Whether you are a passionate collector of antique pieces and paintings, or just love the retro look of vintage furniture and ornaments, there’s something truly special about finding that little treasure from the past that brings happiness or adds that final touch to a room.
Cornwall has a delightful array of antique shops just waiting to be discovered. Here’s our pick of the best and a few tips to get the most out of your shopping trip!
The Past and Present Emporium, Penzance
61 – 62 Chapel Street, Penzance TR18 4AE
To say that this shop is a treasure trove would be no exaggeration! Two separate premises right beside each other, one squeezed in a basement, are bursting with delightful collectibles of every possible description. There are paintings and scrimshaw work, silver, china, jewellery and much more. Peering into the cabinets you will also spot some rather exotic items that feel as if they have found their way to Cornwall in the pocket of some weather-beaten old sailor. The Past and Present Emporium is like a museum that lets you purchase the exhibits to take home with you! Check out their social media to see what’s new in the shop.
And for anyone who loves quirky shops, Chapel Street in Penzance is a great place to spend the day exploring. There are plenty of unusual outlets here, including several other antique shops such as Daphne’s Antiques and Akasha Antiques, as well as some lovely cafés, the iconic Egyptian House, and Penzance’s oldest pub, the infamous Admiral Benbow!
Cape Cornwall Arts & Antiques, St Just in Penwith
31 Cape Cornwall St, St Just, Penzance TR19 7JZ
Tucked away in the most westerly town in mainland Britain, this antique shop is an unexpected and welcome surprise. Cape Cornwall Arts and Antiques may be small but it’s bursting at the seams with interesting collectibles. Militaria, Victoriana, maritime artefacts, early advertising, ethnographica, fossils, minerals and much, much more.
The owner, Craig Chapman, is friendly, very knowledgeable and happy to chat about the fascinating items in his collection. The more you look the more you see, making it impossible to walk away empty handed! A sneak peek at their social media will have you running for your trusty tote bag before you can say ‘I’ve gone antiquing’!
6 Chapel Street, St. Ives TR26 2LR
The Attic Cellar Emporium specialises in mid-century Scandinavian style furniture from quality manufacturers, French antiques and modern collectibles. They are also the only local retailer for the renowned St Ives artist, the late Colin T. Johnson. There is a strong emphasis on up-cycling and colourful, chic retro pieces too.
Whatever the weather, St Ives, once a thriving fishing port, is a beautiful place to visit with lots of galleries and craft shops - not to mention bakeries and beaches - around every corner. You can easily while away a day in this coastal haven.
Shiver Me Timbers, Penzance
Truthwall Industrial Estate, Crowlas, Penzance TR20 9BW
Following Penzance's pirate tradition to a T (which we can only assume stands for treasure in this scenario), Shiver Me Timbers is a pirate's booty of the grandest proportions. A reclamation yard to the eye and a celebration of all things 'once loved' at heart, step into this otherworldly scrapyard and discover anything from vintage signs to granite bird baths to actual nautical figureheads - there's even been a sea mine! Head over to their social media to take a closer look at the magical finds that await you.
Shiver Me Timbers has been put on the map by owner and knick-knack extraordinaire Joe Gray, who has worked with quite a few films and music videos to source fantastical props and set dressings. So, if you're looking for that extra special something that would look good in the living room as well as a Cornish film, this is the place for you.
51a High St, Falmouth TR11 2AF
The old High Street in Falmouth is increasingly becoming the “place to be” in this historic port town. The narrow hill is lined with independent businesses including craft shops, cafés and a smattering of antique shops.
Ludgate House Antiques, near the top of the hill, can be found on the ground floor of a 17th century merchant’s house and stocks everything from 18th century antiques to G-Plan furniture and French influence ephemera. The shop is full of beautiful, understated decorative items including unique lamps, mirrors and vintage games.
Other shops nearby to look out for include the High Street Bazaar and the Old Town Hall Gallery.
7d New Bridge Street, Truro TR1 2AA
Just a short walk from the town centre beside the Truro River is Bridge Antiques Centre. Run for the past 10 years by Jane Powell, this little shop is full of stylish, on-trend items and prides itself on offering exciting and individual pieces sourced from a network of local dealers.
This shop specialises in vintage lighting and has the largest collection in the area, everything from industrial style fittings to retro lampshades and antique crystal chandeliers.
Junk & Disorderly, Probus
The Old Chapel, Chapel St, Probus TR2 4LD
Housed inside an old Methodist chapel in a narrow side street in the village of Probus, this place is something of a local institution! It’s perfect for lovers of organised chaos and those on the hunt for a bargain. As the name suggests, Junk and Disorderly is an eclectic mishmash of household clearance and genuine antiques.
Everything from sets of china to chairs and ornaments, old books and magazines are squeezed into the space. There is a small glass cabinet near the door with some silver and more unusual smaller items, but mostly it’s a case of exploring and seeing what catches your eye, which could easily be everything.
The Old Workshop, Charlestown, St Austell PL25 3NJ
Charlestown has to be one of the most iconic, old fishing ports in Cornwall, recently made famous by the BBC’s Poldark. This exciting antique shop is situated in an old converted sail loft, not far from the harbour, alongside some other art and craft shops.
The Sail Loft Emporium actually houses a huge range of smaller pieces from fine antiques to vintage and more modern retro treasures. Amazingly the loft gathers together some 40 different sellers, each with their own area, and the glass cabinets are bursting with china, glassware, jewellery, silver, kitchenalia, tools, coins and medals, as well as vintage accessories and hand-decorated smaller items of furniture.
