Britain lures antiquers in 2008

BRITAIN – Stately homes, castles, village halls, exhibition centers and agricultural show grounds are just a few venues that will host many British antiques fairs throughout 2008. From small one-day events that are havens for the local trade, to the more prestigious events that last several days, along with weekly markets, prospective antiques hunters can build an itinerary that easily lasts a week or more.

For example, those staying in London and prepared to start early in the day for the best bargains, the infamous Portobello Road Market opens at about 5:30 a.m. every Saturday. Camden Passage is also open on Saturday and Wednesday, while there are about 100 dealers in Spitalfields Market every Thursday from 8 a.m. There is also the Sunbury Antiques Market, located at Kempton Racecourse, on the second and last Tuesday of every month, from 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m., with more than 700 dealers and free admission.

In the east Midlands, the massive Newark and Swinderby Fairs, situated about 12 miles apart, commence their programs in February; each event regularly attracts more than 3,000 stallholders with quite possibly the widest range of antiques on sale in one place. Both fairs are held every other month and lasts for two days, running back to back. In 2008, Swinderby opens on Feb. 5-6, and Newark follows on Feb. 7-8.

Detling Antiques Fair regularly attracts up to 500 stallholders and, because it is only 30 minutes from the Channel Tunnel, the event is attracting more and more stallholders from nearby France and Belgium. Held exclusively on weekends, there are five fairs scheduled between March and October in 2008.

For connoisseurs early summertime is a must, starting with Petworth Antiques and Art Fair on May 30 and June 1. Central London is also particularly busy, with the International Art and Antiques Fair at Olympia, from June 5-15. The Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair runs from June 12-18, and the International Ceramics Fair at London’s Park Lane Hotel, in Piccadilly, runs from June 12-15. A bit of careful planning allows buyers to move quickly north to catch the Fine Art and Antiques Fair at Harrogate between June 13-15.

The Bath Decorative and Antiques Fair takes place in early spring, March 6-8, while, finally, in the southwest of England a visit to the Giant Quality Antiques & Collectors Fairs at Westpoint Exhibition Centre near Exeter over the weekends of March 1-2, June 28-29, and Oct. 25-26, with around 500 stallholders each weekend, along with opportunities to explore many other antiques dealers in the area, particularly around Honiton and surrounding villages.