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12 February

The Archive Awareness Campaign uncovers some of the Valentine's treasures held in our local archives.

A crime of love at Huntingdonshire Archives

William Coles - courtesy of Huntingdonshire Archives

Valentine's cards first appeared in Britain at the beginning of the 19th century. By the 1870s, many Valentine's cards had become ornate and valuable items, printed on expensive paper and decorated with satin or lace.

Records show that on 6 February 1875, William Coles, a labourer from Leighton Bromswold in Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, was convicted of 'stealing a Valentine'.

Coles ended up spending Valentine's Day languishing in prison, as he was sentenced to three calendar months hard labour in Huntingdon County Gaol. 

Alan Akeroyd, Archives and Local Studies Manager at Cambridgeshire Archives, said: 'This is exactly the kind of archive document which brings history to life.'


The diary of a Valentine at Devon Record Office

Peter Orlando Hutchinson - courtesy of Devon Record Office

The diary of a 19th century bachelor, held at Devon Record Office, reveals that Valentine's Day was just as celebrated by our Victorian ancestors as it is today.

On 14 February 1852, Peter Orlando Hutchinson notes: 'Received five Valentines! Sent thirteen!! Bless the girls! Why don't they put their names to them?'

Nearly two weeks later, Hutchinson is still the object of desire. His diary entry for 26 February reads: 'Three more Valentines! The lady in one of them asks me to kiss her!'

'It's an amusing read and an example of how human life really exists amongst records,' said Katherine Weston, Heritage Outreach Officer at Devon Record Office.

The language of love at East Riding of Yorkshire Archives

Illustration by Margaret Elizabeth Whiteing - courtesy of East Riding of Yorkshire Archives

The notebook of Margaret Elizabeth Whiteing, held at East Riding of Yorkshire Archives, reveals a number of love poems and sketches which were lost for nearly 100 years.
Margaret, known as Madge, was born in 1887 and grew up in Woodlands, Beverley. She eventually moved to Hengate, where she concealed the notebook in a wall and plastered over it. The notebook was rediscovered in 1986, but the reasons for the concealment remain a mystery.

One of her poems, The Gift of Love, reads:  

'It is in the loving not in being loved
The heart is blest
It is in the giving, not in seeking gifts
We find our quests.

Assurance that my strain hath cheered
One soul if only one
And shed on the dark path if feared
A passing glimps[e] of sun.'

Highlighting the fascinating material to be found in local archives, Angela Owusu, Archive Awareness Campaign Officer, said: 'If people are stuck for words to write to loved ones this Valentine's, they should visit their local archive; they may well find poetry to inspire them!' She added that 'archives across the UK are opening their doors to the public so that people can search for fascinating stories such as these.'