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. These days it's called architectural salvage – and it's big business.
But finding a reliable, trustworthy reclamation yard is not always easy. Are you being ripped off for that fireplace? Does that chair have woodworm? It's not always easy to know, but the companies listed below come highly recommended, and between them they should be able to source whatever you've set your heart on.
In two weeks, more than 50 companies will gather at Knebworth in Hertfordshire for the world's largest salvage fair. If you want to find truly original items for your home, head along. And if you can't make it, keep this guide to 10 of the best reclamation yards around.
This is where the architects and designers go, so you'll have to be quick off the mark to find the hidden gems. Prices are on the high side, but staff know their stuff. Occasionally they won't sell you an item if they don't approve of what you plan to do with it.
Best for: old school desks that make great worktops. Usually has a large stock of cast iron radiators and Victorian pine floorboards.
Current offers: late-Victorian earthenware bath from Mile End Hospital, £4,750, Edwardian enamel sign, £165, Art Deco radiator, £1,325.
Brunswick House, 30 Wandsworth Road, London SW8; www.lassco.co.uk; 020 7394 2100
2. RETROUVIUS RECLAMATION AND DESIGN
Retrouvius' owners studied architecture at university. It's a small set-up, but their stock's good.
Best for: wacky items from the 1960s and 1970s. If this is your vibe, or you just want to find something a bit different, this is the place to come.
Current offers: pair of Eames high-back lounge chairs with dark brown upholstery for £395 each (plus VAT); warehouse lamps from the Rover factory at Longbridge, rewired and fitted with hooks and chains, £195, 1970s steel table with mirror top, £750.
2A Ravensworth Road, Kensal Green, London, NW10; www.retrouvius.com; 020-8960 6060
3. COX'S ARCHITECTURAL SALVAGE YARD
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: doors and handles, fire surrounds, beams, flooring, brassware.
Current offers: church pew, £245, cast iron fanlight, £800, French granite horse trough, £675.
10 Fosseway Business Park, Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire; www.coxs architectural.co.uk; 01608 652 505
Insitu is currently only open by appointment as its owner Laurence Green is always out on the hunt for new treasures.
Best for: unusual water features made from old ceramic insulators. Green also buys cast iron baths from the manufacturers that are seconds, restoresthem and sells for half price.
Current offers: small Belfast sink, £50, reclaimed maple floor, £15 sq m, york stone flags, £45 sq m.
252 Chester Road, Hulme, Manchester; www.insitumanchester.com; 0161 839 5525
5. WALCOT RECLAMATION
Two yards, one for building materials and one for the interiors, doors, furniture and fireplaces. There is also a repro shop which produces replicas of popular items.
Best for: Walcot has an enormous selection of doors, so it's easy to find the right one.
Current offers: Oak stairs with mahogany hand rail, £2,250 (plus VAT), Victorian stained glass gas light, £660, Victorian fireplace, £275.
108 Walcot St, Bath; www.walcot.com; 01225 444 404
6. ARC RECLAMATION
Arc Reclamation's owners used to restore houses but started hunting for architectural antiques seven years ago. Now, they offer lots of advice on restoration.
Best for: known in the region for their large selection of doors, Arc also has a few fireplaces and a collection of church furniture.
Current offers: Edwardian stained glass door, £480, Victorian pine stained glass door £499.
Unit 1, Upper Downgate Farm, Sandy Lane, Steep Marsh, Petersfield, Hants; www.arcrec.com; 01730 231 995
Established in 1997, Mongers uses local craftspeople to restore and repair many of its items. 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 Norfolk quarry tiles.
Current offers: a full-size wooden-framed church spire that could make a stunning dovecote for £5,000 incl delivery, complete Victorian lavatory with high level cistern, £150.
15 Market Place, Hingham, Norfolk, NR9 4AF; www.mongersofhingham.co.uk; 01953 851 868
8. WRS RECLAMATION
WRS 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 a gallery.
Best for: ironmongery and garden statuary. Also has a garden and kitchen design service.
Current offers: Regency two-seater strap bench, £2,500; 19th century stone fireplace, £3,500.
Yew Tree Barn, High Newton, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria; 01395 31498; www.yewtreebarn.co.uk
The Edinburgh Architectural Salvage Yard has an eclectic range of items and is run by a charming family who really know their stuff.
Best for: doors, fireplaces and cast-iron radiators as well as sinks, shutters and stained glass.
Current offers: Victorian pine fire surround £380, cast iron radiator £120.
31 West Bowling Green Street, Leith, Edinburgh; www.easy-arch-salv.co.uk; 0131-554 7077
10. ARCHITECTURAL TREASURES
Prides itself on not selling reproductions, the owner Andy Triplow also runs the Old Radiator Company, which has 3,000 to choose from.
Best for: fireplaces, radiators and doors, which can be restored with the glass of your choice.
Current offers: polished Victorian fire surround, £7,500, ornate seven-section radiator £576
The Old Garage, Smarden Road, Pluckley, Kent; www.architecturaltreasures.co.uk; 01233 840 004
SALVOFAIR 2007 is at Knebworth on 30 June and 1 July from 11am to 5.30pm. Ring 08700 115 007 for tickets or buy online at www.salvo-fair.com
Tips for buying salvage
Thornton Kay is the senior partner of www.salvo.co.uk, 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 people that they are not about to buy 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.
* 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 are buying a lot, ask for a discount.
* Do wear gloves and stout boots so that you can rummage about.
* If you buy at a yard, the usual consumer protection laws should apply to private purchases.
* For a list of dealers in your area, visit www.salvoweb.comReuse content