By JasonJRogers
2 years ago

A Place of Discovery


The Fanshawe Family:

Valence House Museum is located in the South East of London, Its was once the home of an historic family called the Fanshawes. The historic house was built on farm land back in 1700 and the ground used to be covered in more green land than the roads we see today. The Fanshawes were a high status family in the borough of Barking & Dagenham, inside the house is the Fanshawes portrait gallery and the Fanshawe family tree which dates back to the early 1500's, they were also close confidents of Charles I and Charles II. Today, a descendent of the family still remains in the form of writer and broadcaster Simon Fanshawe and back in 2013 he unveiled six portraits of the Fanshawe family.

Historic House:

Valence house used to be a closed and private place with rich history behind its walls but, now and most recently open to the public has a House Museum, where all history of the house and borough is explored. The oldest history of the house was surrounded on Valence farm, but now all history is explored through many different rooms of the house.

- 1700 Valence farm and Medieval times history room with old fire place
- The old panelled guest room containing the Dagenham Idol and piano
- The Excavation exhibition room containing the dig, ancient finds, Roman History, the remains of the Roman Sarcophagus and the history of Barking Abbey
- The two giant stoned warriors battle by the stairs
- Old fashioned settings room with sports and stars history, Mahatma Gandhi related history, the old town show and Barking & Dagenham borough history
- Dagenham Docks history room
- The mayor history panel room with old fire place
- The Dagenham town history room with the story of the mysterious death of a borough police officer
- The historic staircase
- The Fanshawes portrait gallery room with the Fanshawes family tree and travellers chest
- The history of the oldest wall in the house
- The cinema room
- The whalebone history room

Valence House Museum holds so many historic memories and figures throughout its years in the Barking & Dagenham area.

My Journey through Valence House Museum:

As I enter Valence house Museum I head to the left into the 1700 farm history room. A glass case sits in the middle of the room with a model of the old farm inside, descriptions are on either side of the glass, It shows you and tells you how the grounds use to be many years ago. On one side of the room, boards run along the walls with history tracing back to the medieval times, it shows you the growth and prosperity of the medieval times and what it actually means to the Barking & Dagenham Borough. Also, an old fire place sits at the back of the room, its one of many you see inside the house.

I exit the Valence Farm and medieval history room and I head directly across the hallway into the old panelled guest room containing the Dagenham Idol and a piano. This room is considered has the main room in the house (to us the living room) where family use to come and sit to have tea, dinner and family meetings. In the middle of the room is a tall glass cabinet containing the Dagenham Idol, the Dagenham Idol is a mysterious wooden figure discovered in Dagenham's marshes. This wooden figure is the earliest carving and representation of a human and was found in ripple road in 1922, it was made in 2250 bc and belongs to the late neolitic period, it was some kind of gift to the gods. One things for sure, The Dagenham Idol is a thousand years older than Stonehenge.

As I walk pass the piano and exit through the opposite doorway I enter the Excavation exhibition room. This room contains tall glass display cabinets and inside the cabinets are ancient roman pots, vases, stones, fragments, old finds and a tombstone block taken from an old building and the exhibition dig detailing old finds. The walls are decorated with Roman medieval history with the remains of the Roman Sacrophagus in a stone coffin, the stone coffin may have formed part of a burial ground connected to a Roman Villa in the Eastbury area. Also, there is a model of Barking Abbey at the back of the exhibition room and opposite a description of its founding.

I exit the Excavation room through the only other door on the right which leads into a small corridor with two giant stone warriors battling near the stairs. As I ascend the stairs pictures and dates of Barking & Dagenham's people run up the walls to the top, people like an old Dagenham family, a mechanic, Bobby Moore, Victorians etc.....

I walk into the old fashioned settings room with sports and stars history, Mahatma Gandhi related history, the old town show and Barking & Dagenham Borough history. In the middle of this room behind a low glass barrier is an old fashioned living room with fireplace, armchair, radio and war items, and next to is an old fashioned kitchen with stove, cupboards and shelves also behind a low glass barrier...warning! Do not put your arm over the barrier or the alarm will go off. Descriptions on the Living room and kitchen are displayed in sleeved folders and there is a dial on the outside of the Living room barrier so you can operate the radio. In this room lies a big glass trophy cabinet with all kinds of past trophies and winners on them. The history of the Dagenham Town show and Barking & Dagenham Borough are displayed along the walls and inside glass cabinets...An old fire place also sits in this room along with many other different history activities.

I step out into the small hallway and head left into the Dagenham Docks room, a wooden sloped platform with 5 different ropes tied to metal rings sits near a window. It teaches you how to tie certain types of knots if you were ever out at sea...they are reef knot, bowline, carrick bend, buntline hitch and sheet bend...I've only ever mastered 4 out of the 5, the buntline hitch is proving to be the most difficult. This room has a massive model boat behind the glass display and lots of sea and dockland history, as soon as you walk in the room a speaker goes off telling the story of the life on the Dagenham Docks. Across from the Dagenham Docks room is the Mayors room with the old fire place, a mayors coat of the borough is seen behind a display cabinet along with a coat of arms plaque behind another. In this room it tells you the history of the Fish to factories and details a history of a new town is born, there is also a rather interesting testimonial book dating back to 1897, it tells you the founder of the ragged school in Barking.

