Valentines in the 17th Century

The history of the Valentines estate before Mrs Tillotson’s time is very complicated, but I hope the following will give an outline of the story. The main thing to understand is that there were two properties, both called Valentines. The larger one was a freehold property of about 120 acres (later known as Middlefield farm), the smaller one was “copyhold”. This means that the Lord of the Manor still owned the property but it was granted to the copyholder on a payment, in return for which a copy of the entry in the Manor Court register was given to him to hold as his legal entitlement. Any change in ownership by death or marriage required a new entry, another payment, and another copy of the register made it all legal. The smaller Valentines was about 8 acres which was probably the area of the present house and formal garden up to the Long Water. It probably did not extend to Cranbrook Road but there was a roadway for access, just like Emerson Road today.

One of the major sources of information about this period is a collection of documents made by Edward Sage (Deputy Steward of the manor) in the mid-19th century, now at the Essex Record Office.  His “Collections for a History of Barking, Dagenham and Little Ilford Essex” is in two large volumes; these and other documents have provided some of the information given in the Victoria Country History of Essex, Vol. V, p.211-2. Among the papers is a copy of a map from 1652 which shows Valentines as a plain square, although other buildings are shown with gables etc. so this suggests Valentines was not a grand building.

The ancient field maple near the Cedar tree at Valentines is on a field boundary shown on the 1652 map.

According to the Victoria County History “Early in the 17th century both Valentine tenements were held by Toby Palavicino, lord of the manor of Cranbrook, and later by Francis Fuller, lord of Loxford.” 1 Fuller died in 1636 and the larger Valentines passed to his nephew, Francis Osbaston (or Osbaldeston) who lived at “Beehive”. He died twelve years later, when it became the property of his widow Alice. According to Edward Sage, the smaller Valentines was anciently a little farmhouse, but Francis Fuller added to this house and by his will gave it to Barbara, daughter of his sister and wife of Henry Ayscough.2

Alice, widow of Francis Osbaston, married the Hon. Robert Bertie (c.1615 – 1701) who became the owner of her property, but on her death in 1677 the larger Valentines passed to another Francis Osbaston, a nephew. In 1693 the larger Valentines and Loxford were sold to John Lethieullier. In the late 1720s it was purchased by Robert Surman. 3

Robert Bertie also became the copyholder of the smaller Valentines in 1666.4 His father was Robert Bertie, 1st Earl of Lindsey (1582 – 1642), the son of Lord Willoughby. He proved to be a very brave man, Vice-Admiral and later a General in the royalist army, dying from wounds received at the Battle of Edgehill. He had married Elizabeth, daughter of 1st Baron Montagu of Boughton, and Robert was their fifth son, born in c.1615. He was awarded MA in 1640 at Cambridge and in 1660 was Secretary to the Commissioners of Customs. Exactly when he married Alice has not been discovered, but they lived at the Beehive. This must be what is also referred to as Great Beehive which close by, on the southern corner of Beehive Lane and Wanstead Lane.  Alice died in 1677 and in 1682 Bertie married again, a spinster named Elizabeth Bennett from Babram in Cambridgeshire. According to Sage, “after the death of Alice, Robert Bertie lived at the smaller Valentines for some time, and soon after it was sold to Sir Thomas Skipwith who much beautified it and enlarged it”. He died in 1701 and was buried at Barking.5

Sir Thomas Skipwith is another interesting character, though very different from Bertie. He was born c.1652, the son of the 1st baronet of the same name (c.1620 – 1694), and his wife Mary, daughter and heir of Ralph Lathom of Upminster. He had a brief career in the army and then became a society gent. with a business interest in the Drury Lane theatre which enable him to lavish attentions on the actresses. He was described as an engaging roué, and became an M.P.  He died at Bath in 1710 leaving his own establishment at Twickenham, while his wife lived near Piccadilly, and he also had a mistress.6 There is nothing to say that Skipwith actually lived at the smaller Valentines (maybe it was a secret love-nest!) and in 1696 he sold it to Elizabeth Tillotson, widow of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I wonder what she made of him?

