Mark & Judith antiquing in Honiton

Leaving Shepton Mallet behind us this morning, Judith Miller and I decided to drop in on Honiton on our way down to Torbay on the final part of our roadtrip. Honiton is legendary for antiques shops, with more than 20 occupying the high street in its heyday. When I worked at Bonhams the auctioneers, I was always terribly excited when the van from the regional office based there arrived at Lots Road, as it always contained exciting treasures to be examined, catalogued and sold.
Things have changed a bit now, and we were told that the local council isn’t supporting the unique independent businesses that made Honiton what it was. As such, many had very sadly turned into dull chain stores making the high street look like any other up and down the country. Nevertheless, some brave traders have carried on the tradition, and it was a delight to browse packed arcades and antiques centres such as the Fountain Antiques Centre, Merchant House Antiques, Pilgrim Antiques, The Grove Antiques Centre, and the Abingdon House Antique Centre. In the latter, I spotted this handsome mid-19thC mahogany Biedermeier style sofa. Of a pleasingly small size, sturdy build, and in great condition with nearly new upholstery, I thought it was a bargain at £1,250 – before polite bartering! And all of that continued to be the case for much of what we saw, from George III solid mahogany folding tables at £350ish, to Georgian chests of drawers ranging from £300-800, and a jolly lovely Arts & Crafts hallstand at £250. I was even delighted to see a ‘modern’ room at Abingdon House, offering fashionable Fat Lava, starburst mirrors and clocks and Ercol. As elsewhere, prices were very competitive and quality good.
Honiton’s antiques shops and centres are clustered around the top and bottom of the high street, with the usual chain stores in the middle. A Saturday market also offers a couple of tables selling collectables and small antiques. At the top of the street, it’s also worth popping into Lombard Antiques for their fabulous selection of Clarice Cliff ceramics, and also Honiton Antique Toys if that floats your boat. There are plenty of chain restaurants and charming coffee and tea shops up and down the high street, but Judith and I can really recommend The Railway on Queen Street, unsurprisingly near the railway station. Although you can walk there, it may be easier to drive, and there is a small car park. Run by a truly talented young family who live upstairs, everything about this fresh and modern bar and restaurant makes you feel relaxed and special. The only problem with the menu is that it’s nearly impossible to choose what to have, but when you have chosen, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed – it’ll be delicious!

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