Antiques in Lewes & The Bluebell Railway

With the sun shining and temperatures nearing 20 degrees, this weekend was perfect for a country jaunt and some antiquing. Although the streets of Brighton have been well-trodden lately, I hadn’t been to neighbouring Sussex town Lewes for some years. Which is strangely remiss of me, as I remembered it as being very good indeed. And this memory was accurate – the town is positively heaving with enormous antiques centres offering an entire day’s worth of shopping and browsing.
First stop was the Lewes Flea Market, run by the same people behind the excellent Brighton Flea Market in Kemptown. This old Methodist chapel on Market Street offers plenty of variety across two floors and more. It’s easy to spend a few hours here, browsing everything from costume jewellery to glass, ceramics, and small furniture. An adjoining room offers a more ‘interior design meets architectural salvage’ look. I found a rather mavellous vibrant blue glass vase about which I know nothing (but hopefully soon will!) for £20. Once you’re done there, wander down Station Road to the aptly named Church Hill Antiques Centre, housed in an old church that’s filled with cabinets. Amongst the treasures, a 1930s photograph of a dapper, seated young gentleman mounted on a cut-out wood back and stand came home with me for £15. I haven’t seen one for a few years and I know just where he can sit, gazing out across Hill Towers!
Now it’s time to go down the hill, cross the river Ouse, and head past the ‘new town’ into the other side of Lewes. Stop off for a restorative coffee and cake at the excellent organic Bill’s on the way, as you’ll be grateful for it later. Cliffe High Street offers eight different shops and centres – I only had time for in-depth looks at two, but even though they seemed to be the best of the selection, I do regret not looking in the others. Up first is the Lewes Antiques Centre, with four (yes, four!) floors of treasures to browse – many of them featuring ‘room sets’ or vignettes, showing you how you can integrate pieces into your room to achieve a particular look. When you’re done, cross the road to the Emporium, as you’re in for a real treat. Pretty much everything here is identified, researched and priced accordingly, but not at all outrageously. There isn’t much furniture, but there are ceramics, glass, textiles, jewellery and other decorative accessories a-go-go. I haven’t come across as good a centre as this for ages – honestly – to find this sort of selection in one place is not easy these days. So good was it that I made the journey again the next day to pick up a piece or two that I had unwisely left behind…yes, I am that sad. As for what they were, well, that’s a secret!
And to make sure the banker didn’t get sad after all that antiquing, we finished off a perfect day with a train journey on the beautiful Bluebell Railway. The smell, the huge clanking locomotive, the bouncy seats (!), and the historic romance of it all contributed to my almost childish glee – so exciting! A tweet saying this led to a number of instant replies – so thank you to all my fellow Twitterers who recommended other railways across the country from Hampshire to Yorkshire and Wales!

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