Whilst our week in Sussex wasn’t primarily intended as a shopping expedition, it’s always nice to think one is headed for an area where there are going to be some interesting shops to poke around in and bring back the odd ‘find’, and with places like Arundel, Worthing, Chichester and Brighton within striking distance we were fairly certain we’d find something to tickle the MidCentury taste buds.
One disappointment was the charity shop scene – I’m pretty sure the proximity of Brighton generates a gravitation pull for any bargains that might be had as the Brighton dealers must scour the local market for stock. In fact, we felt that all the antiques and bric-a-brac shops in the area have an acute idea of what items might gain and set prices at the higher end of the scale, knowing that the flow of customers will probably generate enough trade to bring in cash flow without exhausting the stock. But, hey – no one has the right to a bargain!
However, there’s still lots to play with, and some absolute gems to find, especially in the more specialist areas. I’ll start with clothing and apparel, and a very high quality outlet tucked away down Crane Street in Chichester by the name of One Legged Jockey. Attracted by a display of MidCentury homewares in the windows, we peered round the door to see rack upon rack of clothing which, on closer inspection, proved to be all genuine period items and in good condition. With lots to fit into our day, we didn’t go through everything – and besides, it always seems a bit rude to be pulling out items you’ve already got for comparison with no intention of buying – but both Mrs M and I were very taken with the wide range of men’s and women’s scarves on display. Reasonably priced for examples in pristine condition, we could both have added to our collections, but I limited myself to a single purchase of a particular pattern that I’ve been chasing for ages and was expecting to have a pay a good deal more for on line. Inevitably in a university town, they’re plagued by students looking for something cheap for fancy dress parties, but One Legged Jockey deserves to be a regular stop on every self-respecting chap and chapess’ Sussex travels.
I’ve yet to add my penchant for 50s and 60s cameras to the list of soul baring articles on this blog, but a couple of spots in Arundel scratched that particular itch (or, perhaps more accurately, fuelled the habit). Decographic in the Nineveh House antiques centre in Arundel’s Tarrant Street is a cornucopia of classic technology, with a fine selection of vintage photographic equipment, along with toys, wirelesses, gramophones and records – including the widest and best organised selection of 78s I’ve encountered for years. Fortunately, shortage of time stopped me spending a fortune and writing off the back springs on the car by delving too far into them. Amazingly, just a few hundred yards away in the antiques centre of Arundel High Street is Arundel Photographica, a shop of the same qualitydedicated entirely to classic and vintage photographic equipment. After a career at the cutting edge of photographic and lens technology, proprietor Chris Nicholls provides a wonderful rehoming service for equipment from the everyday to the exquisite, with each item of stock backed by his encyclopaedic knowledge of the trade. Chris was kind enough to indulge my fascination with the Kodak Brownie range with a couple of selections from his fund of snippets, including how to spot a genuine example of the rare 1950s white plastic model should I ever be fortunate enough to stumble across one. I couldn’t leave without adding something to the collection, picking out an unpretentious little Agilux, product of a long defunct manufacturer based in the Purley Way in Croydon.
Of course, we couldn’t get through our week without a record shop fix, and were lucky enough to find two fine examples of the breed. Tucked away in the vintage and secondhand quarter of Chichester was Helterskelter Records – my ideal sort of place with boxes of reasonably priced collectors material on the waist-high shelves, and crates of 50p bargains underneath. A happy half hour sitting on the floor ensued, adding to the playlist – nothing that will make me an EBay millionaire for having spotted something that the owners missed, but lots of top tunes that’ll clean up nicely and enhance the next Sunday afternoon spin-up. Similarly, box after box of well-organised LPs sated the appetite, with everything bar the really collectable priced at an attractive £3.50; a quick sift added a couple of gems to my section of British comedy classics.
Our most enjoyable find, though, was stumbling on Malcolm Pine’s record shop, A Ray of Delight, again in Arundel’s Tarrant Street. As we rifled through the seemingly endless boxes of 45s, all realistically and temptingly priced, we fell into conversation with Malcolm, only to discover that he was a veteran of the south London record collectors scene and knew many of our favourite people and venues. Suddenly, it was beyond closing time, we were still giggling at some of the anecdotes we’d shared and had built up a tidy stack of purchases. My collection of the output of former Shadows bass player Jet Harris is coming along nicely, the stack of classic hits for my odd (very odd) DJ forays is growing steadily, and there were some of those weird finds you never knew you ‘needed’: a one-sided demo of the Goons ‘Bluebottle Blues’, an EP of Stan Freberg tracks I didn’t know existed, and the obscure follow-up to the ubiquitous ‘Hoots Mon’ that turns up in every stack of old 45s.
Links to all these places are built into the text. Good job there weren’t more of them, after all, or we’d never have got the car home!