Words by Gemma Miller
And in my case, this was the super cute 1950s kidney bean shaped dressing table I found at ‘Antiques in the Park’ at Kedleston Hall about four years ago. It was perfect, maybe even immaculate. The mirrors were intact and it still had the original curtains attached AND the chair.I found it in the dying minutes of the final day of their weekend long event and as I gazed lovingly at it, drawing the curtains back and forth and opening the drawers, the trader offered it to me for just 20 quid. She obviously didn’t want to have to pack it up and take it back home with her, so it would be mine for the princely sum of 20 English pounds.
Unfortunately for me, I was only driving a little Fiat Punto back then and sadly it just wouldn’t fit. So I weighed up the pros and cons of leaving my Mother in Law behind in a field in Derbyshire, taking my gorgeous new dressing table home and explaining to my husband that I’d swapped his mum for a delicious piece of Mid Century furniture. I reluctantly turned my back and walked away to cries of, “I can help you carry it to your car!” But it just wasn’t meant to be.
I’m still a regular visitor to Kedleston Hall and its twice-yearly ‘Antiques in the Park’ event, which is set across the sprawling parkland of this amazing National Trust property. I love the walk across the little bridge, as you head up to the antiques fair with the view of the stately home in the distance. The venue really lends itself to the eclectic mix of antiques and collectables right next to the lake.
As I know, traders can be very much creatures of habit. They like to be in the same spot if possible and this always makes it easier for me to make a beeline towards the stands which I know will be packed with the kind of goodies I’m looking for. This years ‘shopping list’ was slightly different, as we headed off in search of deco style mirrors for our new venture – a pub up in the Staffordshire Moorlands which we’re currently renovating completely, ready to open later this year. We were also on the lookout for lots of old suitcases to complete our travel inspired B&B rooms too. So adding to my ever-extending collection of ceramics and barware was off the agenda for this trip!
Now I have two favourite traders who are always on the ‘casual pitches’ located past the big marquees and I’ll be honest, I don’t always take as much time in the marquees as I do the smaller traders. As beautiful as the antiques are, you all know I’m more of a 50s gal, so I head off in search of mid-century treasures before it’s a quick refuel for coffee, then later taking a peek into the marquees before I head off home.
My all-time favourite trader is located right on the very edge of the casual pitches and having spoken to him quite a few times, he tells me tales of having garages and lock up storage full of 50s clothing, which I’d love to spend an afternoon playing dress up with! This year I was drawn to his amazing selection of alarm clocks, which I think would be perfect for our B&B rooms, but an argument then broke out about if people like or dislike the ticking of clocks when they fall asleep. So my husband vetoed that purchase, but HE is now regretting not scooping them up! Luckily, we got the contact details this time and I reckon I might also end up purchasing this quirky little Dutch girl vase too. Cute eh?
It was good to see some new traders this year too like ‘Great British Revivals’ who specialise in upcycling quirky vintage and antique pieces into feature lighting. As we’re looking to base the pub décor around an industrial theme, the husband was hooked. We picked up three gas canister lights and have put in orders for more lights too. James also ran back and bought four deco style spirit pourers too, which I think will be a great feature behind the bar!
I can never quite gauge which days are the best to visit Kedleston, which runs from Friday to Sunday. I’ve tried Sunday afternoons (great for those £20 dressing table bargains!) and Fridays in the hope that I’ll see lots of great stock before anyone else, when in reality, there will be lots of traders still setting up and it seemed kind of rude to go rummaging through their boxes. So Saturday seemed to work out perfectly for us this year, as not only did the sun shine but we also got to take in a set by ‘The Bowkers’ as we took a break between bartering. The Bowkers are a close harmony family of singers from Doncaster, comprising of Justine, her brother Lukas and Max and dad Jason. They drew a great crowd for their set of vintage standards, including a rendition of Mambo Number 5 of which I appear to know all of the words! The kids enjoyed dancing right at the front of the stage and lapped up the applause from the band!
‘Antiques in the Park’ is a great, relaxed antiques fair. I can sometimes find them to be quite stuffy affairs, with traders packed into soulless buildings, without any background music to take the edge off the sometimes painful silences. But with Kedleston, you can just pull your wellies on and go for a good walk around the grounds, while taking a peek at some great antiques and traders. I do feel that the event has got smaller over the last couple of years. There doesn’t seem to be as many marquees by the entrance as there have been before. There were also a few more handmade traders there this year too and some of the casual pitches have more of a flea market bric-a-brac feel to them, but I think half the fun is rummaging in bargain boxes to find hidden treasures anyway. I’ve got some great little vases that cost me just a couple of quid and a beautiful hand woven basket that I was given for nothing at the fair earlier this year.
Jaguar Fairs’ next event is at the Derby Roundhouse on 5th November and they attend Kedleston Hall twice yearly.