Some time ago I did a post about antique/junk hunting in St Leonard’s, which continues to be very popular. Have been meaning to do the same for our other browser’s paradise, Hastings Old Town, for ages. It’s a big job, and this is a long post. Battleaxe and Philosopher spend many happy hours rummaging, and we know many of the shops well. I’ve tried to avoid leaving any out, but as we will see below, it’s all a bit ‘evolving’.
|The Courthouse Street Yard. ‘Old-style’ junk rummaging.|
I think the profile of the shops is changing – from reasonably priced piles of assorted stuff – to high-end shops with much less in them. Think a tastefully ‘curated’ (and I use that word advisedly) display of expensive items – often featuring mid-century modern chairs, old industrial steel cabinets, enamel signs and skeletons. I guess this reflects the on-going transformation of Hastings into a desirable destination for incomers, but it’s a shame for old rummagers like us.
Let’s start at the end of George Street nearest to Pelham Place and the amusement arcades.
First, we have Coach House Antiques. Here is owner Richard standing outside the shop. He has some nice old amusement machines on display which still work. I have always been particularly fond of the Laughing Policeman. (By the way, this is the only policeman, laughing or otherwise, you’ll see round the place these days. They’ve all been cut).
There is some classy antique furniture in the shop at classy prices, long-case clocks, china – and loads of costume jewellery.
There’s another nameless little place opposite, and then, past the West Hill lift, the West Hill Arcade, with several little shops which come and go. This one, the Air Raid Shelter, seems to be doing fine.
Along George Street, we come to The George Street Antique Centre, kept by Hope and Carol. That’s Hope behind the counter. This is a great place for reasonably priced little nick-nacks, china, jewellery and interesting old books.
Opposite Butler’s Gap, Butler and George – a relatively new
addition. It used to be a bit enamel sign and skeletonish, but has grown
much more eclectic. I need to give it some serious attention.
Butler’s Emporium is an up-market mixture of old and new. Good for presents. A
word of advice here: Battleaxe always asks before taking photos in shop
interiors. Don’t even think about taking unauthorised snaps in this shop. I saw the owner blow some woman’s head off.
we first came to Hastings, Butler’s was still a hardware/general store.
|Nice old shelves|
|Remnant of its previous life as a hardware store|
|Old Butler’s, with what is now the Clockwork Crow on the right|
Next, the Clockwork Crow. This shop has had various incarnations in recent years. It has the most fantastic, atmospheric back room, with views going right up several stories – the shop is worth a visit for that alone. Opening hours have always been a bit erratic, and when I was taking my photographs, what did I find? ‘Back in Five Minutes.’…
Quick Battleaxe nag. I just hate that. Five minutes is never five minutes, and how are you to know when the notice was put up? Shopkeepers: tell us the actual time you will be back!
Now, we turn into the High Street.
First, Browsers, just past the junction. This is a big shop, worth delving into. Peter in there is very helpful – they have just sold me a beautiful Art Deco dressing table for very little, and taken in my previous dressing table. Now, all I need is an Art Deco stool to go with it….
|Browsers – oh look, Battleaxe’s old dressing table visible just inside the door|
Next, on the same side, the Antiques Warehouse. It’s massive, a Hastings institution, with several crammed floors. One dealer in there called Mitch has particularly good stuff, with much relating to the local area.
Opposite, another institution, Robert’s Rummage. When I was talking to Robert, he said that a local photographer, Conrad Lee, had photographed him and the picture had appeared in Italian Vogue. I tracked down both Conrad and the photo, which I’m sure you will agree is lovely, and got permission to reproduce it here. Here is the link.
|Robert in his shop, with thanks to Conrad Lee|
Robert also has a more up-market shop on the other side of the street, Robert’s Curios, which specialises in oriental antiques – so many interesting, colourful things in there.
Next-door to Judges, two little shops – TheKula.com, specialising in high-class mid-century chairs, and one currently called ‘Pop-up Retro’. In the words of the owner, it’s ‘evolving’….
Now, we turn off right, down Courthouse Street. Reeves, founded in 1818, on the corner, is the oldest shop in Hastings selling similar things to its early days. It’s well worth a rummage. The owner, Chris Hawkins, showed me some wonderful old photographs.
|As it was,|
|Very old daguerrotype|
Chris also told me how tough things are for shops like his in the Old Town just now. He said that one problem that affects the footfall is the lack of ‘real’ shops in the Old Town, for example Butler’s changing from hardware to lifestyle as mentioned above. He also felt that people were more short of money to buy things.
|Lokking down Courthouse Street|
First in Courthouse Street is Twentieth Century Funking Junk. Mick, the owner of this shop, used to specialise in mid-century stuff, including vintage Ercol. We have sold/bought a number of items from him. However, he tells me that good mid-century pieces are now harder to find, and much more expensive. He has diversified into the skeleton/weird religious object market.
Next, Poodle Yard. Of course, that’s not its real name – I once found two spaghetti poodles in there, so like a dog with a rabbit hole, I always revisit hoping that another one will pop out. Needless to say, it doesn’t. It is a huge jumbled mass of total, eye-popping junk, including a graveyard for kitsch concrete garden ornaments, and one of our favourite rummaging places. It also has a good retro clothes store.
|Entrance to the Courthouse Street Yard|
Back on the High Street, on the left, Little Treasures has lost its retro identity and gone for higher end decor. Nelson Antiques is worth a look – deals mostly in older antiques.
|Little Treasures – is that an industrial steel cabinet outside?|
Further up and opposite, 20th Century Fashion and Design. This shop is well-established, but constantly changing – every time you go in, (which is not that often, as opening times are a bit random) they have opened or closed another room in its rambling, cavernous interior. It is good for clothes and retro stuff in general, but feels a bit chilly – metaphorically and literally.
Then, Hendy’s Home Store. What can I say? Wonderful to look at, a total labour of love, a work of art, features in umpteen up-market magazines etc., but have we ever bought anything? No.
However, there is plenty to look at – check out the loo half way up the stairs – and the staff seem happy to welcome gawpers and browsers.
|Hendy’s Home Store|
Opposite, Object D’Epoch is new, tastefully and sparsely stocked, expensive and rarely open.
I find shops like this a bit off-putting. It’s a bit like designer clothes shops – one feels insufficiently cool, and there is nothing to browse through when you go in. I was almost glad it was closed.
|Peering fruitlessly into Object D’Epoch. Closed when it said it would be open…|
Nearby is The Goods Depot – again, fairly new, and also closed when I passed. More volume and variety of stock, but very much DFL orientated, I sense.
|The Goods Depot|
Finally, a nice little shop, Balfour and Byrom, owned by the same people as the Pop-up Retro Shop down the road. Jackie, who minds the shop, is very pleasant. Unlike some of the others I’ve just mentioned, I sense that these people want to make a go of selling things rather than having a beautiful show-piece.
Oh, there’s one more. If you walk down Rock-a-Nore to the end, you get to an antiques shop that has been converted from a public toilet. Interesting.
Sorry this is so long!
It may be the last Battleaxe post for a few days!