diamond geezer

 Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's at Valentines

Suppose that you're a London council with a park called Valentines Park. And suppose that, within that park, there's a mansion called Valentines Mansion. And suppose too that this mansion has been closed for major renovation for the last two years. Well, on what date in February would you choose to reopen the place to the public? Yeah, obviously.

plaque at Valentines MansionValentines Mansion has a long history. Not a thrilling one, it has to be said, but impressive enough for somewhere just outside Ilford. The house was built in 1696 by the Archbishop of Canterbury's son-in-law (I'm sorry, but that's as nationally important as the place ever gets). In the early 18th century the place was expanded, and the gardens prettified to include an ornamental canal, the odd grotto and a big vine. The Valentines Vine is long dead, but a cutting made in 1769 was sent to Hampton Court and still thrives today (yes, indeed, that vine). Various residents came and went over the succeeding decades, until Ilford Council acquired the building in 1912 and used it as (amongst other things) a hospital, a public health centre, and a housing department. And then it fell empty, and then English Heritage got worried about it, and then the Lottery chipped in with some money, and then it reopened yesterday.

The queue of would-be visitors stretching from the front door was half an hour long. I suspect the Redbridge council officials on site were jubilantly embarrassed by that. I passed the time chatting to the slightly deaf old lady in front of me, who remembered the times when she used to bring her children here to play in the gardens, and they didn't run on the lawns like this modern lot. Most of the visitors were of a similar age, although some of "this modern lot" and their parents were queueing too.

stained glass over staircaseOnce inside, the splendour of the renovation job was evident in every room. Nothing ostentatiously ornate, just smart wooden floors and period wallpaper and a rather swish stained glass window above the staircase. A film in the main gallery showed how builders and gardeners and artists had been involved in the restoration work, and even managed to make the process sound interesting. Various actors patrolled the house in character, one in a top hat, one in a lace bonnet, and one showing off his fine calves to all and sundry. In the Bird Room all the display cabinets were full of colourful origami animals, because that's art, while the Drawing Room contained a makeshift cafe doling out hot and cold beverages in non-heritage cups, because that's profit.

The good people of Redbridge crowded the rooms and passageways, taking a first opportunity to explore every nook and cranny. They swarmed round the single interactive history terminal so that nobody else could use it. They crammed into the tiny shop on the first floor, inspecting its stock of plastic rulers, honey and notelets. They allowed their uncontrollable offspring to bounce on the four poster in the bedchamber, much to the annoyance of the lady on duty. They trooped up to the attic to look round six brand new artist's studios, part of the drive to make the reopened mansion lived-in and sustainable. And I think they trooped down to the restored kitchen in the cellar, except I never found that particular room and only read about it in a leaflet on the way home.

Valentine's Mansion dovecote and gardensThe park gardens look like they'll be rather lovely too, as well they should given the millions English Heritage have ploughed into their recreation. The walled Old English Garden is closest to completion, and already smells herby and pleasant. A formal Victorian rose garden (come back in June) leads down to the Long Water, a lengthy pristine pool with ornamental shell-encrusted grottoes at each end. Meanwhile an octagonal dovecote doubles as a rather posh gardeners' shed, and there are plans for a monthly farmers market on the site.

It's hard to believe that ten years ago the council wanted to turn the mansion over to Brewer's Fayre to become an anonymous steak-and-chips outpost on the Cranbrook Road. Thankfully public opinion (and £5m) changed their mind, and the result is a community heritage facility to be proud of. It's not worth travelling miles out of your way to visit, but East Londoners ought to pop in some Tuesday, Wednesday or Sunday for a free look round. And it's Opening Open Day part 2 today, if you fancy a post-Valentine's Valentines visit.

Location: Emerson Road, Ilford IG2 [map]
Website: valentinesmansion.com
by tube: Gants Hill

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards