Friday, 30 April 2010

Bitten by the bug: a "Southern belle" at Budleigh Salterton Flea Market

To Budleigh Salterton's excellent Thursday flea market in the Public Hall, pictured above, where my friend Annie and I have often found interesting and collectable pieces at bargain prices.

The market is run by Hittesleigh-based Hyson Fairs Ltd, whose Sheila Hyson has been successfully staging Antiques & Collectors Fairs and fleamarkets for over twenty years. The company is proud to support Leukaemia Research and four times a year it holds an Antiques & Collectors Fair at Chagford, to raise much needed funds for this worthwhile cause.

The stallholders are a friendly bunch of people, always ready to haggle or just to chat about their sale items. Like the producers at our Farmers' Markets they do a lot of good for the town by bringing in visitors. Some of the stallholders come from the Budleigh area like Sue Chapman, who contributed a piece for this site at But generally they come from all over Devon to liven up Budleigh with their colourful presence, and on this occasion I was intrigued to discover one who'd come all the way from California via a remarkable family connection in Tennessee.

Dealing with a customer: Maria at her stall in the flea market

Well actually, Maria Sykes, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at her antiques stall, has been living in Devon for five years. But that tan and the sunglasses perched on her head did give the impression that she'd just crossed the pond that day to sell her varied collection of curios and memorabilia.

Maria grew up in Chicago before moving to California, where she lived with her family on Camp Pendleton, the major West Coast base of the United States Marine Corps. After attending San Diego State University, graduating in Psychology as well as in Spanish, she worked in Mexico City, editing a book in Spanish and English aimed at investors in the US and Mexico for the American Chamber of Commerce.

With a late 19th century edition of Punch

But now with a husband working in the finance department of Devon County Council and a son who attended Exmouth Community College it looks as Maria has put down roots in the local area. She still has a strong link to the US - her son is getting married there next month, and her daughter will shortly be graduating from California State University Fullerton, hoping to make a career as a DJ. The daughter can be heard online at the University's radio station on

"My entire life I have collected and sold things," says Maria to explain her interest in antiques and collectables. "As a child I owned a real 1960 barbie as I was born then, and I owned and collected as a child to make my own pocket money." Her family history and its colouful past, which included a famous grandfather, also played a part. "I was raised by an older mum as I am the eighth child of a total of nine. The baby girl. She and I discussed the things she grew up with in detail and it intrigued me all the stories she had and the things she knew."

Above: Charlie 'Slingshot' Taylor Picture credit

Maria's grandfather 'Slingshot' Charlie Taylor was a world famous slingshot shooter from Tennessee who travelled the world displaying his trick shooting using a slingshot, or what we know in the UK as a catapault. He even shot waterfowl with it and travelled to Hollywood where they made a movie about him. "My aunties bragged that the Elvis Presley Foundation bought the rights to his story but Elvis died before he had a chance to actually finish that project," says Maria. A picture of Charlie Taylor and one of the wooden slingshots that he sold to the public can be seen at Tennessee State Park Museum at Reelfoot Lake

Maria at her stall with another of her treasures, an embroidered purse

So my mom grew up with nice things like a Shirley Temple doll, life size and I was very interested in her history and the many things she enjoyed as a child," Maria told me. "She had a very colourful life."

It was after she left the US that Maria started dealing properly in antiques. "I probably started really selling here in England, but as a single parent and from a poor family I made a contribution to my own home and the needs of my family, " she explained. "I worked as a teacher and I enjoy learning but collecting was a hobby and could become a mainstay here in England if things take off well."

Maria loves the freedom and variety that flea markets give her. "I do enjoy working on my own and have been self-employed many times in my life as an artist. I enjoy meeting people and hearing about their things and making a difference in either giving them some money or helping them get sorted in what they want to get for something they owned or cherished or are happy to get rid of for a fair price. It's fun to know that I can make some money and still pass on a good deal to either another dealer or a member of the public."

"Deals, deals, deals is what I like. I find it a lot of fun to make someone happy and tell them about something they have or own and what it could be worth even one day," she says. So a visit to the flea market is an entertainment in itself quite apart from any bargain you might pick up there.

The Budleigh Salterton Flea Market is held every Thursday, in the Public Hall, situated near the High Street of this busy seaside town. Free carparking is available and refreshments are served all morning. The Market is open from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm. Admission is free.
Note: Occasionally there is a Thursday that is not available

No comments:

Post a Comment