Valentine’s Day – 14th February

Valentine’s Day, also known as St Valentine’s Day or the Feast of St Valentine is celebrated annually on 14th February. The English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, is thought to be the first to record St Valentine’s Day as a day of romantic celebration in his poem The Parliament of Fowls1 composed in the late 1300s.

Written valentine messages appeared in the 1400s and the oldest known valentine still in existence is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. By the early 18th century Valentine’s Day had grown into an occasion when couples expressed their love for one another either by presenting flowers, confectionary or greeting cards known as valentines.

In early Victorian times, after the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post in 1840, valentine cards could be mailed for just one penny, and the sending of valentine cards grew. A poem of the time by James Beaton, alludes to the mass popularity of valentine cards:

The letters in St. Valentine so vastly amount,
Postmen may judge them by the lot, they won’t have time to count;
They must bring round spade and measures, to poor love-sick souls
Deliver them by bushels, the same they do coals.

In 1841, 400,000 valentines were posted throughout England and by 1871, 1.2 million cards were processed by the General Post Office in London2.

Valentine’s Day 1872

150 years ago, the Berrow’s Worcester Journal3 reported on the large number of valentines that were handled by Worcester’s postmen:

Stationers and dealers in fancy goods have recently displayed a charming assortment of Cupid’s missives, which have found a ready sale, and postmen and supernumeraries have found it no easy task to deliver the love tokens to expectant thousands……… Exquisite designs in flowers, tiny birds of brilliant plumage nestling in some; figures of the little love god accompanied with verses; beautifully executed work on cards; lace-like bordering to pretty pictures; books with tastefully ornamented covers; elegant scent packets; these and other innumerable are arrayed in the shop windows. All tastes are consulted……… handsome cigar cases, purse, earrings, brooches and other useful articles. In this city, the Saint appears to have a large number of votaries, judging from the scene enacted in front of the Post-office for two hours on Tuesday evening. It was very amusing to witness the reception experienced by every visitor to the letter box, whatever the character of his correspondence happened to be. Young and old, gentle and simple, staid men of business, Benedicts, bachelors, and ladies of uncertain age, bashful youths and blushing amorate, all alike had to run the gauntlet of the jostling bantering crowd. The post-office authorities consider that the valentines sent this year were more numerous than on previous occasions, and an increase in larger ones (contained in boxes) was particularly observable. After the despatch at nine p.m., ten men were occupied for two-and-a-half hours in disposing of the valentines for the Worcester postal district alone. In order to prevent any delay in the delivery of ordinary correspondence, a special delivery of valentines was made at about noon, so that the letter carriers were employed almost continuously from 4.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The labour of carriers was unusually great in consequence of the large number of cumbersome boxes, and if this class of valentines should become more popular, as it seems likely to do, the postal authorities will certainly have to employ vehicles for the delivery of them.

A selection of Victorian Valentine’s Day cards in the collection held at the Museum of London:



Debbie Williamson
Broadway History Society


1. The The Parlement of Foules also called the The Parlement of Briddes, a 699 line poem in rhyme written 1380-90.
2. Mancoff, Debra N. Love’s Messenger: Tokens of Affection in the Victorian Age. Art Institute of Chicago, 1997.
3. Berrow’s Worcester Journal. Saturday, February 17, 1872, page 4.

Next Meeting: Monday 21st January 2019 ‘Sentenced Beyond the Seas, Worcestershire Women Convicts sent to Australia’

Our next meeting and talk by David Clark, entitled ‘Sentenced Beyond the Seas, Worcestershire Women Convicts sent to Australia’, will take place on Monday 21st January 2019, starting at 7pm in the Lifford Memorial Hall.

In 1787, Britain chose Australia as the site of a new penal colony and the first fleet of 11 convict ships set sail for Botany Bay arriving on 20th January 1788 to found Sydney, New South Wales, the first European settlement on the continent. Other penal colonies were later established in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1803 and Queensland in 1824. Western Australia was founded in 1829 as a free colony and received convicts from 1850 onwards. South Australia and Victoria, established in 1836 and 1850 respectively, remained free colonies. Penal transportation to Australia peaked in the 1830s and dropped off significantly the following decade. The last convict ship arrived in Western Australia on 10th January 1868.

The majority of convicts were transported for petty crimes. More serious crimes, such as rape and murder, became transportable offences in the 1830s but since they were also punishable by death, comparatively few convicts were transported for such crimes. Amongst the convicts were women from Worcestershire. David will recount the true and fascinating tale of 8 Worcestershire female convicts sentenced to death or transportation in the 1780s to the ‘Land Beyond the Seas’. One of the women would be the progenitor of the largest living family group in Australia today, another would return to England a rich woman.

David Clark was born and raised in London and has lived and worked in Germany and Australia but returned to the UK in 1970 to live in Worcestershire where he is now retired. His career has included working in a shipping office in London’s dockland, as a rep for foreign newspapers and magazines, at Plumrose Foods, Kalamazoo Business Systems, Mazda cars and Rothmans Cigarettes. David has worked in theatre management, had two shops and ended up working for Age Concern. He was also a City Councillor for 20 years and served as Mayor of Worcester.

All welcome. Non-members £3 on the door.

Refreshment will be served at the end of the meeting.




Henry Sandon Talk and Valuation Evening, 20th February 2017

Photo: Museum of Royal Worcester

On Monday 20th February 2017, ceramics and antiques expert Henry Sandon MBE will give a talk on ‘Worcester China’ starting at 7pm in the Torrington Room at the Lygon Arms Hotel, High Street, Broadway. After his talk, Henry will gladly value any porcelain or china brought along.

This event is free to Members of the Broadway History Society, non-members welcome £3 on the door.

For more information about this event or membership of Broadway History Society please telephone Mary Smith, 01386 853278.

Broadway Archaeological Excavation, West End

img_5799Archaeologists from Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service are currently excavating one of the fields along West End, Broadway, at the end of Mill Avenue.

The archaeologists have found evidence of some of Broadway’s earliest known residents: Mesolithic hunter-gathers who lived on the site along Badsey Brook around 10,000 years ago.

The main focus of the dig is a complex Iron Age and Roman settlement with some fantastic Saxon and Roman finds, and an ancient burial site. The dig which is planned to go on until the end of February 2017 and has proved to much more important than expected.

An Open Day for residents was held on Friday 18th November and a further date will be announced soon. For more information about the excavation and recent finds visit: