The Dorchester Curiosity Centre

PENGUIN paperbacks, bad oil paintings and frou-frou pink negligees that could have come straight from the set of Alfie.

Hats, handbags, shoes, paddles, Polyester shirts with gigantic Seventies collars. Trunks, trugs, shrugs, rugs, carpet-beaters, birdcages, tables, wine racks, shoes. Milk jugs, vases, gloves, beads, bangles, sewing machines, chandeliers. Toys, parasols, mirrors, china plates, antique skis, board games, porcelain piggy-banks.

Welcome to Dorchester Curiosity Centre, a dressing-up box meets props department meets car boot sale meets house clearance. True, it smells like an old lady’s wardrobe, and there are spiders skittering about, but this is a labyrinthine treasure trove where we could spend a whole day rootling.

Kitsch kitchenware jostles with garden forks and a giant giraffe. There are vintage clothes from Princess Mimi, cut-price furniture from Osbourne & Brown, and gorgeous French-distressed whatnots by Hetty Green. Plus stuff from Violet Pearl, Bazaar House, Zavian Vintage Interiors and disc-o-box.

All the stuff’s artfully arranged into little ‘furnished’ corner lounges or studio attics.

We stumble upon Dorset ephemera, dolls’ houses, cameos, hairbrushes, hatstands, swimsuits, cushions, vintage tennis raquets. We’re window shopping for the house of our dreams (but can’t put in an offer till someone buys our seafront flat in Weymouth).

It’s elaborate, lavish, and completely over the top. Parents bring their children here to marvel at anachronisms like vinyl records. Soaring scores from 1930s movies swoop overhead.

For me, vintage is about nostalgia, looking longingly at things I’ve loved and lost in the Eighties – dolls’ shoes, battered Bunty annuals. Meanwhile, he gets to indulge his fetish for Formica tables. I browse through rails of vintage clothes.

A-line shifts, maxi-dresses, trench coats, nighties, suede skirts by Laura Ashley, Harris Tweed, St Michael, Etam, an ancient Cerruti 1881 trouser suit dredged up from who knows where, and a whole host of little London boutiques that must have disappeared decades ago. There are also some dreadful frocks that Sybil Fawlty wouldn’t be seen dead in.

In parts, it’s too twee for words. Dizzy, sick, bewildered, we flee the avalanche of knick-knacks. Dear God, enough Jubilee bunting to last a lifetime. Staggering out empty-handed, we’re safe in the knowledge we know where to come next time we need a Cornishware lentils storer. Or a bowl of plastic fruit.

4 thoughts on “The Dorchester Curiosity Centre

  1. If all we are led to believe is true there really couldn’t be a better time to have your flat on the market. I hope it all goes well for you both and that you are soon settling down in your perfect home. Strange that – most of the sort of stuff you want to get hold of my wife slung out years ago! It all comes round again, eh?

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