The Development of the Gardens & Park

Photo by Diana Smith 2018

Section 1: Development of Valentines Estate into Park

Valentines Park is a Grade II listed Park and Garden.


1854. This map – based on an estate map – shows the extent of the Valentines Estate (the maroon line) and the outline of the present park boundary (orange line). The other notable features are the fields attached to the estate, all the extra buildings associated with the Mansion, the layout of the gardens to the east of the Mansion, and the change in the shape of The Lake.  Also, sometime between 1777 and 1854 the main drive to the Mansion was moved to opposite Beehive Lane.


Central Park was open in 1899 and for the next 25 years the park grew until it reached its present size.

The following maps show how the park developed, although this obviously took place at the same time as Ilford was growing.


Sarah Ingleby died in 1906 and her son donated the American Gardens (east of Valentines Mansion) to the council as a memorial to his mother. The council also bought a large tract of land to link the existing park to the donated land.


In 1912 the council acquired Valentines House and the gardens surrounding it. The land between this area and Cranbrook Road was used for housing by The East London Garden Suburbs and Town Planning Association.

© David Lane

Section 2: Bishops Walk

By Georgina Green

Bishops Walk on 24 March 2003
Bishops Walk on 6 June 2010

If you walk in the garden around the far side of the long canal you will notice an avenue of Norway Maples which includes two old yew trees. The maples were planted in 1971 to replace an old avenue of yews, possibly dating back to the time that Valentines was rebuilt for Elizabeth Tillotson. They are known as the Bishops Walk – but why?

Bishops Walk February 2019

One explanation is that Elizabeth’s husband, John Tillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury, planted the trees. It is said the walk was his favourite promenade, though it seems unlikely that if he did plant them, the yews would have grown very large in his lifetime. However, it seems that Elizabeth did not acquire the Valentines property until 1696, two years after her husband had died at Lambeth Palace. Two sources, written in the 18th century, say that her son-in-law John Chadwick rebuilt the house for her. This was probably in 1696 or 1697.

Another explanation involves Bishop Thomas Ken. He spent much of his earlier life at Winchester (where his coat of arms can be seen in one of the stained glass windows in the Great Hall).

In 1684 Bishop Ken was appointed Bishop of Bath and Wells at the personal request of King Charles, just before he died. He was a pious man who lived simply and did much to help the poor. He won the respect of King James but did not agree with his plans to re-introduce some of the Roman Catholic traditions back into the Church of England. In 1688, with six other bishops, he opposed the king and was tried, and acquitted, of having written or published a seditious libel.

Later he stood against the declaration of William and Mary as rulers of the country and refused to take the oath as a matter of his personal conscience. In April 1691 he was deprived of his see and left Wells in comparative poverty. He spent much of his time in Wiltshire and Somerset, but his biography does mention he came to preach at the burial of a friend, Dr.John Kettlewell, in Barking in 1695. However, this refers to the church of All Hallows, built on land owned by Barking Abbey near the Tower of London. Bishop Ken, referred to as one of the “seven nonjurors”, refused when Queen Anne offered to restore him to his see. However his more extreme colleagues were offended by his attempts at bringing some peace to the conflict within the church. He died in 1711, “in the communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from all papal and puritan innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the cross”.

Bishop Ken is said to have been a friend of the Finch family and to have stayed at Valentines after the trial of the Seven Bishops in 1688. It is said that he used the yew walk for his meditations. If that is true, it was a long time after the trial as the Finches did not live at Valentines until 1702. However some credibility is given to the story by the fact that a later generation of the Finch family had a medal which was struck to commemorate the acquittal of the Seven Bishops. This was handed down through the family until recent times, though its whereabouts today are not known.

Meanwhile, regardless of the truth behind the name, why not take a stroll around the far side of the canal and you may notice that at one end, the maple trees are on a raised earthwork. Whoever planted the original yew walk, it certainly was a very long time ago.

