A stones throw from Tom's Yard sits a hidden treasure-trove of ''architectural antiques with personality'', operating on an international scale.

UK Heritage was founded by Ben Couchman in 2006 and since then it has grown to become something rather special. A self-confessed shop-aholic, whilst Ben is scouring the UK for new pieces (Garden Antiques, Fireplaces, Gates, Flooring...), his team are cataloguing & researching stock, or preparing orders for their forever home.

The website lets you browse through the stock, with ranges further broken down into Period / style so that you can find the perfect piece to suit your property. My favourite section without doubt is where Ben displays his Premier Stock... I always love catching up with the latest gems.

What is it about architectural antiques that you love so much? Have you always been fond of conservation and heritage?

I grew up in old buildings my parents restored themselves. One of my fondest childhood memories was playing in an old, abandoned water mill. Seeing all the historical elements of these amazing buildings was certainly the first step towards my passion for architectural antiques.

In fact, I trained to be a building surveyor back in my younger years, so thinking about it, I must have had an interest in construction and architecture then without even realising it.

Some may remember the TV show “Reclaimers” – it was the first to feature stories of people sourcing, restoring, and selling unique objects before placing them in a stunning new location. John Rawlinson from Original Architectural Antiques, Anthony Reeve of LASSCO Three Pigeons, Sam Coster from Mongers Architectural Salvage and others all featured on the programme.

Watching them find old, interesting things and giving them a new home inspired me to do the same. I remember thinking how fascinating and exciting it looked.
It’s the variety of items in this industry that I love - you just don't know what you’re going to find from one day to the next.

I have a number of exceptional items. One day, I hope to find something really out of the ordinary.

Building up the business from scratch has been a true labour of love having had no previous knowledge of antiques. I started with one door; now I have a whole antiques yard and hard-working team. It’s been so enjoyable seeing the business grow into what it is today.

With the various styles over the centuries (Rococo, Art Deco, Gothic…), is there one that you are particularly drawn to?

I have a great appreciation of many. What's brilliant about my job is that I buy a wide range of stock that encompasses many styles. If an antique is of good quality, design, and workmanship, I will appreciate it, no matter the style.

But if I truly had to choose, it would be Neoclassical style architecture.

As a business that specialises in more unusual items, over the years you have come across some rather magnificent pieces. Have there been some that have really stuck out? Where did they wind up going?

Over the past year, we have sold many interesting and unique items to many interesting and unique people, including some celebrities.

I once sold a circular window surround to line a firepit to a famous Hollywood actor. A famous English actor even came and visited the yard and left with some window shutters!

One of my most memorable sales was a large ecclesiastical stained-glass window. It sold for £35k and shipped across the pond to its new owner in the USA.

But aside from all this, I have had the absolute pleasure of finding and looking after many quality antiques over the years, steeped in beauty and history, as they wait to find their next home.

Off the back of that, have you ever sold an item that you came to regret selling, or really struggled to let go?

Surprisingly, I don't find it hard to let items go – when I first started the business, I thought I would, but I simply don't.

I enjoy buying and selling. If you let it go, you can find more – the exciting bit is finding the item! Then you look after it, before finding it a good home. The whole process is very rewarding. It’s a good feeling finding someone who will care for an item and find as much enjoyment in it as you do. We are merely a blink of an eye in its lifetime.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate to visit some magnificent homes and gardens. Have you had any special moments on your travels?

We recently went to Blenheim Palace, in Oxfordshire, and picked up some fantastic salvage pieces that were for sale. It was a privilege to visit Winston Churchill’s birthplace and ancestral home - it truly is an incredible estate.

Some of the most memorable moments are occasions when things don’t go to plan, leading you to some of the best unforeseen places and discoveries. The lifestyle of this business certainly takes you on many adventures.

Offering such a wide range of materials, I imagine your customers aren’t limited to the British Isles? How have you found getting the word out there?

We operate as an international business. Half of our customers are based outside of the UK. Designers, tradespeople, and private customers come to us for quality products - we let our stock do the talking.

Looking at a lot of your latest images - you are using a delightful tone of blue as your backdrop. Was there any inspiration behind this colour?

We can't recall where it came from exactly, but we took a cutting from a magazine and had the paint custom-made. Every time we purchase a new tin, the shade varies slightly, which certainly makes it unique to us. It’s become a big part of our brand today and our products are instantly recognisable to our clients.

An aspect of a business in your industry that the public won't see is ‘Trade’. How much of your business is supplying architects, designers, and possibly even other businesses?

We deal with a lot of international designers and regularly deal with others in the trade. We enjoy the trade aspect of our business as it’s great for networking and getting to know fellow professionals in the industry. There are many talented people running great salvage yards all over the UK.

What are the challenges you face as a business? I can’t imagine it is easy finding stock!

Time is key in this business. I consistently put in a lot of hours researching and sourcing our quality antiques. Knowledge of the market is so important, so that I can make sure I buy superb items that I know our customers will love and appreciate as much as I do. Once an antique arrives at the yard, there are lots of steps involved in getting each item on the website and available to customers. Fortunately, I have a fantastic team of dedicated staff who help to make this process quick and efficient.

Looking forwards, what does the future hold for UK Heritage?

Keeping up with trends and technology can be challenging as the pace of change is ever increasing. Investing in this has become a priority. We’re currently working on a brand-new website to take our business to the next level. Keep an eye out for the launch in the next few months!

We also have four new gallery spaces opening this year – we’re looking forward to having many of our wonderful items on display, brought to life in front of our signature blue backdrop.

Thomas Pearson