England’s best vintage markets and antique fairs

Lincoln, Lincolnshire

The bi-monthly fair that takes place at the Lincolnshire Showground is large without feeling overwhelming. This fair is diverse, offering a huge scope in terms of wares and prices. It is held almost back-to-back with the Newark fair nearby and is a popular destination for foreign and domestic professional buyers, though it also attracts many casual collectors and browsers, some no doubt drawn by a much-reduced entrance fee on the second day.

This is a longstanding and well-organised fair, held indoors and outdoors. At stalls in the marquees, vendors offer furniture and finer collectables. At pitches in the rest of the field you’ll find more rustic items, kitchenware, vintage of various sorts and generally more modestly priced goods. The buildings themselves house vendors of smaller decorative items: china, glassware, silver, figurines, jewellery, watches, vintage handbags, ginger beer bottles, ice cream moulds, linens, cameras and canes, toys. Lincolnshire International Antiques and Home Show, Lincolnshire Showground (arthurswallowfairs.co.uk).Mon-Tue, six times a year. Entry £20 Mon, £5 Tue

Ardingly, West Sussex

Ardingly International Antiques and Collectors Fair, one of the top vintage and antiques fairs in England, also has an international flavour – in terms of sellers and buyers. Its proximity to the Channel means vendors come from continental Europe and further east to sell here, and buyers come even from Asia and North America.

The setting of this substantial fair is almost pastoral – and its great appeal is that you can find just about anything. It embraces the traditional antiques trade (fine china, silver, jewellery, paintings), collectors (stamps, coins, postcards), the fast-growing vintage crowd, fans of rustic, primitive and everyday objects, and decor and design types, looking for unusual bits of furniture or quirky accent pieces. Ardingly International Antiques and Collectors Fair, South of England Showground (01636 702326, iacf.co.uk). Tue-Wed, up to seven times a year. Entry £20 Tue, £5 Wed

Chichester, West Sussex

Goodwood Racecourse offers lovely vistas across the South Downs and its Antiques and Collectors fair, while not huge, is significant – particularly in fine weather when outdoor pitches join indoor stalls. Outside, you will see larger items – furniture, carpets, lamps, paintings, gardenware, tools, kitchenware and pottery – while the inside stalls are devoted to smaller and more decorative wares such as fine ceramics, watches, silver, glassware and vintage fashion and accessories. The emphasis on jewellery – from higher-end to costume – is notable and prices are not excessive. The clientele at this fair, I am told by vendors, is largely domestic, and even regional, and the atmosphere is pleasant and cheerful, particularly on a sunny day. Goodwood Racecourse (01903 734112, arunfairs.com) Sundays or bank holidays, up to four times a year. Entry £3

Alexandra Palace, London

Alexandra Palace, London

Built in 1873 as a place of leisure for the public, north London’s Alexandra Palace sits on a hill looking south over the city. For more than 25 years, its bright and airy Great Hall has served as the setting for a large and impressive fair, the Antiques, Collectors, 20th-century and Art Deco fair. As its name suggests, it focuses on 20th-century collectables alongside more traditional antiques. Ceramics, by producers such Clarice Cliff, Susie Cooper, Carlton Ware, SylvaC, Poole, Midwinter, Hornsea and Ridgway, are featured here, as are glassware, jewellery, early plastics, advertising items and toys.

Art-deco design is popular, in chromeware, glass, clocks, lamps, figurines, tea services, prints and posters. A number of vendors specialise in vintage clothing and accessories – handbags, fur coats, compacts – and some carry 1960s and 1970s kitchenware, catering to an appetite for that period among a younger clientele. Alexandra Palace Antiques, Collectors, 20th-century and Art Deco fair, Alexandra Palace Way, Wood Green (01263 888111, nelsonevents.co.uk). Sundays, four times a year, next one 12 May. Entry £6

Malvern, Worcestershire

Vintage China at Malvern Flea & Collectors Fair

The Malvern Flea and Collectors Fair, held outside Great Malvern against the backdrop of the Malvern hills, is a sprawling and wide-ranging event. At stalls inside the main exhibition hall or one of several interconnected sheds, or filling the perimeter outside, vendors at this unabashedly eclectic fair cater to every taste. More traditional collectables – china, silver, figurines and glassware, for example – are displayed alongside tools, hardware, garden pots, vintage clothing, enamelware, mid-20th-century dishes, taxidermy, papers, advertising items, West German ceramics, fishing gear, sewing notions, kitchen utensils, early plastics, books and costume jewellery.