Article written 16 August 2004 © Georgina Green

The Mosaic was created by Gary Drostle as part of the restoration in 2008. 

Section 3: The Magnolia at Valentines 

by Georgina Green

The south front of the mansion

In the Valentines Park Conservationists Newsletter no.13, November 2002, you will find a paragraph about the Magnolia Grandiflora which grows against the south front of the mansion. It says “We do not know when this tree was planted, but the magnolia was another late 17th century introduction from North America, where it reaches a height of 65 feet or more.”

I have always loved this variety of magnolia as when I was young we often stayed with family friends who lived in a wonderful Regency house in Dorset. They had a magnolia like this at the back of the house and it was a great treat if we found a flower blooming outside our bedroom window.

The south face of Valentines and the magnolia in winter
(2019. Photo Diana Smith)

Last summer I spent a few days in Exeter trying to discover more about Sir Charles Raymond’s origins. I put a few more twigs onto his family tree and explored the area where he had lived as a child. However, while delving in the records I discovered that the memorial in Barking church is misleading when it says he was the “Son of John Raymond Esq of Marpool in Devon”.

A very detailed history, based on the church records, says “In 1690 the Raymond family sold the tenement of Marpool to James Rodde of Exeter …it remains the property of her [his widow] descendants until the present day [1946]… Marpool Hall was a new house; the old farm remaining till within living memory, on the hillside.”

I wondered if Charles had lived at the old farm house?

Further on I found “Children of John and Bridget Raymont appear in the parish register from 1667 onwards. The last entry is a son of George Raymont, 1673. Their house, the capital messuage of the reputed manor of Rill, was occupied by them over 130 years – “the Old Manor House” in North Street, Exmouth.”

To my surprise there is an old house, called ‘The Manor House’, as no.13 North Street. The listing says: “This is probably an early 18th century brick house but now with a stuccoed façade. It was given the name ‘The Old Manor House’ in the 19th century.”

Another reference says that “Sir John Colleton, who had taken over the so-called Manor of Rill and the Old Manor House, is believed to have introduced the Magnolia into this country…”  Well, at that time I was trying to get to the bottom of a reference to Sir Charles Raymond introducing a variety of camellia into England, so this made me sit up. From another book in the Devon Record Office I quote the following:

Sir John Colleton, Bart., was for many years in South Carolina and on his return to this country settled in Exmouth. He brought with him what was a new species of a beautiful flowering shrub, and planted it in his garden which then bordered the Exeter Road. The Magnolia – for that was the shrub – thrived in this climate, and its popularity grew. It is believed that the plant Sir John brought with him and named Magnolia Grandiflora Exmouthiensis was the first introduced into this country. His residence must have been at the rear of North Street close to the Exeter Road…”

Alan Mitchell, in his book The Trees of Britain and Northern Europe (Collins) says the common Southern Magnolia was introduced from USA in 1734. The introduction of the ‘Exmouth’ variety a little later is consistent with this, as Sir John Colleton died in 1754. I can’t help wondering if Charles Raymond saw this plant when he returned to Exeter at some time. We know he kept in touch with Exeter because on 8 August 1774 he was made a Freeman of the City. I don’t think our magnolia is old enough to have been planted by Sir Charles Raymond, but it is an interesting coincidence.

© Georgina Green 22 April 2004

Section 4: Camellias at Valentines

By Georgina Green

One of my particular interests as a local historian is those people who imported plants into this country in the 18th century.

Photograph by Madeline Seviour, 2011

It is well known that Richard Warner grew the first Gardenia in this country in his garden at Harts, Woodford, in 1758.

Dr.John Fothergill (1712-1780) bought the estate of Ham House (some of which remains as West Ham Park), in 1762. This was not his home, but was used to cultivate plant specimens sent to him through Quaker connections in America.

Fothergill created flower gardens, shrubberies and a wilderness of trees at Ham House. There was a water garden and hot houses where over 3,000 exotic species were planted. Fothergill employed an artist to draw any new plants in his care so that records could be kept if they subsequently died.

