St Albans Antique and Vintage Market runs all along the length of St Peter’s Street. What I love most about coming to this market is that I always learn so much and enjoy some wonderful conversations with vendors in the know.

I’m amazed by the number of twenty-somethings roaming around. Born into a digital age, they seem fascinated by all of the curios and are enjoying browsing, picking up remnants from the past and working out what they are.

I pick up a domino set and buy it immediately for a mere £5. It’s such a relaxing pastime. I particularly like the dark dominoes with coloured dots as they’re more attractive than plain white tiles. I spot a small box of tiddlywinks with a faint illustration of goblins up to mischief in the countryside. Beside it, an old worn out teddy bear is nestled into a child’s wooden nursery chair with peeling pale blue paint. I always feel a bit sad when I see worn out teddies with a ripped paw or a damaged ear; they look as if they have been very much loved and seen the world from the arms of some child who has then grown up and simply forgotten about them.

I’m curious to learn how this wonderful market has come about and head for the information stall. To my surprise, I find Jenny, an old acquaintance sitting there. It’s wonderful to see my old neighbour after all this time and I discover that she is the brains behind this entire operation!

Jenny has always had a passion for all things vintage and has now coupled it with her entrepreneurial skills. “I rent the space from the council and organise and promote it all myself," She says. "Each stallholder is vetted to keep the standards high.”

I’m amazed by her tenacity and congratulate her on her determination to get this off the ground. “I saw a gap in the market. We started out with about 19 stalls in October last year and today there are more than 75 stalls trading.”

Vintage markets like these, showcasing relics from time gone by, are an invaluable repository of our social and cultural past and make me feel like I’m journeying through time. They’re an important factor in bringing the community together, promoting conversations and connections.

Of course there are some items that ought to be forgotten, like this cream coloured jar that I’m staring at which looks as if it’s just come out in boils! Or this brown tray with garish bright orange flowers splashed across it, fresh out of 1976, that looks like something Rigsby in Rising Damp would served a mug of tea on to his beloved Miss Jones.

I love the miscellaneous haphazardness of it all, from a brass bell with a tall ship for a handle to a red and gold 1940s ornate cigarette box. A ceramic Siamese cat gazes calmly at me while I spot a retro oyster pink telephone that surely should only be answered by Lady Penelope!

I’m intrigued by some large wide eyed dolls wearing pretty dresses trimmed in lace, ribbons and feathers and wearing slightly macabre expressions. One, still in her box, stands out in her red woollen outfit and is called ‘Miss Emma’. I feel like wrapping them up in bubble wrap and posting them to Terry Gilliam or Henry Selick for one of their next films.

I move onto a stall showcasing some intriguing costume jewellery. Most of the vendor’s accessories date from the twenties and thirties. I love the agate bracelet draped over a tortoiseshell cigarette box that has been designed with juxtaposing light and dark shades of the stone. I chat with the Belgian collector and he lets me have a closer look at some other decorative pieces embellished with amber and marcasite.

One of my favourite stalls is filled with many flat cabinets showcasing a weird selection of antique silver items that, frankly, need an explanation. I chat with John the owner as I spot a silver ship’s whistle for piping VIPs aboard. He can see how intrigued I am by it and blows it, attracting a small gathering. I laugh and am transported to a scene from the highest grossing movie of all time, where all of the pretty people embark on the Titanic in their formal cruising attire.

As I leave I see a pile of Melody Maker newspapers with its distinct red graphics; it takes me straight back to hanging around my local corner shop in the late 1970s as a child waiting for my teenage punk sister to finish reading an article about the band X-Ray Spex.

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city.