Antiques Hunting in Dorking, Surrey

I always enjoy visits back home to see my parents – not only because I get the chance to see and catch up with them, but also because I can return to my old antiques ‘stomping ground’. Times have changed, and many of the shops I used to love hunting for treasures in as a teenager have now sadly closed. Today, arguably the most convenient and best place for me to go is the country town of Dorking, nestled under the beautiful South Downs. Head to the antiques hub in West Street, but don’t forget the three or so charity shops dotted around the town! It’s also worth checking out if auctioneers PF Windibank or Crows have an auction or a view on, and the neighbouring Dorking Halls is often host on Sunday to Margaret Browne’s antiques fair.
As well as a number of shops specialising in everything from scientific instruments, clocks, antique lighting, and desks, there are a few superb antiques centres that I always look forward to visiting. The first is Pilgrim’s Antiques centre, which is literally crammed full of antiques and collectables ranging in price from a few pounds to a few thousand pounds. The front room is filled with glass and diecast toys, the next room dominated by ceramics and brass, but I always head to the narrow corridor on the left as you enter as this ‘bargain avenue’, filled with treasures at reduced prices. I then move on to the two back rooms – the dealers in the back right corner of each room always have something of interest, with a strong 1950s-60s feel to the stands in the back room. Dorking House Antiques is up next – as well as a selection of furniture that would have done us proud on Cracking Antiques, make sure you explore all the rooms, both upstairs and downstairs, as there’s always something to tempt.
The same is also true of the Talbot House Antiques Centre, on the other side of the road, as it has over 10 rooms filled with everything from fine furniture and glass to pictures, kitchenalia, and more. Always ask if you’re unsure of something as the staff are friendly and helpful, and there are a number of contemporary pieces for sale amidst the antiques. On the first floor I was delighted to see a new dealer, Jude Hill of StudioArt, who stocks wonderful 1950s-70s studio, Scandinavian and Italian ceramics and glass, as well as a selection of modern prints. Zip back across the ever-busy West Street to visit a brand new centre called Christique. The day I visited was also their opening day, and the lovely owner Christine gave me a warm welcome. The newly renovated house and adjacent ‘barn’ has its origins in the 16thC, and has been sympathetically restored. You’re sure to find something that you love amongst the many well-appointed rooms and cabinets, ranging from Chinese and 18thC English porcelain, to a fabulous range of costume and precious jewellery, silver, antiquarian books, and affordable, beautiful furniture including a rather lovely early Victorian sideboard that almost came home with me. After all that shopping you’re bound to need a break, and Christique yet again provides, with the charming Fig Tree coffee lounge. A fresh and welcome addition to Dorking’s famous West Street, I’m sure Christique will be a great success.
If you’re looking for something stronger to recover, jump in your car and head up the country lanes to Coldharbour, the highest point in South East England. In this ancient village near Leith Hill, you’ll find the Plough Inn, a 17th century coaching inn. Apart from the stunning location, this super pub is particularly special as it has its own brewery – the Leith Hill Brewery. A pint of Crooked Furrow, Tickety-Boo, or the slightly stronger Tallywhacker, will hit the spot perfectly before you walk it off with a late afternoon amble in the countryside. And for dinner before you return home? If you’re done with the Plough Inn, then my parents and I can certainly recommend the Wotton Hatch, only 10 minutes drive from Dorking along the A25 towards Guildford. All in all, a perfect way to spend a Sunday!

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