Valentines Mansion near Gants Hill in Ilford is a Grade II* listed building which has been owned by a number of interesting people.

The present house was built in 1696-7 for Elizabeth Tillotson, the niece of Oliver Cromwell, and widow of Archbishop John Tillotson. The property was then acquired by George Finch, a respected London merchant, whose family sold it to Robert Surman. He was the nephew of Robert Knight of Luxborough at Chigwell, and he acted as Deputy Cashier to his uncle at the South Sea Company. When the “bubble” burst his property was confiscated and he was allowed to keep just £5,000 of his massive fortune. He bought Valentines and enlarged and improved the house and gardens between 1724-1754.

The next owner was Sir Charles Raymond who made his fortune with the East India Company. He made six voyages to India, four as Captain, so that when he retired in 1747 he was a wealthy man. It seems likely the family had contacts in Calcutta where they could maximise their trading opportunities.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: The house from the park on February 26, 2021.The house from the park on February 26, 2021. (Image: Georgina Green)

A man with Raymond’s experience and ability was an asset in the commercial world and his main concern was in managing voyages for the East India Company. He was one of the leaders in this for the remaining 40 years of his life, responsible for well over 110 voyages by East Indiamen. In 1756 he was elected a manager of the Sun Fire Office and was involved in other City financial concerns as well as serving several charitable organisations such as becoming a Governor of the Hospitals of Bridewell and Bethlem.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Lady Sophia Burrell (1753-1802)Lady Sophia Burrell (1753-1802) (Image: Reproduced by kind permission of Sir Charles Burrell)

Charles and his wife had three daughters and one room of Valentines is set out to reflect their home life including his daughter, Lady Sophia Burrell, an author and poet. The Friends of Valentines Mansion have purchased facsimile copies of some of her books. Charles was created a Baronet in 1774 with the title to pass to William Burrell, son of his cousin who had married his daughter Sophia. Raymond owned many paintings, beautiful china and a number of interesting foreign objects as well as taking a keen interest in his garden.

Later owners of the house include banker Donald Cameron, who had married a step-sister of Raymond’s wife; Charles Welstead who was a senior Customs Official for the Port of London and Charles Holcombe who had industrial concerns at Greenwich. His niece Sarah inherited the house and lived there with her husband and four children from around 1860 until her death in 1906. In 1850 Sarah had married Clement M. Ingleby who was a lawyer by profession but became a Shakespearean scholar and wrote extensively on that subject, logic and metaphysics. Family papers show that he also wrote poetry.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Dr Clement M. Ingleby (1823-1886)Dr Clement M. Ingleby (1823-1886) (Image: Reproduced by courtesy of the Redbridge Heritage Centre)

The council acquired the building in 1912 and changed the name to include ‘Mansion’. After several uses the house became empty and in 1996 there was considerable public interest in how it would be used. Eventually a Heritage Lottery Grant was obtained, the building was restored and while available for hire as a wedding venue and for meetings, it is now open to the public on a Sunday and Monday from 10.30am to 4pm. Separate HLF was obtained to restore the park with its listed formal gardens. This is beautifully maintained and is well used, as is the Gardener’s Cottage café.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

To support the HLF application The Friends of Valentines Mansion was formed in 2000 and they campaigned to save the building and now help to organise events etc. This year they are holding a poetry competition of children in Year 5 & 6 at Redbridge schools, the entries to be inspired by Valentines. A poetry workshop is being held at the Mansion on February 15 – see details at

  • Georgina Green has been involved with local history in Redbridge, Waltham Forest and the Epping Forest area for 40 years and is the author of several local history books. She was elected a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2021.