We were both thrilled that it was that time again – Sunbury Antiques Market beckoned us, as it does every month on the second and last Tuesdays.
We are die-hard visitors to this extraordinary emporium, whatever the weather! Blissfully, the sun was shining this Tuesday so we were able to cut back on the heavy winter attire we’ve been relying on for the last few months. That said, there is something wonderful and magical about dark, cold early mornings, torch in hand, anticipating the next find to add to one’s ‘tribe’.
With this in mind, never has the phrase ‘the early bird gets the worm’ been more fitting. We have been setting off to Sunbury Antiques Market just before 6am for some years now, luckily Denise no longer has to twist Hannah’s arm to get her out of bed as these days she is just as eager not to miss out on all the best pieces.
This week didn’t disappoint, there was a whole array from beautiful French chairs ready to be upholstered, preloved leather club armchairs and original French tables, dressing tables and storage boxes all beautifully imperfect. Our attentions were mostly on decorative objects and we were spoilt for choice with French glazed pots, Murano glass vases and bowls and beautiful wooden writing boxes. Crumbling garden statues and huge garden urns were in abundance, perfect for this time of year when the garden is at the forefront of all our minds.
With such an esteemed reputation, we were curious to know the history behind this marvelous event and how it started over 35 years ago. I took some time to speak to Edward whose mother Sue Cruttenden started the market in 1979. Sadly, Sue passed away two years ago but her influence and energy still runs deep through this unique community of buyers and sellers in Sunbury-upon-Thames.
Edward explained that Sue had originally had her own stall at Streatham Hall back in the 1970s and strived to make a living from this whilst raising Edward and his brother James. Edward – who now runs the business – used to sit on the stall when he was tiny and began learning the craft from his mum at a very early age.
‘The penny dropped’ for Sue after an unsuccessful day of selling and then dropping a whole box of crockery on the floor, she realised that she would much rather be the person collecting the tariff for the stall than the person running the stall. She made the decision to approach Kempton Racecourse and soon became the first lady to run an Antiques fair and at a Racecourse – neither had never been done before.
The first three years were challenging to say the least and there were some early doubts but it was down to Sue’s energy and passion and great respect within the trade community that things began to take off. The market has grown in the best way – organically – and today has over 700 regular stallholders and thousands of visitors who come along to buy. There is an established global audience and we have personally lost count of how many high profile people we have seen enjoying the atmosphere and social buzz as much as anyone else.
We asked Edward why he thought the market has been and still is so successful and without drawing breath he attributed it to his wonderful and inspirational Mum. He told us that whilst she was a formidable woman – firm but fair – she had earned the greatest of respect from all of those who she did business with. She was a ‘boots on the ground’ individual who was up and ready with the best of them at 2 or 3 or 4am to keep the engine moving. Unlike her competitors, she firmly resisted any notion of admission fees, dismissing them with “Well, Marks and Spencer don’t charge an entry fee so why should we?”.
It is clear that Sue was an amazing woman and someone who we would personally have loved to have met. It is also evident how much Edward and his family loved and treasured her. It is down to this extraordinary person that so many of us are able to come together twice a month in such a remarkable and rewarding place.
Sunbury Antiques Fair – we are definitely feeling the love!
Sunbury Antiques Fair, Kempton Park Racecourse, Staines Road East, Sunbury on Thames, Middlesex TW16 5AQ. Gates open to the public at 6.30am. Free admissions.
ON THE MARKETPLACE
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- The Best Antiques Shops on the Golborne Road
- Meet the Trader: Lucy Mortimer of Galapagos Furniture
- Meet the Designer: Sarah Ellison of Frank & Faber
- Meet The Designer: Jess Clark of Unique Home Stays
- Meet the Designer: Beata Heuman
- 9 Antiques Traders to Follow on Instagram
- Our Pick of Vintage Furniture Online for Under £100
- Markets in France: Villeneuve-les-Avignon Flea Market