Inventory Site Record

Valentines Park * (Redbridge)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

The Valentines estate dates from 1688, the mansion built c.1697. House and grounds were enlarged and re-landscaped at various times from 1724 onwards under different private owners. In the C19th it was inherited by Sarah Ingleby, a great benefactor of Ilford, who sold part of the parkland to Ilford UDC and it opened as Central Park in 1899. Mrs Ingleby lived at Valentines until her death in 1906. In 1907 her son gave the house and remaining grounds in her memory, and the park was renamed Valentines Park. In addition to the municipal facilities provided, a number of features from the C18th layout remain, including the rectilinear canal with rockwork grotto and a grotto shelter, dovecote, sundial, walled garden and ha-ha. In 1769 a cutting from the excellent vine here was the origin of the famous Hampton Court Vine. In the south-west of the park is the main lake with ornamental woodland, fed by the canalised Cranbrook. The mansion, gardens and park were restored in 2009 with HLF funding.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Central Park
Site location:
Cranbrook Road/Emerson Road/Bethell Avenue, Ilford
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park, Garden Feature Remnants
Open to public?
Opening times:
Daily 8am-dusk (check site owner for closing time); closed Christmas Day
Special conditions:
Aviary, basketball, bowling green, 2 children's play areas, 2 cricket pitches, 1 football pitch, tennis courts, café, toilets, boating lake. Mansion: shop, café
Numerous events. Valentines Mansion included in London Open House
Public transport:
Rail: Ilford. Tube: Gants Hill (Central). Bus: 128, 150, 167, 296, 396.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.redbridge.gov.uk

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

The Valentines estate dates from 1688 when it was owned by Sir Thomas Skipwith, passing in 1696 to Elizabeth Tillotson, widow of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The estate subsequently passed to her son-in-law, James Chadwick, for whom the mansion, Valentines House, was built in c.1697. In the C18th it was acquired by Robert Surman, a London broker and speculator in the South Sea Company, who had had to sell various properties in Essex following the South Sea Bubble disaster in 1720. However by 1724 he was able to purchase Valentines where he enlarged both house and garden. In 1754 it was purchased by Sir Charles Raymond, who laid out the grounds 'with great judgement and taste'. After his death in 1788, the estate passed through various owners and in 1811 was acquired by Charles Welsted who extensively altered the house.

In 1838 it was purchased by Charles Holcombe, whose niece Sarah Ingleby inherited the estate and who was a great benefactor of Ilford. It was she who sold part of the park to Ilford Urban District Council, who acquired an area of 19 ha. separate from the house for a public park. This opened as Central Park in 1899, its layout undertaken by the Council Surveyor. Mrs Ingleby remained living in Valentines until her death in 1906 and in 1907 her son Holcombe Ingleby gave the house and remaining areas of the grounds including the American Gardens in her memory. The public park was then renamed Valentines Park, and was extended through purchases of additional land in 1912 and in the 1930s.

The house is sited in the north-west corner of the park, and its early C18th entrance gates, which used to face the garden front of the house, were re-sited 150m to the south of the house on Emerson Road. A number of features from the C18th layout remain, including the Long Water, a rectilinear canal north east of the house, with C18th rockwork grotto in the north and adjacent grotto shelter; near the house are a mid-C18th Dovecote and an early C18th baluster sundial, as well as the walled garden and Ha-Ha. There used to be a very fine vine here, a cutting from which in 1769 was the origin of the famous Hampton Court Vine. The Ilford vine in its heyday reputedly produced four hundredweight of fruit a year. In the south-west part of the park is the main lake with ornamental woodland to the north, east and south-east, fed by the canalised Cranbrook. The park has extensive lawns with scattered mature trees and over the years numerous recreational facilities were provided. The bandstand, which was erected in 1900, was demolished in 1968, although the base remains surrounded by planting within a larger circular hedged area. In 1908 the first bowling green was added and in 1924 an open air swimming pool, although this was closed by 1995.

