As far as I’ve been able to ascertain, London has seven streets romantically named Valentine. Valentine Avenue, Bexley; Valentine Road, Harrow; Valentines Way, Romford; Valentine Place and Valentine Row, Southwark; and then there is Valentine Road, Homerton.
But it’s Valentines Road, Ilford and its environs which can lay claim to having the most ‘Valentines’. Ilford has a Victorian estate near the High Road, and true to those proud Victorians, has streets named after Prime Ministers and outposts of empire: Balfour, Albert, Wellesley, Melbourne, Brisbane, and adjacent to all these empire-building monikers is Valentine Road and Valentine Park on its north-western side.
Even the local telephone number once had VALentine. Now it’s just another of London’s lost telephone exchanges, that once served the Ilford North area around Valentine’s Park from a building on its west side. Sadly it is now the more prosaic, and less romantic, anonymous 020 8554.
Valentines Park is huge at 130 acres, as you would expect with Victorian planning. It is what remains of a country house called Valentines, and its surrounding estate, which helps explain the ornamental lake and walled garden at the northern end, there is also a boating lake, a bandstand and two economically independent cafes.
Incredibly Valentines mansion still stands, and the restored 17th-century house reopened to the public predictably on Valentine’s Day in 2009. It has a small museum, artists are in residence at their studios and musical events are staged. Oh! The second series of the Great British Bake Off was filmed on its lawns.
Featured image: Valentines House Courtesy of Friends of Valentines Mansion (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 UK)
2 thoughts on “Be my Valentine”
Feb 14th always makes me think of Valentine Dyall, the actor and radio announcer. He was the only man I had heard of at the time with that name. And he wasn’t even born in February. 🙂