Is Penzance to antique shops what Hay-on-Wye is to booksellers? These stores that specialise in the yesteryear are often an overlooked element of the high street, but it’s worth giving some thought. They may not have the verve of restaurants, the coolness of cafés or the glamour of art galleries, yet they have a distinct character of their own; like a little pocket of Cornishness, delving deep into one can bring up a thousand different possibilities and each with their own story to tell – whether from their crafter, a previous owner or the seller themselves. Many of these shops are independent too, meaning that they support the livelihoods of the locals as well as expressing their collections of times gone by.
Weave your way up and down the streets and make a day of it, or squeeze in quarter of an hour at the end of a holiday to pick out a unique souvenir; below is a list of some of the best antique shops in Penzance, ideal for tourists and locals alike.
(Note: examples of items at the time of writing may differ from your personal experience in Penzance antique shops, but that journey into the unexpected is all part of the fun.)
Specialising in absurdities, Akasha’s declare themselves to be an ‘Aladdin’s treasure trove’ (so take care when stroking any lamps). Delights include eclectic takes on clothing, small furniture, crockery and jewellery, as well as more unexpected finds like the ‘Bhoma’ – a grotesque carving that wards off evil spirits from Balinese temples.
Located opposite Penzance promenade, the furniture here hails from distant dates on the historical timeline with pieces from the Georgian and Victorian periods, as well as occasional offerings from as far back as the 17th Century. As the name suggests, artworks add a splash of colour to proceedings; something to admire whilst you browse or, perhaps, a warming addition to your home.
There’s a distinctly nautical edge to be found in St Just, a 13-minute drive from Penzance; Cape Cornwall’s haul features folk art and furniture nestling alongside anchors, chests, wreck salvage and sailor’s pipes. On a table rests a knife, a pair of goblets and golden coins sitting upon a blackened plate – even the displays have stories to tell.
As well as buying your unwanted jewellery, Cash Your Clutter have also found the time to assemble quite the range of rarities; a Roman tile from Hadrian’s Villa (c. 200AD) is not an everyday find, while an oil bottle from the Tomb of the Sphinx (c. 1500BC) may take the gold medal for ‘most antique item on this list of antiques’. Bonus points for their plastic-free initiatives, helping to make sure that disposable plastic becomes a thing of the past that is not on display.
Specialising in the arts and crafts since 2005, Choughed to Bits have recently opened a new antique store that champions the artisanal wares of Cornwall. Much of their sphere is shaped and moulded around the established history of pottery, with Bernard Leach, Lamorna and Adrian Brough of Lelant all represented. Largely curated from Cornish auction houses, Choughed to Bits isn’t limited to these fine shores but certainly takes great care to depict the local talents – be it in glass, copper or all manner of materials.
Much like the slang word that it is named after, this art gallery and antique boutique is filled with a sense of wonder. “Coddiwomple: Verb. To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.” To enter an antique store is to have an intent on looking for something special, often without a particular end goal in mind; to paint an artwork is to decide upon a journey to take, only fully realised upon completion. Whether you take home an artwork by owners Alex and Tracy – or perhaps a vase, a candleholder, or any other item plucked from obscurity – be sure to coddiwomple with joy.
Hard to miss on Chapel Street with its turquoise exterior, this small store busies itself with a wide range of wooden furniture – sideboards, worktops, wicker chairs, dressers – each neatly arranged on top with an assortment of clocks, paintings, cushions and decorative plates of all shapes and sizes.
You may want to sit down to take in their visual extravaganza of paintings – which is just as well, given that the store specialises in furniture. Armchairs and sofas to try and buy as you so desire, and a weird and wonderful name to match.
Collectors of all things shiny, these magpies lovely people have plenty to sell as well as good deals for your gold and silver. Necklaces, rings, obscure coins and designer handbags are all available, alongside a host of luxury watches including Rolex, Omega and Breitling.
A second-hand store with vintage offerings amongst its roster, there is more furniture here than you can shake a chair leg at; rattan baskets, mahogany cabinets, executive desks and wine racks provide just a selection of their quickly rotating stock. If required, a free local delivery service is also available.
Velvet armchairs, striped armchairs, wingback armchairs, leather armchairs and some of the most dazzling paisley patterns to ever grace an armchair. Residing in Goldsithney – a 12-minute drive away from the antique shops of Penzance high street – J’Antiques may have plenty of arm-supportive seating but also some smaller items to take away, including vintage pots and handmade lampshades. There may be a rocking horse in need of a good home, too.
Antique stylings with a difference, many of their products use reclaimed pine and oak for extra green credentials. Modern yet rustic, items are often recrafted or repainted on-site; spice racks, coffee tables and coat hooks are all handmade, as well as signs that can be written to your specifications. There’s even a range of decorative chalk paints with which to redesign furniture of your own.
Local mementos mix with exotic delights. Copper from nearby Newlyn feature heavily in commemorative plates and rose-embossed bowls, while another of Penzance’s coastal neighbours is represented in the form of Marazion pottery; meanwhile, an 18th Century statuette of a Greek god, Chronos, and paintings of French landscapes prove that the scope of Rosevean’s wares is far from blinkered.
Taking a straightforward walk from Penzance’s western end, this grand emporium is hard to miss within the copper village of Newlyn. Between its thick granite walls, it’s difficult to think of any subject matter that has not been touched upon: musical instruments, vintage cameras, bicycles, guns, dolls, rugs and enough taxidermy to form an inanimate zoo.
These connoisseurs of the shabby chic supply plenty of furniture and a range of fashions that flick through the eras, including a strong showing for fans of flamboyant hats. I very much hope that they have what you need.
Having recently moved from their location on Chapel Street, V&A Antiques have found a more spacious home on Market Jew Street. An antiques centre as opposed to a single shop, V&A Antiques aims to represent between 30 and 40 individual dealers beneath its roof with cabinets of gold and silver, pocket watches and coins, pottery and postcards and everything in between. In the old building that had been deserted by Dorothy Perkins, a local business can now thrive.