Clarendon Park is something of a vintage haven with far more than its fair share of shops selling antique furniture, pre-loved designer clothes and retro bits and bobs. With traditional second-hand shops, classy antique emporiums, old-fashioned charity shops and several book stores to visit, there’s plenty on offer. It’s all too easy to while away a happy afternoon admiring eccentric window displays, rummaging through boxes of bric-a-brac and leafing through dusty old records in the hope of picking up a bargain.
With so much to cover, I’m concentrating on books, furniture and collectibles in this article. There are a couple of clothing boutiques in Clarendon Park which specialise in second-hand clothes, as well as the traditional charity shops which sell mostly clothing. On top of this, some of the shops listed below also sell items of clothing and jewellery, so there’s definitely scope for a further article later in the year focusing on vintage clobber – watch this space!
10 December 2014 update: Find out where to get your fashion fix in Clarendon Park in my new article – happy shopping!
- Typical buy: 1920s Murano glass vase
Vintage Utopia is a long-standing and distinctive presence on Montague Road with its cheerful yellow exterior. Of all Clarendon Park’s vintage shops it has the most diverse collection of stuff – everything from picture frames and old teddy bears to tea sets and vintage glassware in a rainbow of colours.
The shop is much bigger inside than you might imagine, giving it the feel of a real Aladdin’s cave, with the recently opened upstairs room providing room for still more treasures.
Owner Richard Talbott lives on site and splits his time between manning the shop and scouring the area buying stock. Lesley Bates, who works in shop, puts Richard’s success down to his competitive prices and talent for spotting what will be popular.
“He has a big turnover because his prices are so reasonable,” says Lesley, “Plus he has a really good eye – he can spot what’s going to be popular.”
The shop’s biggest sellers are its glassware and the ever-fashionable Ercol furniture. There are some less likely winners though, as Lesley explains: “Two ladies are fighting over the unusual squirrel plant holder that’s out front, they both really want it but their husbands don’t want them to buy it!”
- Typical buy: Ordnance survey map
LOROS is a Leicestershire charity who deliver free, high-quality, compassionate care and support to terminally ill patients, their family and carers. With just 25 charity shops located throughout Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland they are very much a local enterprise.
There are two LOROS shops on Queens Road, one selling clothes and the other specialising in books and music. The book shop is the larger of the two and is reasonably big, with a good range of older books, academic titles and recent releases. LOROS also has an excellent collection of records, CDs and DVDs and tons of ordinance survey maps. Add some very knowledgeable and friendly staff into the mix and it’s well worth popping in for a browse.
- Typical buy: Ornate Edwardian writing desk
White Elephant is close to the junction of Clarendon Park Road and Queens Road, next to Natwest Bank. It’s a classy shop, selling a broad selection of high-end vintage items – the kind of stuff you’d expect to find at a posh antique fair. The target market is perhaps slightly older than that of their more trendy competitors, with the onus on ornate glassware, dark wood furniture and ceramics.
Beyond the sumptuous window display, the shop’s quiet interior, densely packed with opulent antiques, gives it a refined sort of atmosphere. White Elephant is without doubt the ‘bit of posh’ on CP’s second-hand scene.
- Typical buy: Leicestershire history book by local writer
Clarendon Books has been an established fixture on Clarendon Park Road for around 30 years. It’s a proper good old-fashioned book shop with the packed shelves, haphazard display and musty smell beloved of bibliophiles. It’s the kind of place you can imagine whiling away an hour or so rummaging through the shelves and coming away with a couple of unusual and rare finds.
Owner Julian Smith took over the shop in 1999, and has seen a major shift in people’s buying habits in that time, saying, “I used to take part in a lot of book fairs but now a lot of my business is done online through sites like Amazon.” He adds, “When I started there was no such thing as online, but it’s very important now.”
Clarendon Books focuses more on older, antiquarian and collectable titles than modern books, and has a particularly good selection of books on the arts and local history. A visit is an experience in itself and is highly recommended.
- Typical buy: Set of 1960s Beano comics
Situated on Clarendon Park Road close to the library, Buy Again is a proper old-fashioned second-hand store with a window packed full of a whole gamut of smaller pre-loved offerings from clocks and LPs to glassware and kitchenalia.
Owner Paul Corrall is a true Clarendon Parker, having been born just around the corner from his current shop. He has witnessed first-hand the changing face of the area, from the 1980s when “you could buy just about anything on Queens Road” to it’s current status as a fashionable hub of cafes, bars and independent shops.
Paul’s business has remained more or less unchanged in the same timeframe, buoyed by a large number of regular customers and enthusiastic recommendations. However, he is philosophical about how his shop fits in to the modern marketplace.
“The whole concept of second-hand has changed,” Paul says, “There used to be an electrical repair shop a few doors down, but now if your kettle breaks you don’t bother getting it repaired – you just buy a new one.”
