Valence House Museum is the only surviving of the five manor houses of Dagenham. In 1291 Agnes de Valence retired to Dagenham following the death of her third husband. She was related to the royal family, her grandmother being Isabella of Angouleme, wife of King John. Agnes lived here until her death in 1309. Her brother Aylmer then claimed the estate, and when he died in 1342 he was buried in Westminster Abbey as the Earl of Pembroke. Although the de Valence family were only associated with Dagenham for half a century, local roads, a public park, school, library and museum all still bear their name. No part of the house that Agnes de Valence lived in now remains, although some 13th century foundations were discovered during the refurbishment of 2007-10. The earliest surviving part of Valence House was built in the 1400s. Unlike the present house, it faced north towards Green Lane. The corridor outside the present Cinema Room represents the front of this house. Most of Valence House is timber framed, the frames filled in with Lath and plaster work. A newly-discovered wall painting in a room on the first floor has been dated to c.1600. Two rooms have wooden panelling dating from the late 16th century. A survey of 1649 reveals a house much larger than today with parlours, dining-room, bedchambers and a variety of domestic offices. The 1662 Hearth Tax reveals Valence House had 15 hearths. There are at least two ghost; Agnes de Valence and Elixa Luxmore (died in the house in 1913).
There are three galleries and the Cinema Room on the ground floor. The highlight of the Archaeology Gallery is the Dagenham Idol. The Idol is over 4,000 years old and one of the earliest known representations of the human figure in Europe. Other items include: a Roman sarcophagus (stone coffin), stone tools, a Saxon drinking glass and medieval masonry. Half the gallery is dedicated to the history of Barking Abbey, the Borough’s greatest archaeological site. The Whalebone Gallery: The bones displayed in this room are believed to be from the lower jaw of a Common Greenland Whale. Until the 1870s, they formed an arch next to an octagonal toll-house at the junction of Whalebone Lane and Chadwell Heath High Road. After the demolition of the toll-house, the whalebones were moved to nearby Whalebone House. When the house was destroyed during an air raid in 1941, the bones were brought here to Valence House. Valence House Gallery: This gallery traces the history of the house and surrounding land, and looks at many of the people who have lived here. You can see a model of Valence House in 1921, when it was still being used as a family home.
On the Upper Floor is the People and communities gallery: Modern interactive displays bring the social history of Barking and Dagenham up to the present day. They examine the people and communities, past and present, who have made the Borough what it is now. Barking New Town gallery explores development from the 1860s onwards. Barking was transformed from a fishing and farming community into the base for a huge range of industries. It attracted workers from all over the British Isles. See a lifebelt manufactured by Fosbery of Barking, which supplied lifebelts and lifejackets to the ill-fated RMS Titanic which sank in 1912. River industries Gallery: Barking and Dagenham is surrounded on three sides by water. This gallery shows how it has influenced the industrial development of the Borough. Objects relating to the Barking Fishing Fleet include a fully-rigged model of the well-smack Saucy Jack. The gallery also tells the story of the entrepreneur Samuel Williams, who established Dagenham Dock. Village life: In this room you explore the rural life of Dagenham Village and the hamlets of Chadwell Heath and Beacontree Heath. The collection includes: a sampler stitched by a local girl in 1826, a smock frock from around 1860 typical of those worn by farm workers in and around the country parish, a fascinating model shows Dagenham Village as it would have looked in 1945. You also learn about the notorious unsolved murder of George Clark, a young police constable brutally killed while on night patrol around Dagenham’s lonely country lanes in 1846. There is level access throughout the ground floor of the museum. A lift provides level access to part of the upper floor. The visitor centre is fully accessible.
Location : Valence House, Becontree Ave, Dagenham RM8 3HT
Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 to 16:00
Tickets : Free.
Tel: 020 8227 2034