There are few reasons to get out of bed at 3:30am – Bermondsey Square Antiques Market is one of them. It’s not so much the treasures to be found or the good prices (most of the antiques were out of my price range, actually), it’s the pure excitement of shopping in the dark with a torch and the buzz of chatter between people too sleep deprived to retain their usual London guardedness. The market starts at 4am and several internet reviews say that the best antiques are gone by 5am. I considered arriving for the start but the first Northern line train doesn’t arrive into Camden until 5:55 and I figured that I wouldn’t miss the wares that I never knew were there in the first place. There was still plenty to see when I arrived, green chai tea in hand, at 6:30am and, in fact, some stall owners were still setting up. Bermondsey Square is unlit so it wasn’t easy for me to do my usual trick of quickly honing in on ceramics, teak and gilded frames. This ended up being a good thing, because I got to explore items that I wouldn’t have naturally been attracted to but which were actually ever so beautiful and satisfying to hold. I found a very precious silver rattle from 1890 (selling for £80) and a WW2 compartmentalised money tin with 6 slots marked “Rates and Taxes”, “Coal and Lighting”, “Clothing”, “Rent”, “Holiday” and “Christmas” (£25). There seemed to be a pig-shaped money box on every stall. And if you have a thing for silver or crystal tableware then this market is your cup of tea!
I’m not sure that Kirstie Allsopp would be impressed with my ability to barter. I decided how much I was willing to pay for something before asking for the price. If it ended up being less than that then I snapped it up without making a fuss. I did have a little success with a vintage vanity tray (just like the one in Lost in Beauty); the seller first suggested £20 but, when I frowned, she immediately lowered it to £15! I must have a persuasive frown – I should practice that.
Bermondsey Square Antique Market
Bermondsey Square, Southwark, SE1
Nearest tube: London Bridge
Every Friday from 4am until 1pm