August 2019

Hitherto the Trust has thought that four large albums of Elizabeth Cobbold (1765-1824) #58 paper-cut Valentines were prepared, one for each of Elizabeth’s four boys, Robert Knipe (1792-1859) #100Charles (1793-1859) #102Richard (1797-1877) #106 and Edward (1798-1860) #108; each containing Valentines produced from 1816 onwards.  Of these, Richard’s album is in the Trust and Charles’ album is in safe family hands but on loan to the Trust for research purposes.  The other two were broken up by an antique dealer and sold off as framed pictures.  Over the years the Trust has acquired two more small and rather crude albums containing Valentines for 1810 and 1813.

Recently two more mid-sized albums have come to light dedicated to Robert Knipe, her eldest son; one bearing the date 1812 and the other 1813.  They are in safe family hands but have satisfactorily broadened our knowledge.  Volume two tells us that Valentines for 1809-10-11 were owned by the Rushbrooke family.  We know that Elizabeth stopped cutting Valentines in 1822 but we did not know she had produced any before 1810.

We do not know exactly how the Valentines were distributed at the time, but this much we do know: there were Ladies Valentines and Gentlemen’s Valentines; up to eighty were cut in a single year; normally a verse was composed for each; they were placed in separate baskets and brought into the party when it was well under way.  Every unmarried guest was invited to come and pick a Valentine from the appropriate basket.  The verses were read out to the assembled company and often much mirth ensued.  There was undoubtedly some match-making going on and we know of one case where romance and marriage resulted.

Prior to 1814 when the family moved into Holywells the Valentine parties were held at the Cliff and at that time the event was known as a Lottery, a term confirmed in the earlier albums.  The Valentines preserved in these albums were duplicates of those distributed.  One account says that they were cut from multiple sheets of paper but this would not have been as easy as it sounds.  They were cut with scissors using a technique, Scherenschnitte, learned from Germany.

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