It was Mrs Tillotson who built the house we know today and she lived there until she died in 1702, when it was sold to George Finch. On his death it passed to his son William who sold it to Robert Surman in 1724. Surman also bought the larger Valentines, thus merging the estates into one again. In 1754 he paid £315 to enfranchise the smaller copyhold part before selling the whole property to Charles Raymond.


Why Valentines?

Smart Lethuillier (1701 - 1760), a local antiquarian whose father purchased the larger Valentines estate in 1693, wrote a history of Barking in the last 25 years of his life. Much of this was used by Sage in his text. Lethuillier says “At the distance of a few fields stands Valentines, a very handsome Brick-House with Great Improvements & Gardens about it. Formerly on this spot stood a cottage inhabited by a poor family of the name of Valentine, some of which were remaining in the parish and many years agone.” 7 As he was born less than five years after Mrs Tillotson built her house this seems a reliable statement.

I can confirm that a family by the name of Valentine was mentioned in the Registers of St.Margaret’s, Barking, though there is nothing to say exactly where they lived. The parish of Barking included the whole of modern day Ilford until 1830 when the new ecclesiastical parish of Great Ilford was created. The registers are now available on-line but it is tedious trying to work through them and the following details are the result of specific searches. The family could go back well before 1600, indeed in 1471 the Vicar of Dagenham was John Valentine. 8

Adrey Valentine married John Cramp in 1603 and a year later Christopher Valentine, who was probably her brother, married Ursula Adams. Christopher had at least one son, but he cannot have been the John Valentine who married Alice Elkin ten years later, in 1616. Sadly, the burial of Alice is recorded on 7 May 1617, the same day as the baptism of her son. Perhaps it is not surprising that John lost no time in marrying again and he had more children by his second wife. 9

On 30 March 1635 Elizabeth Valentine married Robert Jackson. She could have been the daughter of Christopher Valentine or John Valentine as no age is given. Perhaps Christopher and John were brought up at the farmhouse on the site where our present house was built in 1696-7 by Elizabeth Tillotson. One or both of them could have carried on living there with aging parents, thus giving their name to the site. A John Valentine was shown in the parish in 1684. 10

If the family lived on “our” site they must have been tenants of the various owners who are listed through the century. Pat Elliott has looked at the 1671 Hearth Tax when Robert Bertie held both Beehive and Valentines (8 acres). One house had 14 hearths, the other had 8 hearths. Both were therefore substantial properties. It is possible that c.1600 the Valentine family also leased the larger Valentines estate and farmed the two together even though they were owned by different people.

If only we had a time machine, it would be so much easier to unravel the whole story!

With thanks to Peter Foley for pointers regarding the Bertie family, and Pat Elliott for help with some of the technical documents.

©  Georgina Green   4 December 2009

The parish registers of St.Margaret’s at Barking are now available on line at but most registers for the period of the Civil War have not survived (if they were kept) so it probably isn’t possible to discover when the widowed Alice married the Hon. Robert Bertie. Her burial in 1677 is not recorded (images 40 & 41).

1   VCH  Vol.V, p.211
2   ERO  D/DSa/158 Sage “Owners if the several seats in Berking Parish” Valentines.
3   VCH  Vol.V, p.211
4   VCH  Vol.V, p.211, ERO D/DSa/158 Sage;
5   Burke’s Peerage, Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigienses, Lysons: Environs of London IV p.88-9, Barking parish reg.
6   Henning: House of Commons 1660-1690, III members , VCH  Vol.V, p.211
7   A History of Barking written by Smart Lethuillier, Vol.II p.79
8   Peter Foley “Valentines in the Forest” p.9
10  VCH V p.211  gives ref as Barking Parish Ch. Vicar’s tithe account