Situated on the south side of the city of Sheffield in Yorkshire on the way to the Derbyshire Peak District, the Sheffield Antiques Quarter is in a triangle bordered by the A621 and A61 and with the River Sheaf flowing alongside.
Officially recognised in 2014, the area had once been known worldwide as the best area for antiques in the north of England.
The history of the antiques trade in Sheffield may be traced back to the 1970s and 1980s when there were at least 40 shops on Abbeydale Road alone selling antiques to trade buyers from all over the world who arrived for the rich pickings which were available. The previous generations owned lots of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian furniture and artefacts and these found their way into the myriad shops in the area to be swiftly exported all over the world. The main customers were from America and Australia who bought vast quantities to take away and pack into 40ft shipping containers. There was also a constant stream of traders from Europe who regularly arrived from places such as Holland, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Belgium and Germany to fill their large vans with English antiques. Indeed things were so busy that as they worked their way up one side of Abbeydale Road and back down the other, the first shops they’d called at had already re-stocked! Many shops at that time sported TRADE ONLY signs not letting in the general public as they interrupted the buying frenzy that happened every day, and were actually deemed to be a nuisance!
During the early 2000s the area became run down with empty shops, rubbish and graffiti everywhere. In 2012 some of the shop owners gathered together in an attempt to bring more customers to the area and so the Sheffield Antiques Quarter was born. Still needing much work the regeneration continues and it has become a constantly evolving area with fresh shops always appearing and new and varied businesses taking advantage of this now vibrant up and coming part of Sheffield.
Times have changed and most trade buyers have now disappeared and the shops by and large are geared up for the general public and interior designers. Antiques are somewhat thin on the ground nowadays and ‘Retro’ is the order of the day. 1960s and 1970s goods now figure in many of the shops in the Quarter and there are nine large Antique Centres on Broadfield Road, Queens Road, London Road and Abbeydale Road housing over 200 traders between them, and many interesting and fascinating shops. There are still shops who continue to deal in ‘brown’ furniture which has suffered from being out of fashion but is now showing encouraging signs of making a comeback.
The Sheffield Antiques Quarter also has many spin-off businesses including art shops, interior design shops and a considerable number of cafés and restaurants to choose from. The Broadfield public house at the heart of the Quarter deserves a special mention as this was the catalyst which kicked off the renaissance of the area. Its Victorian interior is a delight and with 100 whiskies to choose from and an award for the best pies in the UK you can’t go wrong. If you just want a more genteel tea and cakes, then don’t miss Jameson’s Tearooms which is Sheffield’s answer to Betty’s Café and Tea Rooms of Harrogate.
Situated half way between the The Broadfield and Jameson’s is the iconic Grade II listed Abbeydale Cinema which is currently undergoing major restoration with regular car-boots and antique fairs being held in its large carpark and interior. In the basement of the building is the Picture House Social which, according to the Observer Food Monthly Awards, is one of the best northern bars. Or if you want craft beers to take home then Hop Hideout or Turner’s Craft Beer and Bottle Shop are the places for you.
For some reason the short stretch of Abbeydale Road around the Abbeydale Cinema was a temperance stronghold with the Cinema actually having a covenant banning alcohol. Three doors away is the premises of the old Temperance Bar, famous during the 1930s, 40s and 50s when cyclists, on their way out and back from the Derbyshire Peak District, would call for a much needed sarsaparilla which was served on draught. It is now home to Dronfield Antiques of Sheffield which is the longest established antique shop in the Quarter stocking everything from Georgian all the way through to Kitsch in their ten packed rooms. The original temperance bar marble sign is still in place under the shop’s bay window.
Amongst other shops in the Quarter are Mr Pickles Food Emporium which was voted ‘Independent Food Retailer of the Year’ at Yorkshire Life Food and Drink Awards in 2016, Forge Bakehouse whose excellent freshly baked bread you have to queue for at weekends and Bragazzi’s Italian café famous for its excellent coffee. Second generation Polish butcher Konrad Kempka has his wonderful shop and smokehouse here too selling probably the best homemade pork pies north of Watford! Asian grocers stand alongside beauty clinics and Turkish barbers opposite flower shops.
The Quarter also has a wide variety of restaurants including Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Indian and Chinese. If you venture towards the city centre the road changes its name and becomes London Road where even more variety can be found including Japanese, Mexican, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Sri Lankan, Thai, Caribbean, Latino and Turkish.
Driving up Abbeydale Road in the other direction it becomes Abbeydale Road South where you can find the early Grade I listed Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet Museum showing the history of Sheffield’s very early industrial trades. The large Kelham Island Industrial Museum in the town centre is also a must to visit and as much of the Antiques Quarter is open 7 days a week makes a weekend stay in Sheffield very worthwhile.