On the antiques trail
We journey to Bath to seek out its wealth of antiques shops
The unique city of Bath, set in rolling Somerset countryside in the south-west of England, is a popular destination with weekend visitors. Historically, the town was regarded as a pivotal antiques hub outside of London, but the effects of 9/11, with fewer Americans travelling to the UK to buy antiques, and the changing face of the high street have all had an impact on the number of specialist dealers in the city. Today, those that survive have to work harder and diversify to combat the impact of increased online trade and a decline in collectors.
history in brief
Founded in the 1st century AD by the Romans, who transformed the natural hot springs into a thermal spa, the Temple of Sulis Minerva and the baths complex remain at the heart of the city’s development and are counted among some of the most important Roman remains. During the Middle Ages the city became a centre for the wool industry, but in the 18th century it developed into an elegant spa town. The Georgian honeycoloured architecture reflects the work of John Wood Senior, Ralph Allen and Richard ‘Beau’ Nash, whose combined influence shaped Bath into one of the most stunning European cities.
antiques dealers insider’s guide
Here we list a few of the local dealers where you will find everything from 18th-, 19thand 20th-century furniture to silver, textiles, books, quirky European finds and lighting.
Home to a plethora of beautiful silver objects, this attractive Georgian store is run by antique silver specialist Duncan Campbell – a BBC Antiques Roadshow expert with over 30 years’ experience – and Ronald Pringle, a decorative antiques specialist. ‘The buyers of small silver collectibles have nearly all gone away: today it is all about functionality and aesthetics. Pieces are displayed among 20th century, mid-century modern furniture and decorative accessories to create a lifestyle feel, and are sold for everyday use and enjoyment, rather than investment,’ says Duncan. Favourite recent find? ‘A silver copy of a Burmese monk’s begging bowl, made in 1890. The detail was exquisite and like nothing I have ever seen before. Sadly, the skill in India for making such pieces does not exist anymore and you would not be able to find this again for love nor money.’ Why Bath? ‘It feels like you are on holiday 365 days a year. We are located in the heart of the stunning city, yet it is only a 10-minute walk to find beautiful open countryside.’ beaunashbath.com
antique textiles and lighting
Owned by Joanna Proops, who has been dealing in antique textiles for over 50 years, the museum-like shop is bursting with an enormous variety of stock and is famous with interior designers, worldwide collectors and those who share a love for antique textiles and lighting. ➤
Find exquisite collections of 18th- and 19th-century textiles: linens, silks and brocades. This is a shop driven by pure passion and a wealth of knowledge. Favourite recent find? ‘I fell in love with a very special piece of tapestry, handmade in the early 20th century at The Royal School of Needlework. It was a rare find, depicting the tree of life and hundreds of sample stitches.’ antiquesofbath.com
the Fig store
Owned and run by Madeleine Loker, this lifestyle store sells decorative antique furniture and home accessories with a focus on a pared-back, modern rustic style. Find time-worn English painted linen presses, armoires, sideboards and French dining tables alongside carved wooden panels from India, handmade flax combs and large dough bowls. The pretty courtyard garden café is also home to an interesting array of antique garden furniture, planters and beautiful plants.
Favourite recent find? ‘An amazing panelled haberdashery counter from Eastern Europe. The original paint and patina were very special.’
Why Bath? ‘I love the wealth of independent stores and dealers off the beaten track – they make the city what it is.’
Bath old Books
A specialist bookshop located in the heart of the city and renowned for collections on architecture, art, literature, travel and children’s books. Established nearly 30 years ago, the two-storey shop, crammed full of antique tomes, is run by five dealers co-operatively, who provide a friendly, informed, service that includes book finding and valuations.
Favourite recent find? ‘A copy of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, which had a piece of shrapnel embedded in it, from a Zeppelin attack on London during World War I.’
Find mid-century and vintage furniture, restored vintage lighting and modern artworks in this shop that was established in 2014 at the east end of Bath’s artisan corner. Owners Paul and Kirstie Jackson source the likes of classic Danish sideboards,
Vico Magistretti Artemide chairs, Eames finds, displayed alongside contemporary art by Paul.
There is also a tiny holiday let at the back of the shop that mirrors the couple’s aesthetic. Favourite recent find? ‘A beautiful Danish tambour corner cocktail cabinet, with black mirrored interior. It was very groovy!’ penciltree.co.uk
old Bank antiques Centre
An antiques centre with five established dealers, supplying antiques and decorative items to the public and high-profile dealers. Find English, rustic Spanish and continental country furniture, and 20th-century pieces along with ceramics, glass, textiles, gardenalia and decorative objects.
Favourite recent find? ‘A Spanish 1950s, 7ft wooden carving of a religious figure wearing gold hot pants. It went off to London in a convertible sports car!’ oldbankantiquescentre.com
the antique MAP shop
Trading for over 32 years, Dave Gardner specialises in antique maps, town plans, sea-charts and other engravings from the 16th to early 20th century, with many original works.
Favourite recent find? ‘A stunning copperplate engraved map of England and Wales by Ortelius/saxton, which was printed circa 1603 on handmade paper, with fine hand colouring and watermark.’ dg-maps.com