Wanstead researcher completes love story of one of world’s oldest Valentines sent to Spitalfields woman in 1818

Hansons valuer Isabel Murtough holds the Valentine. Picture: Hansons

Hansons valuer Isabel Murtough holds the Valentine. Picture: Hansons - Credit: Archant

A Wanstead ancestry researcher has helped complete the love story behind one of the “rarest and most beautiful” Valentines – sent to a Spitalfields woman more than two centuries ago.

Wanstead ancestry researcher completes the love story behind this Valentine. Picture: Hansons

Wanstead ancestry researcher completes the love story behind this Valentine. Picture: Hansons - Credit: Archant

The illustrated letter, sent on February 14, 1818, was sold on Friday, February 14, at Hansons Auctioneers in Derbyshire.

The letter's estimate was £600 to £800, but the winning bid was £1,300.

The rare hand-painted Valentine, featuring hearts, flowers, Cupid and lovebirds, was sent to Miss L Shafe, of White Row in Spitalfields, 202 years ago.

The Valentine. Picture: Hansons

The Valentine. Picture: Hansons - Credit: Archant

The Valentine has been owned by Gavin Littaur, from London, for more than 20 years, after buying it at an auction.


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It's in excellent condition for its age as the keen collector carefully stored it in an album and protected it from sunlight.

Mr Littaur said: "I'm a bit of a romantic and just talking about this Valentine rekindles my love for it. It's beautiful - exceptionally so, in fact.

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"One of the reasons I'm selling it now is to show the collecting world what an outstanding early Valentine really looks like.

The Valentine. Picture: Hansons

The Valentine. Picture: Hansons - Credit: Archant

"I once owned a Valentine from 1801 but it wasn't as stunning as this one. I've been a collector of postal history for decades and it's the finest I've ever seen."

Now new research has potentially revealed the name of the suitor - and what happened next in the tale of romance.

Brenda Piper, 76, a retired legal secretary from Wanstead, was so fascinated by the story she set to work to find out more - and contacted Hansons with the romantic results.

A keen ancestry researcher since the 1960s, Brenda said: "When I saw there was a name and address in an area of London I knew well, I couldn't resist seeing if I could find her. I thought that perhaps having an idea of the couple involved would add extra interest for whoever bought the card.

The Valentine. Picture: Hansons

The Valentine. Picture: Hansons - Credit: Archant

"I looked for the marriage of Miss L Shafe and found Miss Lydia Shafe who married Edmundus Burn at St Leonard's Church, Shoreditch, on December 28, 1819. The witnesses were Mary Burn and Clifford Elisha, possibly the church verger.

"Edmundas was a stationer and bookbinder from Birmingham while Lydia was from Shoreditch in London. They went to live in Brighton and had five children."

The Regency Valentine on folding paper bears the manufacturer's watermark, Dobbs 1815, and its original red sealing wax. As well as the central romantic verse within a gilt love heart, it has an embossed floral border and a vibrant watercolour floral border surmounted by two gilt doves and a heart pierced with crossed arrows.

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