All spaces taken at antiques centre in Oxfordshire town within two weeks of opening

When Simon Knight came to Henley-on-Thames in South Oxfordshire 11 years ago there were more than ten antiques shops in a town internationally famous for its regatta.

Now there are few, something which he is helping to rectify by taking a Grade II-listed building in Friday Street, in the town's conservation area, on a long commercial lease and opening an antiques centre there called Henley Antiques, selling quality militaria, jewellery, furniture, mirrors and clocks among other pieces.

He is now trading as Knights Oriental Rugs, concentrating all his efforts on his worldwide export of Persian and tribal rugs which form a major part of his antiques business, from a shop opposite Henley Antiques.

"I decided to offer space to local dealers who run a business from home, giving them an opportunity to do this locally, maybe part time, right in the heart of Henley," said Mr Knight.

Four months ago - and within two weeks of opening - the centre's spaces were taken, all by word of mouth, and now there is a waiting list.

Town Centre

Mr Knight added: "Henley is now becoming dominated by charity shops and national chains and I didn't want yet another independent business to go that way. The centre is a success for the people who have space there. I think there is enormous potential for groups of people to get together and share a property to run an independent business in towns like Henley to ensure that independents survive."

For a town like Henley in the high-profile catchment area of South Oxfordshire (average house price £400,000 in 2007), to have such a paucity of antiques shops is perhaps surprising, but there are also ten art galleries and two antiquarian bookshops - "possibly more art galleries per head of population outside of London than anywhere else in the country", said Peter McConnell, Henley's town centre manager.

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