In the Victorian era, clutter meant class. The front parlour of a house was a showcase of social status and style, often packed out with vases, lamps and dried flowers to show off to guests. Harking back to that tradition is a mint-coloured shop on Sharrow Vale Road, with a gorgeous hand-painted sign that reads "The Front Parlour Collectables & Vintage Clothing". It’s a short jaunt from the city centre, in a hot spot for independent retailers, antique dealers and cafes – a recipe for a fine Saturday stroll.
The Front Parlour is a rare gem of a place, offering the genuine vintage package. Paying attention to the tiniest of details is the heart-warmingly welcoming Jane (who, before her retirement, was joined by her mother, the fabulously turned-out woman on the right in the photo above).
For years the duo resolutely sourced period stock and nurtured The Front Parlour into a real treasure trove, complete with tiny, scallop-edged handwritten price tags that tell you which era each item is from. Years ago I purchased an original ‘30s enamel brooch of an English Pointer, and I cherish the price tag almost as much as the brooch itself. These little marks of quality and care set the Front Parlour apart from other vintage and antique shops.
Fans of vintage homeware can explore shelves laden with 50s sugar shakers, Victorian candle holders and 70s glass vases. Followers of retro design and decor can flick through collectable journals on homemaking. By the entrance sits copies of Reader’s Digest, black and white postcards, children’s literature, and dress patterns. Browse the rails and you’ll find everything from tweed jackets, ties and cufflinks, to silk-lined coats, dresses, skirts and slips – all in beautiful condition. Those looking to customise old or new items, meanwhile, can rummage through boxes of decorative knobs and handles, old keys, fasteners and chains. The jewellery range is a highlight: spanning centuries, you’ll find bright cut glass costume jewellery, delicate pearls and gold-plated brooches – most costing less than £10.
The Front Parlour consistently offers objects worthy of investment, that are charming – rather than iffy – in their antiquity. Whether it’s a smart pair of culottes or a pressed glass pedestal cake stand, it’s exciting to imagine the previous life of everything on display here.
Though the shop’s opening hours are limited, thankfully its glorious window display of ephemera can be browsed at any hour, and regularly halts passers-by in their tracks. And if something catches your eye, you can just give them a call to reserve it.
- Words by
- Jane Faram
- Images by
- Shaun Bloodworth