Just one of the many charity shops dotted around GraftonEden Keily-Thurstain

Many of us, from those who fancy themselves expert bargain-finders, to those simply looking for a cheap costume to wear to ARCSOC, have ventured down to Burleigh Street at some point, home to the coveted “Grafton charity shops”. More dedicated shoppers may traipse around every shop that Grafton has to offer, but Cambridge students are busy and your supervision essay on Foucault isn’t going to write itself. For the more time-starved among us, the Varsity Fashion team have visited and (very scientifically) ranked every Grafton charity shop so you don’t have to waste your precious time flicking through too many Aztec-print leggings. 

British Heart Foundation

At the top of the Grafton food chain stands the small but mighty British Heart Foundation. BHF is the first shop you arrive at if you’re walking from the Grafton Centre so is absolutely a necessary stop. A quite frankly impressive volume of clothes is stuffed into quite a small space.  While this can feel a little overwhelming, it does mean your odds of scoring a gem are increased. The lack of an operational changing room and mediocre men’s section lets BHF down a little, but the sheer range and style means it trumps the rest.

Score = 4.5 / 5


Chances are if you’ve made the pilgrimage to Grafton you’ve visited the explosion of colour that is Scope. The density of platform heels is probably amongst the highest in Cambridge and it is another strong contender due to its excellent range and incredibly groovy style. Some things here are somewhat on the pricier side, which can feel like a poor deal if the clothing is from fast fashion brands such as ASOS. Scope isn’t the place where you will score the vintage coat of your dreams, but the contemporary range still has many high quality pieces on offer, making it well worth a look.

Score = 4 / 5 

"A quite frankly impressive volume of clothes is stuffed into quite a small space"Eden Keily-Thurstain


On our afternoon of rigorous charity shop research, Oxfam was closed by the time we arrived at the incredibly early time of 4pm, docking it down from second place. This shop is a bit of an illusive beast in terms of opening hours, but when it is open you can expect to be met by two floors of second-hand delights, beautifully organised by colour. There’s a large home section upstairs that is worth a visit, and the prices generally aren’t too bad for Cambridge.

Final score = 4 / 5


On paper RSPCA is certainly not one of the strongest candidates in Grafton. The range of clothing is fairly poor and ill-organised, and the combination of the incredibly shiny floor and white lighting makes you feel like you’re at the dentist (phobics beware). However, there is something inexplicably vibey about the RSPCA. Maybe it’s the very chatty staff or disproportionate amount of dog memorabilia. Or maybe it’s the galaxy mermaid themed window display. Regardless, the atmosphere is excellent and I refuse to elaborate further. 

Final score = 3.5 / 5

Many of the shops contained designer ranges that were marked up quite a bitEden Keily-Thurstain


The proximity of spelling of Mind to “mid” feels quite fitting in this context. But don’t be fooled, mid does not necessarily mean bad. Mind is an average, but solid all-rounder that embodies all that you would expect from your local trusty charity shop. The racks could have been fuller, but contained some great vintage high street pieces that have at least 20 years of wear left in them. The pricing is also fairly respectable for Cambridge and I managed to secure some pink linen trousers for £3.50. A job well done. 

Final score = 3 / 5


Mountain View

Diary of a Cambridge Fashionista

Arthur Rank, Cancer Research, and Sense

I’ve chosen to lump these shops together as they all share one thing in common: they are distinctly forgettable. Arthur Rank loses points for the apparent desire to recreate the “Lush experience” by having the most potent fruity air freshener to ever grace a charity shop. They also had an activewear section for any “new year new me” sentiments you might be harbouring. Sense does have some reasonable pricing, but all of the shops had quite a limited range, meaning it was hard to unearth any great finds.

Final score = 2 / 5

British Red Cross

Honestly, don’t bother. As a charity-shopper with a long and dedicated career, I am yet to find anything even remotely nice in this shop. The range is very sparse, and is a no-go for those wanting to find masculine pieces. The 1940s music did add a certain je se sais quois, but not one that anyone was asking for. I also came across a Zara shirt for £30, which was a little confusing. There’s a complementary furniture shop across the street which sells exclusively bed frames, Adam Sandler DVDs, and “Prosecco o’clock” wall art. A fun visit, but avoid if your time is limited.

Final score 1 / 5