Mr W.B. Valentine

no-picture-square3Mr W. B. Valentine has been a mystery guest for a long time, but finally I believe we have a candidate, Mr William Basil Valentin, 50, (1882-1950), a broker. We shall cover him, his family and his lifetime friend, the musician Charles James Finucane Draper.  The only reference in the media that I can find is that in 1939 one W.B. Valentine attended the annual Critics Circle dinner 1939[1].  

I have to admit that the absence of anyone else called W.B. Valentine that I can find is William Basil’s strongest card. It is lightly supported by the fact that his uncle, two decades earlier, was the MD of an important Llanelli brewery, and he is seated at a table with guests who were well known in Wales. So the Welsh link is more relevant than it would be on other tables. William Basil is an interesting character, as far as I can see.  Perhaps, as a broker, he was involved with financial activities for Lady Rhondda or Time and Tide? For now he is the only card in our hand and tentatively see him more as an ex-mystery guest than as one of our original five Mystery Guests. If he turns out not to be our man, I would be sorry to see him go. 

puzzle-piece2-50Any further insights, or a picture would be most welcome.  We do have two pictures of his long time friend Charles, for illustration.

SEATED BESIDE

Perhaps with either A.E. Harrison or Mrs Finlay if the Welsh connection  is correct.  

WHAT’S ON HIS MIND?

This page has enough speculation for now.   

WB’s STORY SO FAR

William Basil “WB” Valentine was born in 1882 at 75 Carleton Road, Tufnell Park, Holloway, and baptised on 26th September at the nearby St George’s Church, still standing as an arts and meeting venue.  He was possibly the only child of Charlotte Wilhelmina Elizabeth Valentin (1859-1947) and Alfred Deutsch (1852-1891), a Vienna born furniture importer with an office in the City of London.   

WB’s mother was Austrian, Kensington born, and naturalised British on 18th March 1915 (the war was underway), her parents listed as William George and Elise Marie Valentin, their nationality noted as French on the naturalisation certificate.  Earlier census forms show that William George Valentin was born in Wurtemburg, and Charlotte’s mother was born in Berlin as Maria Charlotte Elizabeth Griebel.  Diplomatically WB seems to have adopted his mother’s surname rather than Deutsch.  William George was a professor of Chemistry, and Demonstrator in Practical Chemistry at the Royal College of Chemistry.  In 1872 his expertise was cited  in the submission for a new Punshon’s Patent application for cotton gunpowder.[2] However “Owing to the extremely hygroscopic nature of the product, this explosive proved a complete failure”.[3] Ah well.    

WB seems to have adopted his mother’s maiden name. By the time of his death he had added a third Christian name of Stanley, and the “e” was generally omitted from Valentine. Spelling of the name could be erratic: Vallentin being another version used. 

William was nine when his father died, and his mother lived with him for the rest of her life.   At 19 he was living at 22 Holmdale Road, West Hampstead with his mother and her brother Arthur Valentine. His cousin Lilian Mary Hoar and her parents lived in the parallel road, at 51 Narcissus Road.  

Charles James Finucane Draper
Charles James Finucane Draper [4]

On the night of the 1911 census he was  a visitor, (occupation stockbroker) at  82 Shaftesbury Avenue, the home of one Charles James Finucane Draper, “living on private means”, a member of a St. Helier, Jersey, artistic family (his grandfather was the  James Finucane landscape painter).  In 1916  William was serving with the Air Force.  From at least 1924 until 1935 he was living at 8 Chichele Mansions, in Cricklewood, with his mother Charlotte Wilhelmina and his friend Charles Finucane Draper.  Other members of the Valentin family also lived in the same mansion block at times. Charles was a musician, a violinist, and composed the music and accompanied a number of the hit songs of the day.  Assuming WB and Charles shared a passion for the arts, this might tally with the presence of W.B. Valentine at the annual meeting of the Critics Circle in 1939.[5]

If another W.B. Valentine appears, William Basil Valentin might have to compete for his seat at the table, but there is some supporting evidence as to why he might have been at the dinner.  The evidence comes from his maternal Valentin family.  His mother had three siblings: Basil William Henry, (1862-1916), Helen Constance Bianca (1863-1947), and Arthur Augustus William (1866-1950), the most importance in this instance being Basil William. 

Buckleys_Llanelli_line_drawing_1890
Buckleys Llanelli line drawing 1890[6]

By 1900 Basil William was the Managing Director of the Llanelli brewery Buckleys, touted in the company advertisements as the brain behind their wonderful brewing technologies. Arthur Augustus also made his career with his own brewer’s sugar manufacturing company. The connection with South Wales may have started when their father William George, the chemist, was on the teaching faculty at the Normal College, Swansea, in 1857.[7]  Basil William Valentin would have been quite well known in South Wales, having been President of the Welsh Automobile Club, fond of racing around. He was divorced by his first wife for his long affair with one Rose Buckley, whom he then married. There is also a record of him painting a Roll of Honour for the Buckley employees who had gone to the Front. Though such Rolls of Honour are nowadays known as being in tribute to those who lost their lives, to begin with such lists were also made to honour those who had volunteered, some displayed in churches and in this case, in the workplace.  Most were then discarded so only the Rolls of Honour for those who died are generally known today.  

Uncle Basil William died of pneumonia in 1916, and his second wife later that year. I am supposing that his nephew William Basil Valentin was known to the other guests from South Wales on his table, notably Mrs. J. Bell Finlay and A.E. Harrison. The link is no stronger than that, and William Basil had died almost two decades earlier. Llanelli is to the West of course, close to Swansea, whilst the Finlays and Harrisons lived on the Newport/Cardiff side.  

WHAT WB DID NEXT

Charles James Finucane Draper
Charles James Finucane Draper [8]

At some point WB, his mother and Charles Finucane moved to Brighton and all lived at Flat 4, 12 Sussex Square, the smart large square facing the sea.  William assigned his estate to his friend Charles, though if Charles had not survived, to his cousin Lilian Mary Hoar, daughter of his aunt Helen Constance Bianca Hoar née Valentin. Lilian in fact was a music teacher in a girls’ school in the same Sussex Square, at nos. 23-25. WB did have two male cousins: Edward Hoar, who emigrated to the USA/Canada; and Deric Valentin (who married three times).  

William Basil Stanley Valentin died at the age of 68 on 6th September 1950. I hope we learn more of him.  His friend Charles died two years later, on 24th September 1952.   

BACK TO TABLE 17

[1 and 5] The Stage 16.3.1939, p9, a W.B. Valentine (no gender indicated) is listed as an attendee at a Critics Circle Dinner

[2] John Bull, 25.5.1872 p14 

[3] From “The Rise and Progress of the British Explosives Industry”, cited in Brian Dillon, The Great Explosion, Penguin UK, 2015 

[4 and 8] Ancestry.com

[6] Brewery History Society wiki accessed 14.11.2020

[7] Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, 3.1 1857 p1

 

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