One of Buy Again’s biggest sellers over the years has been vintage comics and annuals. The large number of avid hobbyists of all ages looking to supplement their collection of old Beanos and Dandys is something that’s remained relatively constant over the years. Other customers are drawn in by the competitive prices and ever-changing collection of furniture on offer.
Age UK books
- Typical buy: Recent best-selling novel
This medium-sized book shop on Queens Road has a good stock of more recent titles, as well as a few older and antiquarian books. It also has an increasingly popular café selling good value drinks and cake, which is particularly popular as a meeting point and tea stop for the area’s older residents. Worth noting is that the shop has a small courtyard out back with some outdoor seating – a rare commodity in Clarendon Park.
- Typical buy: Hand-carved Indonesian temple guardian deer sculpture
“I specialise in the unusual,” says Mike Haynes, owner and manager of Stuff Antiques and Curios on Clarendon Park Road. With over 30 years experience buying, selling and restoring antiques, Mike has a well-honed sixth sense when it comes to all things curious and his shop is a treasure-trove of the kind of offbeat antiques that grab your attention and make you want to find out more about the story behind them.
In the window of the shop is a life-sized papier-mâché sculpture of Dickens’ Miss Havisham, created by a local artist, alongside a series of hand-painted oriental wooden panels featuring sultry dancers. The focus on the unconventional continues inside with a real medley of unusual antiques and collectibles, along with some slightly more standard pieces of high-quality wooden furniture.
A visit to Stuff is a fairytale experience in itself, and if quirky, attention-grabbing decor is your thing this is the perfect place to pick up an antique guaranteed to be a conversation starter.
17 August 2014 update: Clarendon Vintage
- Typical buy: 1950s Stratton powder compact
Tucked away right at the far end of Clarendon Park Road, near the junction with Welford Road, is Clarendon Vintage. The shop’s slightly out-of-the-way location meant that I overlooked it when I did the initial research for this article, but with a fantastic selection of furniture, glassware, collectibles and accessories a visit is an absolute must for anyone doing the rounds of Clarendon Park’s vintage boutiques.
The shop is currently undergoing something of a rebrand, “We used to be called Charlie’s Pine but that part of the business has relocated elsewhere,” owner Deb Thomas explains, “We’re now Clarendon Vintage and I’m really keen to get the message out because a lot of people don’t realise the shop is here.”
Deb has already got a back-catalogue of satisfied customers (see Caitlin’s comment below) and an active fledgeling Facebook presence. With a comprehensive makeover of the exterior of the shop also imminent, Clarendon Vintage is definitely one to watch, particularly as the west end of Clarendon Park Road increasingly rivals Queens Road as the area’s hub for quirky independent retailers.
Boasting a huge range of products which includes quality antique wooden furniture, garden equipment, musical instruments and kitchenalia, Clarendon Vintage wins the medal for sheer diversity of stock. It’s real tour de force however is without a doubt its dedicated vintage clothing room – keep an eye out for my follow-up article dedicated to second-hand clothes shopping for a closer look at what’s on offer.
- Typical buy: Set of second-hand knitting needles
Oxfam’s Queens Road shop has a fairly small selection of bric-a-brac, picture frames and collectible items. It’s well worth stopping buy if you’re into all things crafty as there is generally a good selection of used knitting needles and vintage fabrics to rummage through. Oxfam’s enthusiastic volunteers and rapid turnover of stock are great reasons to pop in on a regular basis.
- Typical buy: Restored 1950s Ercol coffee table
The newest shop on Clarendon Park’s second-hand scene is PLANK, on the corner of Clarendon Park Road and Lorne Road. This very funky little shop stands out from the rest of the area’s offerings by selling an eclectic mix of mostly mid-century modern furniture. The fifties sideboards and Ercol tables are beautifully displayed alongside the tools and paints used to restore tattier pieces to their former glory by manager Lisa Westbury .
PLANK is a new enterprise for Lisa, who moved into the shop less than four months ago.
“I worked in a local school as a design technician,” Lisa says, “Since I gave that up I haven’t looked back and things have been going really well here.”
Lisa really seems to have captured the zeitgeist with her quirky mid-century medley of pieces. She is keen not to apply generic labels like vintage or retro to the items she sells, and positively flinches when I use the phrase ‘shabby chic’, but there’s a particular style to her shop and the items in it which taps into the current retro trend and promises to establish PLANK as a permanent fixture on Leicester’s vintage scene.
With such a glut of used and vintage shops in Clarendon Park it would be easy to eschew Homebase altogether and kit out your crib with furniture sourced entirely from local suppliers. Perhaps you’ve done just this? Which is your favourite of the area’s second-hand specialists and what has been your best bargain? Reply below and share your love of the pre-loved!