The mansion 1906 - 2005

In the first decade of the 20th century a powerful pressure group, the Valentines Park Extension Council, was formed. As well as leading members of Ilford Council and local clergy, it included five MPs, two JPs, one Lord Temporal, Lord Claude Hamilton, one Lord Spiritual, the Bishop of Barking, Sir John Bethell and the owner of the Valentines Estate, Holcombe Ingleby.

Their aim was to persuade Ilford Council to purchase both the estate and the mansion as Holcombe Ingleby was keen to sell up at a very reasonable price and retire to his estate in Norfolk. Despite this formidable array of influential people, there was strong opposition from some councillors who wished to use the Council's option to sell out to developers and thus solve any cash flow problems the Council might encounter for the foreseeable future.

The extension Council won the day and in 1912, Ilford Council purchased the land for £10,630 and the house and its outbuildings for a mere £1,000. Unfortunately, an enlightened plan to develop the mansion as a cultural centre fell by the wayside due to the cataclysmic effects of the first world war 1914 -1918. During the war the mansion provided shelter for Belgian refugees. Unfortunately, there appears to be no photographic evidence of this period. In the years that followed, the mansion was used, abused and neglected by both Ilford and Redbridge Councils and provided accommodation first for the Public Health Department from 1925 onwards followed by Redbridge Housing Department 1965-1993.

In 1989, there was another surge of popular interest. The local historical societies collected a petition containing some 8,100 signatures, which was presented to the Council by Councillor Frank Cobb, a Mayor of Redbridge, requesting that the mansion be used as a museum. The cost of restoring the mansion was considered to be prohibitive.

The years 1995-1999 were years of controversy. Redbridge Council proposed to grant a 50-year lease to Whitbreads for a Brewers' Fayre. Three local groups combined together to oppose the scheme; Cranbrook Residents' Association, Garden City neighbourhood Watch and Friends of Valentines Park.

In 1999, Redbridge Council sought advice from a Citizens' Jury, which at a cost of £10,000 recommended a mixture of uses - residential, community and a restaurant. The Steering Group formed in the year 2000 the same year as the Friends was entrusted with the responsibility of producing a business plan, which would make the mansion self supporting that could form the basis for a bid for heritage lottery funds. After eighteen months careful research and planning a business plan was submitted to the Council which it adopted. Heritage Lottery recommended that we reconsider and redraft our application for various reasons including the fact that they were not prepared to commit public funds to the provision of three residential flats on the top floor or a profit making restaurant. It also wished to see greater commitment from the Council and the compilation of a conservation plan.