Right at the end of the hallway is the Dagenham town history room with a big model of the town in a glass case. The room explores the rural life in Dagenham, the end of an era, the people of Dagenham and the infamous unsolved murder of police officer George Clarke. A folder in the room documents the history of the town an shows photographs of what it was like in Dagenham many years ago, also an old collection of coins are displayed behind one frame whilst miners gear are displayed behind another.

Walking back along the corridor near the Dagenham Docks room is the historic staircase, its a three turned staircase which had been rescued from another building and brought here by the Merttins family in the 18th century. The staircase was an indicator of the family's wealth and status. It had been carefully hand carved with barley twist balusters and is 100 years older than this part of the house, the family would hang their portraits along the walls of this three turned staircase.

In the Fanshawes portrait gallery are huge paintings of the family along with a travellers chest and the Fanshawes family tree which dates back to the 1500's. The gallery is split in two small parts with other members of the Fanshawes portraits in the other. Standing on an easel is a piece detailing the changing face of the Fanshawes and documents the number of portraits that Valence House has of the Fanshawe family, 54 portraits in all. The oldest member of the Fanshawe family to have his portrait up there is a guy called Thomas Fanshawe, born in 1533 and died in 1601.

Opposite the Fanshawe gallery is a cinema room with two old cinema seats and a flat screen on the wall showing the old times in Dagenham and videos of war, school, work and hard labour. Sometimes I can just sit in here an relax for a while, it has a colourful flip board outside indicating that this is the cinema room. Outside and just around the corner is a very old wall...It's the oldest wall in the house, it dates back to the 15th century and at that time it would of been considered as an outside wall...made from strong oak beams and panels were built of wattle and daub.

Next to this old wall is the Whalebone room...In this room it documents the whaling industry, it tells you how it flourished around Howland dock at Rotherhithe on the South bank of the Thames in the middle 17th century. Behind a long glass case are two huge jaws belonging to a common green land whale also known as a bowhead whale. They say the jaws of these whales where used as materials for building roads, especially those along Valence Avenue heading up towards Chadwell heath. On the way out of Valence House you see a map of the two floors and all the rooms on the side of the wall, so if you ever get lost (which I doubt it) at least you have the map for guidance.

The Grounds around Valence House:

First have the herb garden which is situated on the right hand side before you reach the house, its a place where you can sit and relax, study, eat lunch or chill out. Volunteers and gardeners are welcome to join in planting and growing of flowers and other green land. Tucked away in an area around the corner is an old air raid shelter surrounded by sand bags, sometimes old war and survival supplies are seen inside the shelter. The herb garden has a beautiful flower arch and beautiful seating area with a rather unusual attraction near a round bench, a mangle...that's right...a mangle is sitting in the herb garden.

Opposite Valence house is an old model car and next to that is Valence cafe....Valence cafe is sometimes a peaceful place to be (sometimes you'll get classes of school children and teachers who come to visit) other times you can go in have something to eat and relax. They also have a study area for courses and students and sometimes provide for those with special needs. At one end of the small building you have a desk and an area where you can purchase small souvenirs, gifts and books, I have already purchased a book on Dagenham murders and couple of Valence house pens. The toilets are pretty clean and the staff are really friendly and helpful and the prices of the food and drink are quite reasonable.

My Thoughts on Visiting:

Back in of my relations took my mother on an outing to Valence House Museum and when once they returned they told me all about their experience, they advised me to go down there for a visit because its something they knew I would like. At first I couldn't work where it was because the house is tucked away down one side of Valence library, the times I have passed valence library and never knew there was a museum and cafe there, until recently back in 2013. On my first visit I walked through the gates on Becontree Avenue and headed down the side of the Valence library, I had to pass through a small gate and then through big double gates to get into the grounds. I could see Valence cafe up ahead, the herb garden to my right and the side of Valence House to my left, I walked around the corner to get to the front of the house, I walked up to the front door and entered.

On entering, you get this nice museum house smell and sometimes a member of staff is seen walking around the museum and sometimes is seen sitting in the Valence farm and medieval times history room. Everyone I've met so far in there are very welcoming and friendly, they sometimes leave a guestbook on the table where you can put your name, signature and leave comments about your experience of the day you've had in the museum. I've been to Valence House Museum so many times now I've lost count, its a place where you can go for peace and quite and at the same time clear your thoughts and your mind whilst capturing some history on the borough at the same time.

I remember going there quite a few times when it was hot outside, by far the best time to go because you can sit in the herb garden and relax in the sun, only thing out for those pesky flying insects, they're always hanging around the flowered archway tunnel. You're free to do what ever you want when you're touring the grounds, you don't have to pay anything unless you want something in the cafe of at the little shop inside where the desk is. Sometimes, I've just gone there to visit the house and come back, I've sometimes not even taken any money with me on visits, but other times I've fancied getting a bite to eat and cup of tea in the cafe...It makes the visit more worth while.


Valence House
Becontree Avenue

Opening Hours:

Tuesday to Saturday
10am to 4pm (except public holidays)
Admission is free except for special ticket events
2 years
Lucia5 Beautiful place!!😘😘😘
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soncee Beautiful museum thanks for sharing
2 years
2 years
Justin Interesting my friend
2 years
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Violeta Very nice photo
2 years
2 years
carmen3521 good to know..
2 years