Warwick's West Gallery Quire

John Valentine



John Valentine (fl. 1735 - 1792)


John Valentine came from a family which is chiefly remembered as having much to do with the waits of the city of Leicester in the second half of the eighteenth century, although he never seems to have actually been a wait himself.


He arranged subscription concert series, and taught and published music. Most of his publications were instrumental pieces, carefully arranged so that they could be used by different ensembles (for example, solo wind instruments were fully included in the violin parts, in small notation). His two ventures into psalmody publishing were:

  • Thirty Psalm Tunes in four Parts with SYMPHONIES, INTERLUDES, and an INSTRUMENTAL BASS being Set Part to the OLD, and Part to the NEW VERSION Composed by JOHN VALENTINE OF LEICESTER, Op. 7.   (London : Longman and Broderip, for the Author, [1784]).    BL Ref.:  B.440.(2.)  and A.511.b.(1.)



  • Six Anthems in Four Vocal Parts with Preludes, Symphonies for Hautboys &c Bassoons, adapted for the Use of Country Choirs. W/oO. 2.
    [Subscription advertised on 11 June 1774, but apparently never published.]


The Town of Leicester

Leicester remained an agricultural centre and market town, later city, whilst others, like Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield, became manufacturing centres. Leicester had a Mayor and "Corporation", comprising 24 Aldermen and 48 Councillors, and by about 1700 had a population of about 6000 people, rising to about 8,000 by 1730. Growth then stabilised until 1760 when it again began to grow rapidly, reaching 17,000 by 1800. In 1711 the land that had once belonged to the Grey friars was sold for building and by 1720 it was built upon. New Road was built in 1737 and the Corn Exchange (where grain was bought and sold) in 1748.


In 1759 pumps were installed by public wells. Leicester Royal Infirmary opened in 1771. The town walls were removed in 1774 as improvements in artillery had made them obsolete. In 1785 the town council created a public walk, the New Walk.


In the late 18th century Leicester was transformed by the industrial revolution. The Soar Canal was completed in 1794 and it allowed an engineering industry to grow up by providing a cheap way of transporting coal and iron into Leicester. The shirt trade in Leicester began in 1796.[1]

The Leicester Waits

Originally night watchmen, the Leicester waits were a group of town musicians who provided music for public ceremonies, as well as at stated times of the day and night in order to mark the passage of the hours, and they dated back to the end of the 15th century, possibly earlier. In 1524 it is recorded that their livery was orange or tawny and, later on, scarlet gowns edged with silver lace, and later again, edged with gold lace. One of their official badges survives, dating from 1695. 


At Leicester it is also recorded that in 1581 the waits were obliged to play every night and morning, both winter and summer, and not to go outside the city to play except at fairs and weddings, and then only by license of the mayor. It was further frequently resolved by the councils generally that no strangers, waits, minstrels or other musicians whatsoever be allowed to play within a town, and the Leicester waits were no exception, for in 1581 the City Council had granted them virtual monopoly over all the music played in the city.

"Councillor Bodell-Stagg marked her first day of office [as Lord Mayor of Leicester] by reviving the ancient tradition of the Town Waits.  Since 1499, this group of official musicians had performed at civic ceremonies where they supported the Mayor and entertained the people of Leicester.  The Town Waits, who had been disbanded in 1947, were reinstated at the Guildhall reception following the election of the Lord Mayor." [2]


The Valentine Family

It was into this environment that the Valentine family arrived on the scene. In 1645, one Thomas Follentine was granted the status of Freeman by the town council,[3] which effectively gave him the right to practice his trade or profession; at that time he is described as a 'stranger' and he served as one of the Leicester waits. He and his descendants played a major part role in Leicester's music for at least the next century and a half.