It’s all a bit random and hodge-podge but the formula seems to work well, judging by the crowds. The casual and relaxed atmosphere may owe something to the fair’s rural surroundings and the feeling they engender of being in a real and rooted place. And I love the way that, interspersed among the collectables vendors, are people selling homemade pies, jams and jellies, and real hot chocolate. Malvern Flea and Collectors Fair, Three Counties Showground (01636 676531, b2bevents.info). Sundays or bank holiday Mondays, up to 10 times a year. Entry £3

Newark, Nottinghamshire

The huge and longstanding Newark International Antiques and Collectors Fair enjoys the distinction of being included in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. The fair is a magnet for dealers from across Europe, North America and Asia who, along with domestic buyers and collectors, make regular pilgrimages here for some serious purchasing.

The atmosphere is lively and busy; there is a buzz here, a feeling of energy. This is a compact and crowded fair, with vendors in a number of buildings around the showground site as well as in marquees, or exposed to the elements outside. Fortunately, is also a well-organised event, with facilities and services aimed at making your visit a smooth and enjoyable one. The great appeal lies in the huge amount of choice for every conceivable collecting taste, from traditional to offbeat. In addition to fine decorative antiques and collectibles – china, glassware, silver, paintings, jewellery – the fair features rustic items and unique signature pieces – gardenware, metal advertising signs, wicker chairs, industrial lighting, distressed metal cabinets, stained glass windows — sought after by home decor professionals and enthusiasts. The quality is usually high and vendors tend to be knowledgeable about what they’re selling. Newark and Nottinghamshire Showground (01636 702326, iacf.co.uk). Thur-Fri, up to six times a year. Entry £20 Thur, £5 Fri

Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

Among the largest fairs in England, the Peterborough Festival of Antiques offers a wide array of items, from finer porcelain, glass and silver to vintage kitchenware, gardenware and tools. Though this is a busy and densely packed fair, the atmosphere is casual and relaxed. One gets the feeling that, for some, it represents a fun outing, a day out spent browsing the stalls and picking up something appealing to take home. While many vendors specialise in particular wares, others offer an eclectic mix, making the prospect of an interesting find at a reasonable price a strong one. Be prepared to spend several hours here, as it will take at least that long to get a good look at the huge variety and scope of what is on offer here – china and pottery, figurines, silver, glassware, paintings, furniture, tools, gardenware, books, jewellery, militaria, toys, dolls, advertising, etc. Peterborough Festival of Antiques, East of England Showground (01664 812627, bobevansfairs.co.uk). Fri-Sat twice a year, in spring and autumn, next one 4-5 October. Entry £5

Shepton Mallet, Somerset

The Royal Bath and West Showground is the site of both the Shepton Giant Flea & Collectors Market event and the Shepton Mallet International Antiques and Collectors Fair (also a very interesting and significant event). If your tastes lie toward the vintage and everyday – rather than the more traditional and antiques – end of the spectrum, this fair will be right up your alley. It is eclectic and lively.

There is a focus on vintage of all sorts: 1960s and 1970s West German ceramics, advertising items, sunglasses and handbags, linens, quilts, kitchenware, plastics, lamps, toys, costume jewellery, sewing notions, teapots and crockery. At the same time, those with more traditional collecting tastes will also find much of interest here – porcelain, silver, crystal, paintings and militaria. Shepton Giant Flea and Collectors Market, Royal Bath and West Showground (01278 784912, sheptonflea .com). Sundays, up to eight times a year. Entry £3.50

Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex

Held at Kempton Park Racecourse, Sunbury Antiques Market is one of the real gems among English venues. A sprawling, substantial fair, it is easily accessible by train from London, offers free parking, and charges no entrance fee. However, the greatest thing is its astonishing variety of wares, fine and rustic, antique and vintage. Vendors come from the continent as well as other parts of the UK to sell here, and the customers include a wide international clientele. Antiques and vintage dealers mix with collectors, interior decorators, prop buyers and young people looking for something distinctive and unusual to decorate their flat.

In addition to the huge range of collectables, this is a good place to pick up unusual furniture, “shabby chic”, and industrial and architectural salvage. Business starts early in the morning and winds up not long after noon at this very busy fair. Kempton Park Racecourse (01932 230946, sunburyantiques.com). Bi-monthly on Tuesdays. Free entry

Wetherby, West Yorkshire

The Great Wetherby Racecourse Antiques Fair, not far from York, is definitely one of those events that feels connected to its surrounding region, in terms of vendors and customers and in the items for sale. Several of the outdoor stalls feature agricultural implements and rustic household items recalling the area’s rural heritage. A few vendors also sell railway memorabilia.

At the inside stalls you will see ceramics, glassware, prints, books, ladies’ clothing and accessories, everyday kitchenware, jewellery and watches, with an emphasis on vintage rather than antiques. You stand a fair chance of picking up something appealing and affordable at this friendly and down-to-earth event. Wetherby Racecourse (01332 830444, jaguarfairs.com). Saturday and Sunday, up to eight times a year. Entry from £4

Find out more about these fairs, and others, in The Vintage and Antique Fairs of England by Sandy Price, £12.99, Frances Lincoln Publishers, franceslincoln.com