Vol. IV  no.329  Camellia japonica, variegata

Another local plant importer was Gilbert Slater (1753-1793), the son of Capt. Gilbert Slater of Stepney, who spent all his life connected with the East India Company. In the 1730s he sailed on two voyages on the ‘Wager’ under Captain Charles Raymond, first as 5th Mate and then as 3rd Mate. From his early childhood Gilbert junior had been fascinated by plants and when he took over from his father as the managing owner of several ships which traded for the East India Company, he took the opportunity of bringing new plants into the country. He wrote and had printed a booklet on how to collect seeds and plants and transport them back to England and this was distributed among officers and friends in the China trade. Gilbert Slater only lived to be 40 but the last seven years of his life were spent at Knotts Green, Leyton, where he grew many exotic plants. Gilbert Slater is credited with introducing 17 new species into this country, and he always provided specimens for Kew Gardens, which had been established in 1760.

Sir Charles Raymond was well acquainted with Warner and Slater, and probably knew Dr. Fothergill, but I was most surprised to read that Raymond was also credited with introducing a new species of Camellia. Perhaps he had a copy of Gilbert Slater’s booklet. I have traced back the source of the information to “The Botanical Cabinet consisting of coloured delineations of plants from all countries with a short account of each” published in several volumes in 1819.

Reproduced by kind permission of the Royal Horticultural Society, Lindley Library

This was one of the first varieties of the Double Camellias seen in this country. It was brought over from China sometime about the year 1792. We remember to have seen the first plant, soon after this period, at Sir Charles Raymond’s, Valentine House, Essex.  .  .  The leaf of this kind is larger, thicker, and of a much deeper green, than any of the others. It is a most abundant flowering sort, and possesses the peculiar property of flowering differently at different seasons. If the blossoms open in the autumn (which by keeping the plants warm in the spring, and forwarding their growth they will do) they usually are most elegantly variegated: on the contrary, if kept cool and backward, so as to flower in the spring, they come out almost, or quite plain red. Like the other sorts, it is increased by grafting upon the single: it requires only the common greenhouse protection, and should be potted in good fresh loam, with a little peat earth,

However there is slight problem with this in that Sir Charles Raymond had died four years earlier, in 1788. The last ship of which he was Principal Managing Owner was ‘Earl Talbot’. This made four voyages under his management, the last leaving England in April 1788, visiting China and returning in April 1789 after Raymond had died. Donald Cameron was the Principal Managing Owner for the next voyage between March 1790 – Sept 1791, when she visited China again. I think we can be confident that this variety of Camellia did bloom first at Valentines, but while it was the home of Donald Cameron, Raymond’s friend and business associate.

A camellia of the nearest variety has been planted in the kitchen garden.

Section 5: The Black Hamburgh Vine

Take a stroll in the walled garden at Valentines and you will see a vine which was planted in 2008 in the kitchen garden. This vine came not from a local garden centre, but from a cutting taken from “The Great Vine”, the magnificent Black Hamburgh Vine at Hampton Court, no less!

The largest grape vine in the world!

The Hampton Court vine is to this day very healthy and produces vast quantities of grapes. The grapes are ripe after August Bank Holiday and are sold during the first three weeks of September in the palace shop.

But did you know that the Hampton Court Vine was itself planted from a cutting taken in 1768 from the vine that had been planted here at Valentines in 1758?

The Surveyor to His Majesty’s Gardens and Waters at Hampton Court in 1768 was a certain Lancelot Brown, better known today as “CapabilityBrown.

It would be nice to think that he came personally to take the cutting and took refreshment with the owner at the time, Charles Raymond before returning to Hampton Court. Perhaps they had a stroll around the estate, discussing possible improvements. There is no record of any payment being made by Raymond to Brown, but he may well have given his host the benefit of his thoughts on the estate, in return for the cutting.

