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Valence House Museum wins National Lottery support

Valence HouseTags Adults , Residents

Valence House Museum has received initial National Lottery support for the ‘Meet the Fanshawes’ project, it was announced today (30 November).

Made possible by National Lottery players, the project aims to raise the profile of Barking and Dagenham’s nationally significant collection of Fanshawe family portraits through a variety of activities and events.


Development funding of £35,100 has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help Valence House Museum progress their plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant by the end of 2018.


The ‘Meet the Fanshawes’ project focuses on the internationally significant Fanshawe collection held at the Valence House Museum, Archives and Local Studies Centre. It is a collection of 56 family portraits, as well as letters, family papers and books. Despite the collection being considered one of the greatest collections of gentry portraiture in the country, many curators, academics and members of the public are largely unaware of its existence.


The National Lottery grant will enable Valence House Museum to acquire a large amount of material direct from the surviving Fanshawe family. This includes the famous portrait of Sir Richard Fanshawe with his son Richard by Sir Peter Lely, four further Fanshawe family portraits dating from the 17th to 19th centuries, plus a large amount of archive material which has the potential to reveal the ‘hidden’ history of the Fanshawe family - such as the real reason for the loss of Parsloes Manor House in 1918.


The vision of the project is to bring the Fanshawe collection to the attention of a wider range of people, both locally and nationally, in a number of different ways.  A programme of conservation will be undertaken on the collection to ensure its survival and continued use by the residents of Barking and Dagenham.

A touring exhibition looking at women’s involvement in the English Civil War will be created, enabling parts of the Fanshawe collection to go on loan to museums and galleries across the country. A new dressing-up activity will also be created in the museum, allowing visitors to become some of the people shown in the portraits.  

By the end of the project, the aim is for the national and international importance of the Fanshawe collection to be recognised, by being included in the Arts Council England’s Designation scheme.


The Fanshawes were a prominent local family who were key players in local, national and international history. They were lords of the Manor of Barking (1628-1857) and owned and lived in a number of manor houses in Barking and Dagenham, such as Valence House, Jenkins, Parsloes, and Faulks. They also gifted the Leet House to the residents of Barking. It is this tangible connection to local history that makes the Fanshawe collection so important to the story of Barking and Dagenham.


The family’s close connection with the monarchy during the Civil War and after that brings the collection to national and international significance. Sir Richard (1608-1666) was at the Royal Court in Oxford and following King Charles I’s execution went into exile with the Prince of Wales, following him across western Europe. After the Restoration, Sir Richard became Ambassador to Portugal and Spain. In 1676 his wife, Lady Ann wrote a memoir about her deceased husband. These memoirs are a leading first-hand account of aristocratic life during this period.


The collection of 56 Fanshawe portraits currently held by Valence House includes works by some of the leading painters of the 17th-century: Cornelius Johnson, ‘one of the foremost portrait painters in England’; Sir Peter Lely, one of the leading portrait painters of the period; Mary Beale, England’s first leading portrait painter; and William Dobson, ‘the most excellent painter that England has yet bred’.


This archive collection contains diplomatic and private letters from Sir Richard Fanshawe and most notably includes the wedding dowry for Catherine Braganza’s marriage to Charles II. It also contains family papers such as wills, trusts, marriage settlements, estate papers, as well as diaries and commonplace books. These mainly date from the 16th to early 20th centuries.

There are also the working papers, including note books, correspondence and transcriptions, of Herbert Charles Fanshawe, who wrote The History of the Fanshawe Family. The books that form the library were mainly from the personal collection of Herbert Charles Fanshawe and form a comprehensive library of the Civil War and Restoration Era. He used these books when writing the family history and for his edition of Lady Ann’s memoirs.


"Here in Barking and Dagenham we are proud of our rich history and are always pleased to celebrate it"


Councillor Saima Ashraf, Barking and Dagenham Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Leadership and Engagement, said:


“Here in Barking and Dagenham we are proud of our rich history and are always pleased to celebrate it.


“The Fanshawe Collection is undoubtedly of great historical significance; not just in a local sense but also on a national and even international level. We are proud to hold such an important and extensive archive and selection of portraits in Barking and Dagenham.

“I am delighted to see Valence House receive this support from the National Lottery. The money will help to acquire more material for the collection and bring it to a wider audience. This is the one of the jewels in our borough’s crown when it comes to heritage, so it will be fantastic to see it receiving greater exposure in the future.”

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