Autumn Views

Hello to all our readers. We hope you are staying safe and for those who aren’t able to travel to Valentines at the moment, it seems a good idea to share some photos from this beautiful sunny autumn day, along with a few snippets and facts.

The park was busy with walkers today. We miss being able to visit the mansion at the moment, but it’s good to know that the Gardener’s Cottage Café in the Historic Gardens is open every day, with a takeaway service.

Silver birch (Betula pendula): a few facts.

This common tree, with its silver-white bark, is considered by some as a symbol of purity.

In early Celtic mythology, the birch symbolised renewal and purification. Bundles of birch twigs were used to drive out the spirits of the old year, and gardeners still use the birch besom, or broom, to ‘purify’ their gardens.

It is also used as a symbol of love and fertility. In Scottish Highland folklore, a barren cow herded with a birch stick would become fertile, and a pregnant cow would bear a healthy calf.

Birch wood is tough and heavy, making it suitable for furniture production, handles and toys. It was once used to make hardwearing bobbins, spools and reels for the Lancashire cotton industry.

The bark is used for tanning leather.

Silver birch wood is of little commercial value in Britain because the trees don’t grow as large as they do in other parts of Europe.

In the Spring, the silver birch produces flowers as catkins. The trees are monoecious, with both male and female catkins on the same tree.

Facts courtesy of and

Charles Welstead, owner of Valentines 1808-1838

Charles Welstead, one of the owners of Valentines Mansion, is credited with creating this large lake after he took ownership in 1808. During his tenure, Charles Welstead made substantial changes to his 170-acre estate, to comprise not only formal gardens, but a farm. There were stables to the north of the house. The fields nearest the house became used as meadows for cows, horses and sheep, and those on either side of the boating lake, were used as arable land.

When first married, Charles Welstead travelled from his home in Essex to the Custom House in the Port of London and Trinity House on Tower Hill to work, as others in his family did, collecting duties from the ships entering and leaving port.

1805 Trinity House, Tower Hill, engraved by Ambrose William Warren (1780-1856) from an original study by William Ellis.

Welstead was a wealthy, charitable and forward-thinking man, building a school in Barkingside soon after he came to Ilford.

He supported young recruits from the workhouse to equip them for service in the British Navy and we know from newspapers at the time that he acted as steward for the Royal Humane Society for the Recovery of Persons apparently Drowned or Dead.

In the 18th and early 19th century, few people would have been able to swim. It was not the popular sport it is today and it was not taught to children. Before the Society was founded, it would not be uncommon for over 100 people a year to have drowned in London alone. Many of them probably worked on the Thames or on one of London’s smaller rivers, canals or lakes.

The Society was founded in London by two doctors, who were concerned at the number of people believed drowned, wrongly taken for dead – and in some cases, buried alive. Both men wanted to promote the new, but controversial, medical technique of resuscitation and offered money to anyone rescuing someone from the brink of death.

The founder members of the Society felt sure that the public would support them in their aim of restoring ‘a father to the fatherless, a husband to the widow and a living child to the bosom of its mournful parents’.

They published information on how to save people from drowning; paid two guineas to anyone attempting a rescue in the Westminster area of London; double that amount: four guineas to anyone successfully bringing someone back to life; one guinea to anyone – often a pub-owner – allowing a body to be treated in his house; provide volunteer medical assistants with basic life-saving equipment.

One guinea was worth one pound and one shilling (£1.05) and would be equivalent to about £140 today.

The reward of 4 guineas paid to the rescuer and 1 guinea to anyone allowing a body to be treated on his premises soon gave rise to widespread scams: one would pretend to be rescued and the other the rescuer – and they would share the proceeds. So monetary rewards were gradually replaced by medals and certificates, with occasional “pecuniary payments” up to a maximum of one guinea.

The 1834 auction notice after Charles Welstead’s death gives us an image of his farm at Valentines: 10 milk cows, 9 calves, 7 cart-horses, a beautiful well-bred filly, 4 sows, 40 pigs, wagons, ploughs, farrows, hay carts and the like in addition to elegant furnishings in the house itself.

Autumn blossom today

Can anyone tell us what kind of tree this is? Contact us via the Contact Us tab.

We look forward to seeing all our Friends and followers in the Spring! We will let you know as soon as we can when the house will be reopening, though we know we have to be patient. Stay well and safe and please join The Friends if you aren’t already a member!

Diana Smith

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