Pictured above: Cherry Blossom in April at Ardingly Antiques Fair
This April, Ardingly Antiques & Collectors Fair will celebrate its half-century! For the original organiser – Caroline Penman – memories of the first ever Ardingly event are a little hazy, but as they say: if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there!
The fair began as a solely indoor event in 1969, and as Caroline recalls: ‘The event always coincided with the first hot spell of Spring, around 22nd – 23rd April.’
It wasn’t until 1975 that the first outside pitches (based on Brimfield) began to be included.
“Originally, it was £1 a car, and 5 turned up.” Caroline remembers, “Next time 30 turned up, then 90, then 200, and upwards to a planning permission limit of 1000!”
Pictured above: An early picture of Ardingly Antiques Fair Outside Pitches
For the first decade, the hall was divided into about 70% of the stalls with no dateline on the items, and 30% datelined and vetted! The Abergavenny building was later added after there were about 300 outside pitches.”
“It was so popular because, on the night before, we had terrier racing up the main gangway, with barbecues outside.” Caroline reminisces: “It was originally free entry for trade from 7am to 9am, then £3 for public. Dealers were actually cutting the perimeter fence to get in before dawn, so I had guards and dogs at one stage!”
Pictured above: An early picture of Ardingly Antiques Fair Abergavenny Building
Now run by International Antiques & Collectors Fairs (iacf), this April’s Ardingly Fair falls directly after the Easter Bank-Holiday weekend on Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th April.
“Let’s hope that Caroline’s prediction of this being ‘the first hot spell of Spring’ is correct!” commented iacf’s Communication Manager – Grant Nicholas.
Pictured above: Ardingly Shopping Arcade furniture stall
It’s interesting to trace the fair’s evolution from such humble beginnings to now: the largest antiques event in the South of England. Ardingly today is a truly cosmopolitan antiques event, only one hour from London, 12 miles from Gatwick and 90 minutes from Dover, the fair regularly attracts local, national and international dealers and buyers. The South of England Showground holds up to 1,700 stalls, housing thousands of goods – inside and out – from fine antique furniture and delicate ceramics to larger architectural salvage and country house garden items. It also has a reputation as one of the best UK antique fairs in which to find quality European decorative items.
Pictured above: Ardingly Antiques Fair Shopping Arcade
If you haven’t yet been to Ardingly, either as a stallholder or as a buyer – or if it’s been a while since your last visit – maybe the fair’s 50th birthday is the perfect time to acquaint (or reacquaint) yourself with this splendid event – what is, without doubt, a cornerstone of the UK Antiques trade.