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Valance House – Late 17th Century Dormer Windows

Valance House Museum is the only surviving manor house in Dagenham. The timber-framed museum building, partially surrounded by a moat, is situated in Valance Park off Becontree Avenue. There has been a house on the site since the 13th century and the existing building is the result of numerous alterations. The current house has been used as a manor house, a family home, a town hall, the headquarters of the library service and now houses a museum. Valance House is grade 2* listed.  

The building has been heavily altered but sections of a painted cornice boarding have been identified on two late century dormer windows. The surrounding timber elements and windows have been replaced but these elements are thought to date from the late 17th century construction of this wing. A site inspection was carried out on 19th May 2021 to examine these rare survivals. The cornices are currently painted in a modern gloss paint, but substantial traces of earlier paint layers were discovered on the early timber elements.

Paint samples were removed from both windows, and the surface of the early decorations was revealed using tangential cuts to reveal the accumulated layers. It was evident that some paint stripping had been carried out, possibly during an early 20th century refurbishment campaign, but substantial traces of a repeated white-lead oil paint were observed at the earliest levels applied over a distinctive red (iron oxide) primer.


The paint analysis confirms the suggestion that the elements of the cornice identified belong to an early phase of the construction of Valance House. The use of a dark red iron oxide primer suggests the elements date from the late 17th or early 18th century when this type of primer was in general use. Later in the 18th century pale pink primers superseded the use of such dark primers. The darker coloured decorations in dark browns and one dark green probably date from the early 20th century. The most recent decorations are in modern alkyd resin paints and post-date WWII.