Thomas Follentine's wife was called Sarah; those of their family christened in Leicester seem to have included Charles, chr. 17 Jan 1671 in St Martin’s; Robert; Jana (Jane?), chr. 3 Jul 1676 in St Margaret’s; Sara, chr. 13 Jun 1679 in St Margaret’s; Edward, chr. 24 May 1681 in St Margaret’s; and Anne, chr. 24 Nov 1684 in St Martin’s. Their best known child was Robert (chr. 16 Jan 1673 in St Martin’s Church, d. ca. 1735) who studied in Italy and was well known as a flautist and composer, although he left Leicester on his travels in about 1707.[4]  Two of his other sons, Henry (chr. when/where?) and Thomas II (chr. 28 April 1667 in Melton Mowbrey), were also waits,[5] and their descendants, particularly those of Thomas, were involved to a very large extent in the musical life of the city in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Thomas II’s son John was born ca. 1709, and John and his wife, Sarah, had at least three children: Elizabeth, b. 3 Jan, chr. 10 Jan 1725;  Alice, b/chr. 21 June 1727;  and John Valentine, chr. 7 June 1730 in St Margaret’s Church, Leicester. [6]

Thomas II had another son[7] whom he called Henry, chr. 1 Aug 1694,[8] and he and his wife, Mary Geary from Barwell who he married on 26 Jan 1760,[9] had five children – Robert, chr.18 Oct 1762; Mary, chr. 13 Jan 1766; Fanny, chr. 5 Jan 1770; Jane, chr. 17 Apr 1771; and Henry, chr. 1 Aug 1772, all at St Martin’s, Leicester. Of these, Robert became a musician and Fanny, who was a singer and sometime actress.   


John Valentine married Tabitha Simpson (who was chr. 10 Jan 1728 at Thurlaston) on 1 May 1755; their first-born, Sarah, chr. 11 Jan 1756, died in infancy. She was followed by Thomas, chr. 10 Feb 1757; Elizabeth, chr. 5 Aug 1758; John, chr. 15 Aug 1760; Ann, chr. 15 Mar 1762; a further John, chr. 19 Apr 1769; another Sarah, chr. 23 Jan 1771; and Charles Simpson, chr. 6 May 1773, all at St Margaret’s Leicester.[10]


Of these, John's eldest son, Thomas, first appeared as a singer and violinist at a benefit concert on 3 June 771, and performed frequently at local concerts before joining the Covent Garden Opera House orchestra about 1780. He died in Wrexham, on the Welsh borders, where he was organist to Sir Watkins Williams Wynne.[11] 


 Anne, John’s daughter, performed a harpsichord concerto at a concert in Rugby in 1777, one of her father’s “annual concerts”. Anne, who died in 1845, became organist of St Margaret’s Church, Leicester in about 1785, and published her own book of compositions, Ten Sonatas for Piano-Forte or Harpsichord, with Accompaniment for the Violin or German Flute, her Opus One, in 1790. There were a few short piano pieces published later.[12]


John Valentine and his music

The Leicester and Nottingham Journal, a weekly journal, recorded from the 1750s onwards details of the musical activities (concerts, theatrical works, musical publications, etc.) in Leicester. The Valentine family name seems to appear fairly frequently within its pages.


Presumably John received his musical training at the hands of his father, and/or other members of the family, as he received his freedom of the town on 16 April 1754.[13] In 1755 he married Tabitha.  The issue of the Leicester Journal for 13 Jan 1759 records a benefit concert for John and Henry Valentine (his cousin) at the New Assembly Room[14] in the Haymarket on the following 26 March, to be followed by a Ball.  John performed a solo on the Violin, whilst his cousin Henry was soloist in an Oboe Concerto; other items in the programme included Overtures by Handel and Concerti by Germiniani and Corelli.


It would appear that it was not unusual for musicians to support their fellows in other towns, for the name of performers over a fairly great distance (a day’s travel on horseback) are contained in programmes time and again. In addition to such benefit concerts, there were also subscription concerts, for which the Valentines, as professional musicians, were paid in the order of 2s. 6d. per evening. In addition to regular concerts in Leicester, the Valentines gave concerts in such places as Rugby, Market Harborough (1774), Hinckley (1781), and Nuneaton (1787). The last was some three years after Joseph Key’s death in Nuneaton in 1784, and one can but wonder, as professional musicians, if they did not come across each other on a fairly regular basis at concerts and other functions.


