On Saturday I took a trip to my local reclamation yard in search of some vintage treasures. I made my way along a country road and turned onto a dusty lane flagged on either side by overgrowing brambles and wild flowers. The reclamation yard is well hidden and I only found out about it by chance when I stumbled upon it on an afternoon ramble last summer. I immediately fell in love with all the cast iron baths, flaking radiators and stained glass windows. I have returned regularly since, if only to dream about the history behind the items or imagine what they might look like once returned to their former glory.
Many of the items require a professional to spruce them up but there are the odd gems that don’t need any attention, such as old doorknobs, tiles with beautiful age-crackled surfaces and signs advertising products from a bygone era. Even if you’re not in a position to renovate your purchase you could still put it to good use; perhaps an old door could serve as a backdrop for photographs or as a wedding prop, or maybe you could fill an aging bathtub with herbs and try your hand at a bit of ‘grow your own’.
For me, it’s the stained glass that gets me every time. There’s so much to choose from and somehow, the panels that are bent or broken appeal to me more than anything else – there’s just something about their faded beauty.
There are also countless roll top baths with gargoyle-like feet, chipped and grubby Belfast sinks and weighty chimney pots just waiting to be snapped up.
If you’re a fan of older items with some history behind them – and you don’t mind a bit of a project – I’d definitely recommend a wander around a reclamation yard. The one I visited was in Crews Hill which is about half an hour on the Thameslink line from Moorgate. If you fancy a nose, be quick, as I hear this one is closing down soon. A real shame as it’s wonderful to wander among all the genuinely aged and shabby (if not always chic) items.
Despite the condition of some of the pieces available, they’re certainly not cheap. Old doors with broken window panes were upwards of £750 and even reproduction fireplaces started at around £300 (but still required work). That’s something you also need to keep in mind when visiting reclaim yards – not everything is original so it’s important that you ask before stumping up the cash. You should also be prepared to do a bit of haggling. It helps to have a clear idea of the average price of items elsewhere. That way you can be confident of whether you’re getting a bargain or being taken advantage of. Obviously you also need to keep in mind the amount of work required to restore whatever you buy. It’s so easy to get carried away (believe me, I’m the first to dismiss serious concerns such as whether a cast iron bath is a good idea in a first floor flat with floorboards of questionable quality…) So make sure you think carefully before committing to anything.
Even if you’re not planning to part with any money, reclamation yards make for an interesting and fun afternoon of exploration. You never know when you might happen upon something perfect and unique and that’s part of the appeal – you can be sure you won’t find these items in your local Next Home or on display in your neighbour’s living room.
If Crews Hill is a bit of a trek for you, you might want to check out Lassco, London’s most popular reclamation yard. You can browse their products online and the range is certainly broad, with items from pots and jars to ironwork on offer.
I hope this has given you a few ideas and inspired a wander around your nearest treasure trove of pre-loved items. Happy hunting!