Conservation plan

As part of the restoration bid, the London Borough of Redbridge commissioned a study  by Richard Griffiths Architects in collaboration with The Architectural History Practice to guide the Mansion's conservation plan.

This study shows the importance of Valentines Mansion both in the local area and as an example of an early eighteenth century mansion.

As we have mentioned elsewhere on the website, Valentines Mansion has significance as the home of merchants, bankers and seafarers, all of whom needed access to the major markets and port of London but wanted a quiet home in the country. This view incidentally is reflected in the modern population of Essex, where bankers and financial traders choose Essex as their home because of the easy access to the City.

Valentines has suffered to some extent by having a number of owners since it was first owned by Elizabeth Tillotson in 1696. During Elizabeth's ownership a large house was built on the site of a smaller property. There have been a further eleven owners, who, in the spirit of the time and depending on the state of their finances modernised, improved and extended the mansion to suit their needs.

The result is an interesting melange of styles, both architectural and decorative, each leaving traces in the fabric as modern ideas were put in place.

However, since there has been no continuous family ownership for an extended period as with other better-known mansions, there is little documentation and few artefacts are identified as belonging to the mansion.

As mentioned in a Friends Newsletter, Grinling Gibbons was reported to have contributed carved woodwork to one of the rooms but this, it seems, was removed and lost from sight nearly 200 years ago.

One area where the new literally covers the old is in the paintwork. Where woodwork from earlier periods was retained during alterations, paint was usually covered rather than being stripped back to bare wood.

Extensive paint samples have been taken from various locations throughout the house and examined, revealing both paint layers, colour and chemical content.

Analysis of the shutters in the Breakfast Room, for example, shows 25 layers. This is more than were found elsewhere in the room, suggesting that the shutters were re-used when the room was modernised.

The structure of the window bay itself shows fewer paint layers than the shutters. By counting the numbers of layers a likely date around 1754 has been suggested for the date of construction of the bay, whilst the shutters originate from the first construction of the house in 1697.

As for colours, the oldest were shades of buff, changing to silver grey in 1754, succeeded by vermilion, pink, ultramarine, vermilion again and ending with white, changed recently to brown.

The story preserved in the paint also records changes made to the room. It appears that the Breakfast Room was panelled when constructed but during a modernisation in the early 1800's most of the panels were removed. The panelling now in the room was installed in the late nineteenth century with the exception of a small area near the bay window.