The park was used for popular events, from open-air concerts to Summer Flower Shows. A clock tower, bell tower and drinking fountain were donated by Councillor Griggs, who was Chairman of the Parks Committee. Planting similarly accrued with ornamental trees and shrubs, the American Garden laid out, and a Mayors Avenue of oak trees planted in the 1930s. At one time the Central Nurseries in the park provided bedding, tropical and other plants not only for the park but for the whole borough of Ilford, and had 6 greenhouses. This ceased in 1968 after the formation of the new London Borough of Redbridge and horticultural services were transferred to Ray Park (q.v.). A Coronation Planting Committee was set up to celebrate the Coronation in 1937. During WWII trenches were dug as air raid protection, land was used for allotments, and the boating lake used by Air Training Corps. Following its acquisition of the house in 1912, the Council used it for various purposes, and in 1924 it became home of the Public Health Department for 40 years and then the Housing Department.

From the late 1980s there was local debate about restoring the mansion as a museum and archive, and in 1996 Whitbread put forward a proposal to convert it into a pub-restaurant. However in 1999 the Strategy Committee agreed to lease the house to a community trust to work in partnership with the Council, and earmarked a sum of £300,000 for external restoration works. This led to the formation of Valentines Park Conservationists who continue to work with LB Redbridge and others to preserve and develop the park for both visitors and wildlife. Restoration of the mansion and surrounding formal gardens, as well as other historic features in the park, was completed in 2009, funded through an HLF grant. Refurbishment of the house, undertaken by Richard Griffiths Architects, now provide a number of period rooms, extensive Victorian kitchen and pantry, temporary exhibition space and interactive family room. The formal gardens have been restored and form a series of garden rooms, with ornamental as well as kitchen gardens, and improvements to the adjacent Long Water include the grotto alcove, grottos and a small domed Wishing Well in the American Garden on the opposite bank. Sports and recreational facilities now include tennis courts, cricket and football pitches, swimming pool, bowling green used by four local Bowling Clubs, and children's play areas. Hire of boats on the boating lake was revived in 2010.

A Holocaust Memorial Garden in the park was laid out at the instigation of Ilford Town Churches Fellowship and dedicated on 27 January 2002 by the Mayor of Redbridge, Cllr Alan Weinberg.

Sources consulted:

Valentines Mansion Visitors' Guide, LB Redbridge, 1999; Ian Dowling 'Valentines Park Ilford, A Century of History', c1999; Edward Walford, 'Village London, the Story of Greater London, Part 2 - North and East', first published 1883/4 (1985 ed., The Alderman Press); Herbert Hope Lockwood, 'The Inspiration of Valentines "a place of origin"' (published by the author, 2002). See also https://londongardenstrust.org/features/valentines2004.htm:Hazelle Jackson, 'Will You Be My Valentine?', London Landscapes, No. 6, Spring 2004.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ432878 (543442,187876)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Redbridge
Site management:
Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure Ltd; Valentines Park Conservationists; Friends of Valentines Mansion
C18th; C19th; C20th
1899: Ilford Council Surveyor
Listed structures:
LBII*: Valentines Mansion; Railings, gates and gate piers on Emerson Road. LBII: C18th Dovecote and attached garden walls, C18th Sundial; Early C18th Canal-Head Grotto; C18th Grotto; C18th Ha-Ha, mid C19th Gardener's Cottage; C18th Gate Piers
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade II
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Valentines Park (north part)
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance II
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes (part) - Archaeological Priority Area
Other LA designation:
Local Open Space

Valentines Park *

Valentines Park - Mansion - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 20/08/20 16:07

Cleaning the boating lake, c.1947. Courtesy Redbridge Local Studies & Archives.
Bridge over the stream leading to the ornamental waters, c.1930s. Courtesy Redbridge Local Studies & Archives.
Valentines Park, c.1920s. Courtesy Redbridge Local Studies & Archives.
Valentines Park:'a quiet corner', c.1910. The Roman Urn is shown in the background on the left. Courtesy Redbridge Local Studies & Archives.

Click a photo to enlarge.

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