At the end of September, the finishing touches were put to a project begun before the pandemic by the Friends of Valentines Mansion, a charity set up in 2000 from and for the local community, to raise funds and support for restoration and other projects at Valentines.
Charles Raymond’s “Cabinet of Curiosities” as the house was known in 18th Century, has been created in the parlour on the first floor, to reflect the life and times of this previous owner of the Valentines Estate and his family. Charles and Sarah Raymond lived in Valentine House from 1754, not long after Captain Raymond retired from the sea, having made six voyages to India. Their three daughters grew up here.
A great deal of research has been undertaken by the Friends, led by local historian Georgina Green, to develop themes in the room for visitors to explore. There is an interactive area for children, with puzzles and artefacts relating to travelling by sea in the 18th century.
On Sunday 17th September, the promised “stormy skies” luckily did not materialise for the Friends’ fun-packed family day “Ahoy!” with special guest Richard Keen, the marine archaeologist who had dived in the 1970s to the wreck of Charles Raymond’s East Indiaman, the Valentine, which sank in the Channel Islands in stormy seas on her way home from India in 1779. There were pirate-themed activities inside and outside for children, including of course a Treasure Hunt with x marking the spot where clues could be found around the mansion; costumed crew members looking suspiciously like pirates, organised children into joining the crew and measuring and making a half-size East Indiaman ship out of string on the south lawn. Richard then helped the children load all the cargoes, provisions and equipment aboard! There were storytellers, parrots, a chance to learn to dance the hornpipe and displays in the drawing room with a chance to handle real items from the wreck. In the afternoon, the crew performed a selection of sea songs and shanties to a packed audience. All this without mentioning the chance to visit the completed Raymond Room and discover all there is to see in there!
On Monday 18th September, the Friends laid on a special tea party for members during the regular Open Day 10.30 – 4pm with free entry for the public. Volunteers were again on hand to guide visitors and provide insights into the room using the newly installed QR codes to access audio tours and research folders for those who want to sit and read in more depth.
On Tuesday 19th September, Councillor Jyotsna Islam, the Mayor of Redbridge formally declared the room open.
Diana Smith, Chair of the Friends said, “We have all learnt so much from being involved in this exciting project. We are always keen to welcome new members to the Friends, to be part of the future of this beautiful building and keep updated with everything that’s going on here. The annual subscription is £8 and details of how to join us can be found on our web site.
The ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’, officially known as The Raymond Room, is open with the rest of the house every Sunday and Monday, 10.30am-4pm with free entry.