Back in the days when recycling was a dirty word, a few enterprising families started gathering other people’s building scraps and selling them on to like-minded individuals. These days it’s called architectural salvage and everyone’s at it.
There’s even an annual salvage fair at Knebworth and if you want to find truly original items for your house and garden, this is where you should be heading.
If you can’t make it, then below is a guide to eight of the best salvage and reclamation yards around the country.
This is where the architects and designers go, so while there is obviously good stuff you will have to be very quick off the mark to find the hidden gems. Prices are on the high side as a reflection of both clientele and location. Staff tend to be history of art graduates and know their stuff. Occasionally they will refuse to sell an item if they don’t approve of what you plan to do with it.
BEST FOR: Old school laboratory desks make great teak worktops. Often has very large pieces and more traditional finds. Usually has a large stock of cast iron radiators and Victorian pine floorboards.
Opened in 1993, the owners studied architecture at university before starting the business in Glasgow and moving to London four years later. It’s a small set-up, but their selection is top rate.
BEST FOR: Unusual and sometimes whacky items from the 1960s and 70s. If this is your vibe, or you just want to find something a bit different this is the place to come. They now also do interior design so if you want the look (and can afford to pay for it) this is the place to come.
With 12,500 sq ft of covered warehouse and half-an-acre outside, this is one of the largest salvage yards in the country. It also has a good website which is updated every two weeks and flags up new arrivals.
BEST FOR: Old doors and handles, fire surrounds, reclaimed beams, flooring, brassware and decorative items.
Located in a old pub, there are some 4,000 square feet arranged over four floors. Browse through the online catalogue to get an idea of what’s available and then ring or visit.
BEST FOR: Unusual garden water features created from old ceramic insulators.
Two yards, one for building materials such as bricks, tiles, timber flooring and joists, and one for the interiors, doors, furniture and fireplaces. There is also a repro shop which produces high quality replicas of popular items that are always in demand.
BEST FOR: Unlike many of the other yards which have begun to specialise, Walcot refuse to be pinned down. However, they have an enormous selection of doors arranged by size and style so it’s easy to find the right one. They are also specialists in sensitive demolition and can advice on moving larger pieces.
The owners used to restore houses but started hunting for architectural antiques seven years ago. This has now taken off and they run a salvage yard full time. They offer lots of advice on restoration, which products to use and will show you how to avoid the most common mistakes as well as creating furniture from reclaimed wood.
BEST FOR: Known in the region for their large selection of doors, Arc do also have a few fireplaces and some church furniture but such is their selection of doors that other dealers in the area now contact them if they find any.
Established in 1997, Mongers uses local craftspeople to restore and repair many of the items in their stock. There are several buildings and workshops on site with a vast range of furniture and architectural features to choose from as well as a formal garden displayed a selection of garden antiques. Owner Sam Coster is passionate about salvage and most of his own 15th century cottage is furnished with stuff he has found over the years.
BEST FOR: Fixtures and fittings from the 1890s to the 1950s including Georgian fireplaces, Victorian doors and iron railings and Norfolk quarry tiles.
Begun as a means of recycling old building materials, this company has now expanded to fill one of the largest barns in Cumbria and offers everything from furniture and fireplaces to garden ornaments and windows. The site now includes an in-house potter, antique furniture restorers, a restaurant and art gallery making it an all round good day out.
BEST FOR: ironmongery and garden statuary but there is also a garden design service specialising in reclaimed slabs and statues and a kitchen design service using old ecclesiastical fittings.
TIPS FOR BUYING SALVAGE
Thornton Kay is the senior partner of Salvo, the online directory of reclamation yards. More than 150 dealers have signed up to the Salvo Code, a voluntary code of conduct designed to give greater confidence to buyers that they are not about to take possession of anything stolen, wrongly removed from a listed site or toxic.
In addition he suggests the following:
Ask where it came from and if it can be used for what you want.
Do ask your builders if they have used salvage before.
If you buy at auction you may not be able to get your money back if an item is not what it seems. Similar at trade fairs.
If you buy at a yard, the usual consumer protection laws should apply to private purchases.
Do wear gloves and stout boots so that you can rummage about.
If you are buying several objects then do ask for a discount.
Visit Salvo for a list of dealers in your area.