Catherine Southon was the expert filming a shopping trip in Sherborne Antiques Market – Terry Bennett spoke to owner Craig Wharton
Probably everyone has seen the odd episode of ‘Antiques Road Trip’ on the BBC. The show recently visited Sherborne, and the historic town got to witness a proper treasure hunt as presenter and expert Catherine Southon took to Sherborne Antiques Market to find some items. The market – renowned for its witty and extravagant window displays – hosts 38 dealers currently, and is laid out in ‘rooms’, with each independent dealer having their own space to use as they wish.
BV podcaster Terry Bennet spoke to owner Craig Wharton to get some insights on their day of filming, as well as hearing how Sherborne’s biggest antiques shop came to be.
‘It all started during COVID,’ says Craig. ‘I was a dealer and had decided it was about time I had my own market. Phillip, my partner, was working at Dukes in Dorchester. Initially, I was going to open on my own. But Philip decided that his time as an auctioneer was done and wanted to join me.
‘We went for lunch with Paul Atterbury and his wife, Chrissy, who Philip had been working with for some time. I used Paul as a sounding-board and asked if he might hypothetically join a market if a market was hypothetically going to open?
He said: ”Why, are you thinking of opening a market?” I said: “Yes – but I haven’t actually told anybody yet!” And Paul said: “Yes, I’ll join you.” So he became my first recruit!
‘It was a leap of faith really. Antique dealers normally like to hunt on their own, to trade on their own. However, the market works because the shop is open seven days a week.’
And what is Craig’s own speciality?
‘Philip’s an excellent furniture restorer. I would like to say that I’m a specialist in furniture – but I know so little compared with the people I work alongside. I’m probably a decorative dealer. There’s no shame in that! I look at something and think yes, that can be used in the home or the garden. It’s beautiful. Could I live with it? Could I sell it? And, more to the point, could I make a slight profit on it? I tend to buy furniture, pictures and items that are unusual for someone’s home. I sell a lot to interior designers who use us as a source of stock.’
Do you only buy things that appeal to you? Or is it more scientific than that?
‘I don’t think there’s any science to it at all! Certainly not where I’m coming from. I do buy what I like but I also buy what I know will sell. Everybody needs a chest of drawers. People also need somewhere to put their computer. We’ve seen recently, with the move towards laptops, that people are beginning to buy bureaus again. Personally, they’re not my choice, but I know that they will sell! They’re functional and beautiful. I suppose if I do have a mantra, it would be “practical and pretty”. Everything should be usable. And it should look lovely.’
On cameraThe BBC recently arrived to film an episode of the Antiques Road Trip – can you share any insider info on the day?‘A little! Catherine Southon was the expert on the day, and she was wonderful. She’d been filming in the morning and when she came into the shop she looked exhausted. She just said “Help me! What am I going to buy?”‘Philip was the one actually doing the filming, and he just took her arm and pulled her along, showed her a few things, and he also took her upstairs to show her where we restore our furniture – these things have been around for maybe 200 years. We like to give them another lease of life! ‘She loved it up there – she’s an auctioneer too, of course. It’s theatre, obviously, it’s all made for television. So they’re expecting to show the general public that there’s a deal to be had. And in the main there is. If something’s priced for, say, £110, you know that you can drop by £10 pounds and everybody’s happy. But of course, when you’re being filmed for television, you do drop a considerable amount – let’s face it, if she wasn’t able to buy anything, there wouldn’t have been a television programme! But she was very, very pleasant. They all were – the sound people, the camera people. They were super, it was a lovely experience.’And how long does the filming for what will probably be five minutes of screen time take?‘Well, I think it could have gone on a little bit longer. But we had tickets to go to the opera that night. So I said to her, I don’t care what happens. We are leaving here at half past six! They all burst out laughing. But they turned up at lunch time, and by half six they were ready to go.’Can you share one final tip, then, for somebody wanting to go and buy an antique and keep it for a few years in the hope of a sound investment? ‘Oh, heavens, if I knew what was going to be in fashion in ten years time I certainly wouldn’t be restoring furniture and doing what I’m doing now! All I would say is if you’re going to keep it, buy something you absolutely fall in love with. Buy something that, if you haven’t bought it by the time the shop closes, then all you do is think about it all night. Go back and get it because it’ll pay you back dividends, no matter the value.’
• You can listen to Terry’s full interview with Craig in June’s podcast here.
• Sherborne Antiques Market is on Cheap Street, and open seven days a week: Mon to Sat 10 to 5, Sun 11 to 4 (Market Sundays 10 till 4).