So the vine had been planted at Valentines ten years earlier, in 1758, by Charles Raymond’s gardener, Mr Eden. An enormous hot-house accommodated the vine, which extended two hundred feet, part of it running along the fourth wall on the outside of the hot-house.

All accounts mention that the vine at Valentines bore a great deal of fruit, about 200 kg a year, producing a decent income for Sir Charles Raymond, income which went to the gardener after Sir Charles left Valentines on the death of his wife in 1778; the stem of the vine was, by 1796, fourteen inches in girth.

By 1835 the stem of the vine at Hampton Court measured twenty-four inches and more than 2000 bunches of grapes were produced in one year.

By 1855 the vine at Hampton Court became the largest in Europe, its branches extending over a space of 2300 feet. Nowadays it claims to be the largest grape vine in the world.

Read on to discover the full story of what eventually happened to the original vine at Valentines!

The first mention of the vine occurs in 1791 when William Gilpin wrote about it in his “Remarks on Forest Scenery, and other woodland views.” This was only 33 years after the vine was planted and Gilpin had spoken to Mr. Eden, the gardener who planted it, so we may assume the text is reasonably accurate.

Among other remarkable fruit trees may be reckoned a vine belonging to the late Sir Charles Raymond at Valentine-house, near Ilford in Essex. It was planted, a cutting, in the year 1758, of the black Hambrugh (sic.) sort; and as this species will not easily bear the open air, it was planted in the hot-house; tho without any preparation of soil, which is in those grounds a stiff loam, or rather clay. The hot-house is a very large one, about seventy feet in front; and the vine, which I understand, is not pruned in the common way, extends two hundred feet, part of it running along the fourth wall on the outside of the hot-house. In the common mode of pruning, this species of vine is no great bearer; but managed as it is here, it produces wonderfully. Sir Charles Raymond, on the death of his lady in 1778, left Valentine-house; at which time the gardener had the profits of the vine. It annually produces about four hundred weight of grapes; [ approx. 450lbs or 200 kg.] which used formerly (when the hot-house, I suppose, was kept warmer,) to ripen in March: tho lately they have not ripened till June; when they fell at four shillings a pound; which produces about eighty pounds. …. A gentleman of character informed me, that he had it from Sir Charles Raymond himself, that after supplying his own table, he has made one hundred and twenty pounds a year of the grapes …The stem of the vine was, in the year 1789, thirteen inches in circumference.”

Five years later, in 1796, the Rev. Daniel Lysons mentioned the vine in his “Environs of London”. He devoted a whole page to Valentines but his comments on the vine echoed what had already been written by Gilpin. However by now “the stem is about 14 inches in girth.”

Another reference was made to the vine in 1855, in the publication “Notes and Queries” for 24 November. W. Collyns wrote that “Having made the following note of the vine at Hampton Court, and of its parent at Valentines, on a recent visit to them, … The vine at Hampton Court is the largest in Europe, its branches extending over a space of 2300 feet. It was planted from a slip in the year 1768, and generally bears upwards of 2000 bunches of grapes, of the black Hambro’ kind. The original vine, from which this cutting was taken, still flourishes in Essex, at the seat called Valentines … In 1835 it bore four cwt. of grapes, and the stem girted twenty-four inches. In one season £300 was realised by the sale of its fruit.”

Over-zealous gardener
George Tasker writing in 1901 explains (in “Ilford Past and Present”) what happened to the vine. “Unluckily the original stem of this renowned vine has been dead many years, but it was allowed to remain in the hothouse as a curiosity, until a few years back, a new gardener was appointed who, unfortunately, knew not Valentines and its vine, but who, coming fresh from the spick and span gardens of Sandringham, where all is comparatively new, saw the dead withered stump, and promptly made a bonfire of it. …”

©Georgina Green, 2002

Section 6: Valentines Park Conservationists

Valentines Park Conservationists……. (This part of the site is under construction)

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