Valence House Museum is a Grade II* listed building dating back to medieval times and was originally built as one of the seven manor houses of Dagenham. In 1921, it was purchased by the London County Council to use as their headquarters whilst they developed the surrounding Becontree Housing Estate. In 1927, it was sold to the new Urban District of Dagenham, later the Essex Borough of Dagenham, and was extended and renovated to become the Town Hall. In 1937, the town hall services were transferred to the newly opened Civic Centre at Becontree Heath and Valence House became the headquarters for the Dagenham Library Service. The Chief Librarian, John Gerard O’Leary, opened a small museum in the room that had once been the council chamber.
Since then the Museum collections have grown considerably and the Museum now occupies all the rooms in the house. The Museum collection includes archaeology, social history and art, and covers 6,000 years of Barking and Dagenham history. In June 2010, Valence House reopened after a £7.5 million redevelopment project, which saw the complete renovation of the Museum building and grounds, the opening of 13 new Museum galleries and the creation of a visitor centre with a local studies library and archive store. Topics covered in the new Museum include the archaeology of Barking and Dagenham, Ford Motor Company, Barking Fishing Fleet, and the Dagenham Girl Pipers.
The jewel in the Museum’s collection is the group of Fanshawe family portraits. The Fanshawe family gained their wealth and status working in Elizabeth I’s tax office. At their peak they were close confidants of Charles I and Charles II. The Fanshawe family owned a number of properties locally, including Jenkins in Barking and Parsloes in Dagenham (both now demolished). The portraits (including some in pen and ink) cover a period of 400 years, from 1560 to 1940, and they include works by artists such as William Dobson, Peter Lely, Marcus Gheeraerts the younger and Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen.
In 1963, the Fanshawe family donated 49 portraits as well as books and archives to Valence House Museum. Since then, a further eight portraits have been added to the collection. The story of the Fanshawe family and this nationally significant collection is told across two galleries within the Museum, one permanent and one which changes annually.
Leeanne Westwood, Curator
Text source: PCF / Valence House Museum
This description was originally written for a catalogue.
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