A brief history

The present house was built around 1696-7, probably by James Chadwick, son-in-law of John Tillotson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose widow, Elizabeth, owned the estate. In the early 1700s the house was owned by George Finch and then his son William. It seems that later generations of the Finch family were responsible for several buildings in Australia called Valentines - at least one is now used as a school.

Robert Surman, a nephew of Robert Knight of Luxborough at Chigwell, purchased the mansion in 1724. He had acted as Deputy Cashier to his uncle at the South Sea Company and managed to hold on to enough money when the "bubble" burst to buy Valentines. He enlarged and improved the house and gardens some time between 1724-1754, in fact the date 1724 is written on panelling behind the cladding in an upstairs room.

It was in 1754 that Charles Raymond purchased the estate and he continued reconstructing the house. The date 1769 can be seen with his family crest on the rainwater heads above the drainpipes. Externally the house is an 18th century structure but some features inside the house date from earlier times - much of the panelling and joinery is original. Raymond came from Devon, made his fortune as a captain with the East India Company, and was a founder member of Williams Deacon's Bank. He was High Sheriff of Essex in 1771 and was created a baronet in 1774. During Raymond's time a Black Hamburg vine was planted, and in 1769 a cutting was taken to Hampton Court Palace where it can still be seen thriving today.

By the time Sir Charles Raymond died in 1788 the estate had been greatly enlarged so that the new owner, Donald Cameron, held over 400 acres with the mansion. It was said at this time that the original of Hogarth's Southwark Fair, was hanging in the mansion. The painting is now in the Cincinnati Art Museum.

When Donald Cameron died in 1797 the Valentines estate was split up and only 174 acres were sold with the house to Robert Wilkes. The building was substantially repaired and altered in 1811 when it was the property of Charles Welstead. He was probably responsible for converting the earlier orangery into the dairy wing and installing the porte cochere. Estate buildings at this time included stables, granaries and a brewhouse.

Charles Thomas Holcombe purchased the estate in 1838, moving there in 1840 with his wife Margaret, and their niece Sarah Oakes who was then aged about sixteen. In 1850 she married Clement Mansfield Ingleby, who came from Edgbaston where he worked as a partner in his father's legal practice, and it was here that their children were born. Margaret Holcombe died ten years later, in 1860, and it seems that the Ingleby family moved back to Valentines to be with Sarah's uncle. When Charles Holcombe died in 1870 the house was left to his niece and became the permanent home of the Ingleby family. It is probable that Mrs.Ingleby had the kitchen updated, with a new cooking range installed at this time. Charles Holcombe had been godfather to Sarah's second son, Holcombe Ingleby, and the house was to pass to him after Dr. and Mrs. Ingleby had died.

Clement Ingleby had never warmed to the legal profession and in his spare time he studied metaphysics and mathematics as well as English literature. He published a number of books and became an acclaimed Shakespearean scholar, receiving a doctorate at Cambridge University. Although we cannot tell a great deal about what kind of people they were, there is no doubt that Clement Ingleby was greatly respected and "probably never made an enemy and never lost a friend" while Mrs.Ingleby was very involved with philanthropic work at the time of her death in 1906.

In 1899 47 acres of the grounds were opened as a public park, sold by Mrs. Ingleby to Ilford Urban District Council. By 1912 the council had acquired the mansion and all the grounds which are now used for many leisure activities, including county cricket matches and the Redbridge Town Show.

The many and varied trees growing on the estate have been increased with civic plantings by Ilford Mayors and other local dignitaries. Near the house are the 18th century ornamental features that survive within a formal garden setting and are of great historic value.

The formal garden in Valentines Park has undergone extensive restoration during 2007- 2008 with the assistance of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The results of this work are simply stunning. The Gardening group of the Friends of Valentines Mansion continue to undertake restoration and maintenance work within the park.