Both Henry and John had music shops, although John moved his shop at least twice as he changed address within Leicester. In 1759 he lived in new Bond Street; in 1768 it was in the market Place; and by 1774 he was located in Belgrave Gate, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life.[15] 


On 30 Sept 1769, together with an advertisement for his Twenty-Four Marches . . . John listed various items he had for sale, and mentioned also some of the services he could provide:


"He likewise sells all kinds of musical instruments as cheap as in London, as harpsichords & spinets, violoncellos, violins, & tenor violins, bassoons, tenor bassoons, vox-humane. Hoboys, German flutes, common flutes, & fifes, plain or tipt with silver, ivory or brass; trumpets, French horns & clarinets; Guitars for one guinea and a half to four guineas, fiddle cases, &c. Bassoon & Hautboy reed cases, Bassoon, vox humane & Hautboy reeds, also Ostler’s famous Hautboy reeds at 1s. each, strings for violoncellos, violins, and guitars; Harpsichord wire & hammers; tuning forks & pitch pipes; bows with screwes or plain for violoncellos or violins; Bridges ditto; Bassoon crooks & furniture; sordines & pens to rule music paper; ruled books & music paper of all sorts; with a variety of songs, overtures, concertos, solos, sonates, duets & lessons, anthems, psalms, &c. Music wrote for country quires. [16]

He likewise teaches upon the following instruments, at his music room at the top of the market place, or ladies & gentlemen may be waited upon at their own houses, &c. harpsichord & guitar, violoncello, violin, tenor violin, the bassoon & tenor-bassoon, vox-humane, hautboy, German flute & fife, trumpet & French horn – prices half a guinea entrance and 15s. a quarter. Ladies & gentlemen in the country waited upon at a reasonable rate." [17]

In all, John Valentine was an accomplished musician, a man of many talents when it came to playing and teaching music on all the most commonly used instruments of the time. He performed frequently in concerts, traveling many miles to do so. He composed music for all tastes, with subscribers to his books ranging throughout England (and wider) from Dublin to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Suffolk, and, judging from the subscribers’ lists in his surviving publications, many of these were musical societies, dancing masters, organists and individual musicians from the ‘gentry’. Quite probably many of the local subscribers from in and around Leicester itself were his present and past pupils. It is possible, however, that he did not reach sufficient subscribers for his last proposed publication, Six Anthems in Four Vocal Parts, etc., as there is no record of this ever being published, although it was advertised in the Leicester Gazette on 11 June 1774. [18]

John Valentine's known publications, other than sacred music, were:


  • Fourteen Marches in Four Parts, Op. 1.
    [pub. Before 1759, advertised on 30 Sept 1769, but apparently lost.]


  • The Compleat Dancing Master for the Year 1760, Op. 2.
    [Advertised as “just published on 11 Aug 1759, but also apparently lost.]


  • Thirty-One Duets for Two French Horns, German Flutes, Violins, Hautboys, &c, Op. 3. [Advertised as “just published on 11 Aug 1759, but also apparently lost.]


  • The Epithalamium in the Tragedy of Isabella or the Fatal Marriage. Also an Ode to Peace, etc. Op. 4. (London : Printed for the Author, [1765?])  
    [Advertised on 30 Sept 1769, but probably published in 1765.]  BL Ref.:  H.2815.a.(15.)


  • Twenty four Marches, Minuets and Airs, in Seven Parts for Two Violins, Two Hoboys, or German Flutes, Two French Horns and a Bass ... Opa 5th, etc. [Parts.] (London : Printed for S. A. & P. Thompson, [1783?])  BL Ref.: b.83.a.
    [Advertised as “just published” on 30 Sept 1769.]


  • Eight Easy Symphonies for two Violins, two Hautboys or German Flutes, two French Horns, a Tenor and Thorough Bass; with Solos for the Different Instruments . . . in Eight and Nine Parts. Op. 6.  [Parts.] (London : J. Bland, for the Author, [1782]).  BL Ref.:      R.M.17.f.5.(7.) and g.212.(10.)
    [Advertised as “just published” on 11 Sept 1784.]


  • Thirty Psalm Tunes, &c.  Op. 7.  (as above.)