This is a perfect place to come browse and find an unusual gift or treat yourself to something really unique.
Mill Hill, Lostwithiel PL22 0HB
Lostwithiel has developed a bit of a reputation as the antiques capital of Cornwall. There are at least six antique and vintage shops in this tiny town, as well as an antiques auction house. One of the largest stores is the Lostwithiel Antiques Centre, which is just a short walk across the river from the main street.
Here they specialise in unusual pieces and hard to find architectural antiques. Run by Martin and Annette, this shop offers a wide range of items from cult film posters, classic 70s furniture, and weathered statues to some rather weird and wonderful curios like ancient mummies and taxidermy!
Other stores to seek out in the town include Stick Antiques and Vintage, formerly a long established shoe and walking stick shop. They still retain all the character and charm and sell an exciting and eclectic mix of kitchenalia, copper and enamelware.
13a Polmear Road, Saint Austell PL25 3LE
This shop in the heart of St Austell featured in the TV favourite, The Antiques Road Trip, and owners Lee and Debbie aim to create a warm and inviting environment where they can share their years of experience in the trade.
Cougar Antiques stock an interesting mixture of furniture, silver, vintage and upcycled items and are always on the lookout for new and exciting pieces. Head here if you’re a budding antiques enthusiast and want some advice, or to sell them any curious items of your own!
25 Baytree Hill, Liskeard PL14 4BG
The Emporium in Liskeard source many of their antiques from estate sales, house clearances and private vendors, so you’re guaranteed to discover amazing one-off pieces. This family owned business in the ancient market town has a huge selection to discover.
Their offering includes antique furniture (Victorian, Georgian or earlier) Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau pieces, 50s - 70s designer items, antique rugs, clocks, coins and stamps, decorative arts including Bronzes and sculptures, memorabilia including old advertising signs and autographs, militaria, musical instruments, paintings, pottery, porcelain and china, prints, pictures, and lithographs, old records, silverware and vintage toys. Phew! Make sure you have a good few hours to explore.
21 Molesworth St, Wadebridge PL27 7DD
This antiques centre in the heart of Wadebridge has been trading for more than 50 years. Victoria Antiques is not only the largest antique shop in Cornwall but one of the largest in the west country with over 5,000ft² of showroom and two additional trade warehouses of over 8,000ft² on offer!
Spread over three floors, their Wadebridge showroom carries hundreds of items of furniture and collectibles, from bookcases to bureaus, beds to barometers. Many of the pieces will have been repaired and restored ready for sale, so they are ready for you to take away or they can also arrange delivery.
Miss Molly’s Tea Room, Camborne
The Old College, Dolcoath Road, Camborne TR14 8RR
A huge antique, vintage and collectibles shop that also doubles as a tearoom… What more could you wish for!? Miss Molly’s is a real hidden treasure where customers can enjoy homemade cakes, cream teas or hearty meals on vintage china plates, seated at antique tables while surrounded by everything that is for sale in this wonderful store.
This is one of Cornwall's largest second hand, vintage and retro shops situated in the Old Dolcoath Mine Counting House. A real Aladdin's cave where there truly is something for everyone and to suit every budget. The shop actually fills four large buildings, with a huge selection of second hand furniture including oak dressers, pine beds, farmhouse tables and chairs, but also hundreds of decorative items such as books, rugs, records and even vintage clothing and jewellery. Take a look at their social media to find out more and to see what’s on the menu.
Colhay, Polson, Launceston PL15 9QS
This shop is a bit of a wildcard and pretty niche we have to admit because all they sell here is antique chairs! Chairs have become such a passion for the owners that they now run a museum too where the finest and rarest examples that they have gathered can be admired.
‘Antique Chairs’ was established in 1988 by Alice and Tom Brown at Lezant, near Launceston before moving four miles to its present location at Polson in 1993. There are some 250 chairs for sale, displayed inside traditional farm buildings with ages ranging from 17th century to early 20th century. A fascinating and unique glimpse into the changes in design over time. They also offer restoration and reupholstery services.
Cornwall’s antique auctions
There are several auction houses across Cornwall and they are a really fun and exciting way to discover and buy your antiques. Auctions are often where antique shops buy their stock so you can really nab yourself a bargain!
Martyn Rowe, Truro Auction Centre, St Day – Weekly household sales. Antiques and pictures sales and collectors sales alternate months.
David Lay Auctions, Penzance – Antique and fine art sales monthly.
Jefferys Auctions, Lostwithiel – Antique and collectors sales bi-monthly.
For some hints and tips on buying antiques at auction (or in a shop) see our top tips below!
Top tips for buying antiques
· Only buy what you really love and can afford, then it’s always a bargain!
• Always check the condition – any damage, chips or cracks should be avoided unless you cannot live without the piece.
• Measure furniture to make sure it will fit your room and through your doors.
• Chat with the dealers and find out any provenance you can.
• Haggle! Always ask if the price on the label is the best they can do, most sellers have a little wiggle room.
• At auction, have a maximum price you are willing to spend and when you reach it stop bidding.
• Try and get a copy of the auction catalogue early and do some research before viewing.
Ready to stock up on some Cornish antiques? Browse our collection of cottages in Cornwall and find the perfect base from which to go antique hunting.