THE UNCHARITABLE GUIDE TO LONDON CHARITY SHOPS
Generally in London it is only worth getting off the tube if there are four chain charity shops, but I am always prepared to get off if there is what I call Silverfish Special, ie an independent one off shop. On average I have to visit ten charity shops a day to find one item to buy, but then I am renowned for being a miserable mean bugger.
If you walk in an area you are only going to get to visit about six charity shops. If you go by bike then it is possible to build up a circular route near you. This is a good thing to do as you will learn which shops are worth avoiding and which worth going to. Where the manager has changed and you can have discussions about the prices.
If you go by bus, you are going to end up in parts of London you never knew existed, or ever wanted to know existed! if you go by car you are never going to be able to park, the only sane speedy way of getting around London is by tube and train, they are veins and arteries of London, they may get clogged and break down often, but when they work they are superb. You should just ignore the distances and think where is the next biggest and best group of charity shops, and at the moment this is definitely the area around Watford and Chesham. It is middle class areas like these that can get the volunteers and premises, not the posh areas like Mayfair or the working class ones like Brixton. All the best areas for charity shops tend to be on the periphery of London.
If you have an oyster card, and are trying to economise then it is best to choose one area close to you, ie the East of West End of the District line.
With regards to the addresses I may do it in the index at a later stage, but generally it is pointless, the key figure is how many shops there are in an area, this guide is for people who visit charity shops rather than armchair critics, the important figure for me in the alphabetical tube station index is the second one, the figure after the name of the area. I personally dont care whom I am buying from – I even buy at the Oxfam in Ken High Street which has to be the worlds most expensive charity shop – just the number of shops’ I can get into in a day. Most of the high Streets of Britain and London do not have clearly visible names. And most high street shops are oblivious to numbers.
Similarly with opening hours, taking note of what it says on the front door or the internet is pointless. On average London charity shops tend to open from ten am to five pm and many enjoy throwing people out at 4.30 in the afternoon. And often you will find one or two closed for every ten you visit. It is because they have such restricted opening hours that charity shops are adding to the dulling of the high street. More and more charity shops are opening on a Sunday afternoons, but I have yet to find a route where it is reliable for all of them.
If you intend to visit ten shops in a day, then you should expect at least two of them to be closed, or shut.
As to the stock of charity shops, they are dependent on what is given to them and it is extremely random, so a shop that I condemn one day might produce something wonderful the next. It is only the prices that they can control and in some way you are better off in shops that are expensive, they can be well worth going to as you have more chance of seeing the stuff.
It seems to me that one area where charity shops could improve greatly and be of genuine help to Londoners is in offering toilets. I can hear the screams of horror from the staff already, but if they had toilets and now that the chain ones have the forced labour form the job centres, they could easily give them the job of keeping it clean, they could ask for donations and use the money to build toilets in third world countries and it would also give them a new thing to whinge about. It is an odd thing but it is the outer London tube and train stations, which tend to have more toilets.
This guide is written in grateful thanks to whomsoever it was gave me a Freedom Pass.
PS how old do I have to be to get one for all the railway lines of London?
My idea of a short walk is less than half a mile or fifteen minutes. Only those shops within walking distances of a tube and train stations are currently noted.
As I say generally a station stop has to have four chain charity shops to be worthwhile. But if it is what I call a silverfish special, ie a temporarish looking non-chain, unreconstructed, and not designed by the Harvard Business School as a cross between a maze and a bumper car circuit, then it may be listed. If it is a small independent shop that exists only to save hedgehogs, then I am very keen on it, even if it only opens on alternate Tuesdays, then I am always keen on it. If you know of any such places or run one that I have missed, I would very much like to hear about it. I will never be rude about silverfish specials, well almost never.
The only current criterion is that you should be within walking distance of a London tube or rail station.
I discovered one such near Barnet when the bus I was on got diverted to Elstree, but I have never found it again, no matter how bad I am happy to give such shops the once over and all such places will always get the benefit of the doubt, initially.
This guide assumes you have a Freedom Pass or an Oyster travel card that covers all nine travel zones of London.
And will eventually work from tube and railway stations where you are entitled to go in the London Area.
From Watford in Hertfordshire to Hayes in Kent. From Brentwood in Essex to Surbiton in Surrey.
I HAVE, sometimes very reluctantly VISITED ALL THE SHOPS LISTED IN THIS GUIDE.
The symbol T means that that the station has a toilet, it is my contention that charity shops, especially the chain ones, should provide toilets.
The main purpose of this guide is not so much to list the shops that can be found easily but rather to show the places where it is not worth going.