New Freemen’s Common Antiques Centre in Leicester has something for everyone

A giant antiques warehouse with around 130 dealers has opened in a former tile shop, just outside Leicester city centre.

The Freemen’s Common Antiques Centre, not far from the Leicester City Ground, opened in September and has had a busy first few weeks as more dealers set up their wares.

It was set up by business partners James Clarke, Dan Rawson and Liam Doig, who realised their ambitions to open a decent sized operation after years running a house clearance company from smaller premises in the city.

James Clarke, 34, said: “We’ve been involved in the business for about three years and always wanted to set up an auction house where we could also have little outlets where other dealers could work with us.

“This place came up for rent, the location was great, and with a couple of good friends in the antique world and other dealers we were able to move here.”

The partners spent a month setting up the deal and persuading their current sellers that the move was a good idea, with space for everyone and the chance to open seven days a week.

Freemen’s Common Antiques Centre (Image: Leicester Mercury / Chris Gordon)

James said: “People said there should be more antique places in Leicester, we have 70 dealers with floor space and people can rent just a cabinet if they don’t want more space than that.

“In total we have got about 130 vendors specialising in antique furniture, small collectables, jewellery, electricals. We can be selective and make sure there is something for everyone.”

Customers are able to browse the entire space and take anything they like to the front of the store to pay – just like a supermarket.

Individual sellers are not present most of the time but some come in frequently to check their stock and arrangements and happily chat with customers and give advice.

James said: “We ask the dealers to pop in once a week to check everything on their stall is nice and tidy, make sure the tags are all there, to see how it’s going and to give some feedback.”

Former journalist turned antique dealer Nicola Ward, who has a pitch, said: “Originally I just had loads of stuff, I love collecting lovely things regardless of what their age is and I ended up with so much to get rid of.

“I’ve done car boots before and eBay but you don’t get anything like the value and I’ve got quite a lot of delicates so I was looking for somewhere like this.

“I moved into their previous premises at the beginning of the year and when they said they were moving here I took the opportunity and it’s been really good so far.

Antique dealer Nicola Ward in her ‘shop’ (Image: Leicester Mercury / Chris Gordon)

“I wonder why I didn’t do it before really, I think with more TV coverage people are becoming increasingly aware of antiques and are wheeling and dealing and knowledgeable of the value of things.”

The downside of selling her collection is that Nicola is always on the lookout for new items to refresh the stock: “I have to go out and buy things constantly which means there’s some for me and some for the store, that’s the way it goes, it’s something I enjoy doing.

“I try to make it varied with a price range from £2-£3, right up to items that might be seventy or eighty.”

Nicola has been with James, Dan and Liam for more than nine months and feels that her first year has been a success.

She said: “Thousands of people drive past here every day going to the rugby, the football, the cinema, it’s on their way past, It’s wonderful.”

Some of the antique dealers are even using their sales to raise money for charity.

Slowly does it (Image: Leicester Mercury / Chris Gordon)

James said: “We have a lady who does it for the Dogs Trust and another lady joining us raising money for rescued cats, we have donated a cabinet for her and we raise money for Help the Heroes.

“We encourage the other dealers to donate any items they don’t want, maybe chipped or something they cannot sell.

“Customers can rent a cabinet just for a month if they need to sell off, perhaps, Grandma’s china collection that they have inherited. We can advise them on prices and of course there are also 70 other dealers who might be able to help them.”

Something for everyone (Image: Leicester Mercury / Chris Gordon)

There is a café attached selling cakes and hot and cold drinks.

James said: “I would love to open another store in another area, a sister branch. I like it when people come in and see something and they say “oh that reminds me of my childhood”.”

The Freemen’s Common Antiques Centre is open seven days a week and will also feature in an episode of the BBC show Antiques Road Trip, airing in February 2020.