicar had too much Prosecco at the village jubilee celebrations and dropped one of your Wedgwood Blue Siam teacups, help is at hand. Jenny Brooks has been sourcing rare and discontinued china and glass (plus crystal and cutlery) for her clients for 20 years. If someone has lost or broken a piece or two of their dinner set, with any luck, Miss Brooks will have it sitting on the shelves  of her warehouse in Hertfordshire (she has more than 300,000 items in stock) or can source it, free of charge.

Classic Wedgwood, Spode and Worcester designs are the most requested, although there’s increasing demand for retro Denby pieces from the 1970s, particularly Arabesque.

Replacing Pieces, Broomshawbury Farm, Hatfield Broad Oak, Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire — 01371 398002; www.replacingpieces.com

Blackdog Antiques and Vintage

Best for furnishing a house

Lovejoy country in Suffolk has been eclipsed by the Waveney Valley, on the border with Norfolk, as the antiques mothership of the east of England. Beccles, Bungay and Har-leston have all become beguiling repositories of good things.

However, dominating the Market Place in Halesworth is Blackdog Antiques. Selling everything from English pine and mahogany furniture to perfectly weathered garden urns, textiles and taxidermy, ‘it’s where I’d head if I were furnishing a house,’ says one inveterate customer.

12, Market Place, Halesworth, Suffolk — 01986 948546; www.blackdogantiquesandvintage.co.uk  

Blackdog Antiques, Suffolk.

The Hunting Shop

Best for the stylish sporting  enthusiast

Riders looking to emulate the classic aesthetic of Sir Alfred Munnings are well catered for here, with vintage Bernard Weatherill ‘elephants’ ear’ breeches, top hats, coats and boots. It’s a repository of good things for those who prize tradition and the countryside, with a selection of antique hip flasks, vintage furs and gentlemen’s evening dress.

16, The Woodlands, Coed Cae Lane, Ponty-clun, Mid Glamorgan, Wales — 01443 524090; www.thehuntingshop.co.uk

Agapanthus Interiors

Best for eclectic antique lighting

Exquisite antique chandeliers, lanterns and sconces adorn this pretty shop. Lighting  is the Agapanthus speciality, with restoration and a bespoke design service also on offer. But nothing is too much trouble for the amenable staff. Are you looking for a Belgian dresser or a 6ft Regency cherrywood sofa delivered to an address 200 miles away? No problem — the staff will happily drive  it down for you.

77, Wellington St, Stockport, Cheshire — 0161–429 9710; www.agapanthusinteriors.com

Pigeon Post Gifts

Best for delighting bookish friends and family

From her nest in the Cotswolds, the Pigeon (also known as Amy Bethel) collects volumes of vintage Penguins and Puffins to curate thoughtful packages themed around favourite books. Beautifully wrapped and presented, they come with a handful of quirky period treats. The Wind in the Willows set, for example, includes a vintage driving licence and The Ladybird Book of Motor Cars. The perfect present for a deserving godchild (or a spot of self-gifting).

Online only — www.pigeonpost.gifts