Have you ever had an Antiques Roadshow moment? You discover a dusty family heirloom in the attic and wonder: is it just junk or is it priceless?
In Ireland, antique treasures are discovered daily.
Scattered across the country are shops crammed with character, curios and expert antiquarians. Lonely Planet, for example, recommends The Whatnot in Derry-Londonderry city: “The Whatnot is an interesting little antique shop crammed with jewellery, militaria, bric-a-brac and collectables.”
Norwegian interior designer Anette Frostad is a fan of Fadó in Dingle, County Kerry, saying “It’s so cosy for a start. You almost think it’s too small. Then you go digging and find hundreds of once-off decorative pieces and a massive collection of traditional Irish prints and posters. Any decorator would spend hours there.”
Nestled in one of Dublin’s oldest neighbourhoods, The Liberties, is one of the oldest antiques and arts quarters in Ireland. Francis Street is legendary among those in the know with over 20 antiques shops, galleries and craft stores. It’s central, too, located just a five-minute walk from St Patrick’s Cathedral.
We visited two of the shops there and had a peek inside.
Owner of O’Sullivan Antiques, Valerie McCormack, knows pretty much all there is to know about antiques in Ireland. “Ireland”, she says, “has a longstanding tradition of making furniture for a more affluent clientele, dating back to the Georgian period. Pieces are classical and well maintained.” As some light reading, Valerie recommends the book Irish Furniture by the Knight of Glin and James Peill for a detailed history of Irish pieces (furniture, mirrors, woodwork) that can be found.
O'Sullivan Antiques is located at 43-44 Francis Street, Dublin 8. Its opening hours are Monday to Saturday; from 10am - 6pm.
Some beautiful china plates at O'Sullivan Antiques
Francis Street Exchange
“During Ireland’s colonial history, many different styles and items were brought in from across Europe by the wealthy”, Brian Behan of Francis Street Exchange tells us. “Then, during the Famine, many of the houses were abandoned with everything in them.” Because Ireland experienced a great influx of imported pieces, Brian says, “furniture and artwork made by the Irish are more rare and thus have a higher value.”
Francis Street Exchange is located at 105 Francis Street, Dublin 8. Its opening hours are Monday to Friday; from 11am – 4:30pm and on Saturday; 11am – 5:30pm.
An example of the treasure to be found at Francis Street Exchange
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David Wolfenden Antiques, County Antrim
David Wolfenden Antiques specialises in “quality antique walnut, rosewood and mahogany 19th century furniture”. David is eager to assist and if you’re searching for something specific, he’ll do whatever he can to help. He even asks, “is there a better place to find antiques than Ireland?”
David Wolfenden Antiques is located at 219b Lisnevenagh Road, County Antrim.
A mixture of mahogany and rosewood furniture at David Wolfenden Antiques
Up for auction
Auction houses see a plethora of goodies pass through their doors every year and certain memorabilia always proves to be popular. The Titanic’s appeal is like no other – the violin that played as the ship sank is set to be auctioned for a record $640,000. In Connemara, the contents of Costello Lodge recently sold for a six-figure sum, partly because former White Star Line director Bruce Ismay once lived there. Ismay famously became a recluse after the Titanic’s tragic sinking leading to a fascination with him and his former home. To keep abreast of what’s happening where and when, Myantiques.ie is an excellent resource for upcoming auctions in Ireland.
Meanwhile, the Irish Antique Dealers Association (IADA) have listed the all accredited antique shops in Ireland on their website. That should make your treasure hunt a little more straightforward.
We’ll leave the final word, however, to Academy award winning actor and antiques aficionado Broderick Crawford who once said: “I collect antiques. Why? Because they're beautiful.”
We couldn’t agree more.