  • Sixteen Marches & Minuetts &c. in Eight Parts for Two Violins, two Hautboys, or German Flutes, Two French Horns, Tenor & Bass ... Op. 8th., in Eight Parts. Op. 8th.  [Parts.] (Leicester : Printed for the Author, [1787])   BL Ref.: b.83.
    [Advertised as “just published” on 4 Aug 1787; a third edition was advertised on 23 Apr 1790.]

  • An Ode on the Birth Day of . . . the Marquis of Granby. W/oO. 1. The words by I. Tree.
    [Not advertised, but probably published between 1760 and 1769.] [19] [20] 
    BL Ref.:    G.307.(223.)


  • Six Anthems in Four Vocal Parts, &c.  W/oO. 2.  (as above.)


The dates in square brackets are those in the British Library catalogue.


Valentine met and played with numerous other musicians of the time, and his music was designed to be played by “Junior Performers and Musical Societies”;[21] the pieces were not, therefore, great works of art, but designed to be played by the aspiring amateur before possibly moving on to tackle the music of Haydn, Handel, Pleyel, C P Bach, Carl Stamitz etc., and the other more important composers of the day.[22]  His music was designed for use by any number of instruments, depending on the strength of the assembled company when they met, wind and brass parts doubling strings, etc. 


As a psalmodist, he followed in a long line of others musicians and singing masters from Leicester and the immediate area, such as William East, John Harriott, William Smith and William Barnes, not to mention the anonymous author/collector of Psalm Tunes in the Leicesteshire Harmony. William East was one of the forerunners in the writing of fuguing-tunes, and Valentine followed in his footsteps, although the fugal entries and style of writing had moved significantly forward by that time to a rather more florid and instrumental approach. His psalm tunes, with their short symphonies, are a delight to sing, and it would have been fascinating to have the chance of singing some of his anthems too; perhaps someone will one day unearth a copy of his last (intended) publication and enable us to do so.


Edwin Macadam
Oxford, March 2007


[1] See: History of Leicester at “Local Histories” on the web.

[3] Register of Freemen of Leicester, 1196-1770, ed. Henry Hartopp, Leicester, 1927; entry for 2 April 1684.

[4] Martin Medforth: The Valentines of Leicester, a Reappraisal of an 18th Century Musical Family, Musical Times, Dec. 1981.

[5] Jonathan O E Wilshere, Leicester Towne Waytes, Leicester, Blackfriars Press, 1970.

[6] IGI, and Parish Registers, Leicestershire Records Office, and elsewhere.

[7] Karl Kroeger, John Valentine: Eighteenth Century Music Master in the English Midlands, Music Library Association Notes, 2nd Ser., Vol. 44, No. 3. (Mar., 1988), pp. 444-455.

[8] IGI and Parish Registers.

[9] IGI and Parish Registers.

[10] IGI and Parish Registers.

[11] 4th Baronet 1748-1789, noted patron of the arts in Wales.

[12] Advertised in the Leicester Journal, as “published this day” on 23 April 1790.

[13] Register of Freemen of Leicester, 1196-1770, as above.

[14] On Hotel Street, Leicester

[15] Karl Kroeger, Op. cit.

[16] Note here the use of the spelling ‘quires’, not ‘choirs’, denoting the inclusion of instrumentalists amongst the singers, for whom the music was written. He did not, however, use the same spelling in the title of his last book.

[17] Karl Kroeger, Op. cit.

[18] Karl Kroeger, Op. cit.

[19] The Marquis of Granby during this time was John Manners of Rutlandshire (1721-1770), who gained considerable fame as commander of the English forces at the battle of Minden (1 Aug 1759) during the Seven Years’ War.

[20] BL Index note as ?London, ?1768.  Ref.: 

[21] See the title page of his Eight Easy Symphonies, Op. 6.

[22] And perhaps ending up, like Robert Valentine, in other more professional orchestras in London and other major centres.

[For a much fuller article and description of John Valentine's life and times, see: John Valentine, Eighteenth Century Music Master in the English Midlands, by Karl Kroeger,  Music Library Association Notes, 2nd Ser., Vol. 44, No. 3. (Mar., 1988), pp. 444-455].