'Places To Go with CC' are the journals of days out shared by vintage enthusiasts Kara (editor of CC) and her husband Justin.

Issue: Online
18th September 2020

Today’s outing takes in two antiques shops and two collectables shops, with country drives along the way. Depending on location and the type of antiques you’re into, you may want to consider just the first half of this day (Woburn to Ampthill) or the second half (Hitchin to Crews Hill).

I’m a little short on scenery photos. The plan was to go out and make some magazine deliveries to a few shops. I didn’t realise I was having a lovely day out until I was in the midst of it!

This day out includes: High Street, Villages, Country drives
Travel: By car.

Shops featured: (click to skip ahead to) The Antiques Association, Ampthill Antiques Emporium, The Fleetville Emporium, Crews Hill Vintage Emporium

Number 12, Grimmauld Place

The day starts in the lovely little village of Woburn. I have mixed feelings whenever we go to Woburn as we once took my mum there on her birthday and stopped at the world’s worst tea room. It was awful. I am relieved to report it is no longer there, I’m slowly shaking off the bad memories and you can visit Woburn safe in the knowledge you won’t be getting an experience so miserable you would have wished you were at Fawlty Towers, because at least that’s funny.

Our reason for visiting Woburn is The Antiques Association. What I find interesting about The Antiques Association is it’s almost the number 12 Grimmauld Place of antiques shops. When you look for it, it will emerge from between the china shop and an estate agents – a smart Georgian building with arched windows and a classic serif sign resting on the two columns that frame the doorway. You’ll feel like you’re stepping into an exclusive members’ club!

The Antiques Association is over three floors and has a selection of fine art, furniture, antiques of all sizes and a gorgeous gang of teddy bears who can be found sledding in one of the rooms. The rooms are smartly laid out and spacious – it is easy to take in everything that’s on offer.

In Woburn you’ll also find some independent home & gift shops, a number of places to drink and eat (inside or outside) and an artist-led art gallery filled with affordable artworks from artists in Bucks and the surrounding area. 

The route from Woburn to Ampthill takes us along one and a half miles of the nine mile wall encircling Woburn Park. It’s height is modest but it’s length is incredible, a terracotta stripe stretching into the distance. The sun is shining, the road is lined with wild flowers in full bloom and the dull Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs has been succeeded by a far more cheerful Michael Ball. Hang on a minute… we’re not just making deliveries, we’re on a day out!

The Room of Requirement

Ampthill Antiques Emporium is without a doubt one of my favourite antiques shops buildings. It’s a 4-storey Victorian department store with a fantastic central staircase (now with vintage bedspreads and throws slung over the banisters) and an outside yard where if you look up you’ll spot the warehouse crane on the side of the building. I love those things – such an instant flash into working life in past.

The basement of Ampthill Antiques Emporium is flooded… with furniture that is. On our last visit there we found the perfect wooden reclining fireside chair for our living room, and even better, managed (god knows how) to get it into the back of my Smart car. Amazing.

On the upper three floors you’ll find anything and everything. It’s the sort of place where you have to constantly stop to look not only left, right and below, but above too. Its covered in antiques. For my second Harry Potter reference in this article, I’ll say that at one point I’m pretty sure I’ve stumbled into the Room of Requirement.

Fingers crossed you’ll find something to buy on your visit to Ampthill Antiques Emporium as then you won’t fail to spot the Victorian pharmacy lovingly recreated behind the till. Following the closure of Perkins and Company at 99 Piccadilly (London) its interior languished in a basement until it was found and restored by Ampthill’s owner, Marc.

If you’re out and about on the first Sunday of the month you might want to pop down to Flitwick for Past Pastiche’s monthly antiques, vintage and collectors fair (dates on our fairs calendar).

The Town Square

A very pleasant countryside drive will take you from Ampthill to the market town of Hitchin. We stop for lunch at this point. The town square is feeling somewhat European, filled with tables and chairs for well-ventilated Covid-era dining. There’s a bloke playing a guitar employing an interesting pattern of singing-shouting-singing, but it is still quieter than our previous visit when the square was filled with Mods on mopeds.

Well rested and fed, but very harassed by wasps, we head to the first of our two afternoon stops – both of which are vintage, retro and collectables shops. The Fleetville Emporium is in the centre of town. A very unexciting modern building, a blank canvas if you like, that becomes an explosion of colour and noise when you step in.

The first thing I have to mention about The Fleetville Emporium is the selection of antique teddy bears on offer. It is not surprising I come to this straight away as one of our best ever antiques purchases was made here a couple of years ago. A (not) laughing bear who has since gone on to star on the front cover of my first issue of The Collector’s Companion. I spot at least two or three others I would love, but the purchase of Bear led to the purchase of a chair for him, and if I bought more bears, I’d buy more chairs and before I know it I’d have a entire cinema of bears sat in our living room watching Netflix.

In The Fleetville Emporium you’ll find vintage (post-50s) clothing, records, collectable toys, and a multitude of cool bits for display around the house.

Garden Centre City

As we’re from south of this area we finish off our day by heading down to Crews Hill Vintage Emporium, north of Enfield and just inside the M25. There’s scenic routes to get there or you can fire down the A1/M25.

Crews Hill Vintage Emporium is in the middle of garden centre city. I’d be interested to know if there’s anywhere else that has so many garden centres packed into one area. The Emporium has a ‘garden’ area of its own outside the entrance, with plenty of galvanised wonders, mangles, sculptures, wagon wheels etc. Of course, I have no photo of this area as no matter how nice a day it will be it is always seems to be super windy when we arrive at Crews Hill and we hurry inside!

Crews Hill Vintage Emporium is a great sister visit to The Fleetville Emporium, they have both got a really laid-back fun atmosphere that invites you to be a bit trendier than you actually are. Justin refuses to let me purchase the most insane shellsuit jacket I have ever seen in my life (and I say that as someone who lived through the 1980s) which I am grateful to him for and being characteristically untrendy Justin departs with a pair of 1930s cufflinks.

The Antiques Association, 4 Market Place, Woburn, Bedfordshire MK17 9PZ
Ampthill Antiques Emporium, 6 Bedford Street, Ampthill, Bedfordshire MK45 2NB
The Fleetville Emporium, 21a Churchgate Shopping Centre, Hitchin SG5 1DN
Crews Hill Vintage Emporium, Brown’s Garden Village, Theobalds Park Rd, Enfield EN2 9DG

Useful links (will open in a new tab):
Woburn Art Gallery
Parkopedia – find places to park including cost
Tripadvisor – Woburn restaurant, cafe and pub reviews
Tripadvisor – Hitchin restaurant, cafe and pub reviews
Links active at time of publication.