Councilors on the Isle of Wight celebrate the 200th anniversary of Valentine’s Day with a moving ceremony

Isle of Wight Councilors Julie Jones-Evans and Vix Lowthian laid a wreath to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of 10-year-old chimney sweep Valentine Gray today (Monday).

From 2 p.m., a small gathering gathered at the Valentine Gray memorial in Church Litten Park, the former graveyard of St Thomas’s Church.

Cllr Jones-Evans spoke about the life and times of the young chimney sweep, whose body was found on January 31, 1822.

After the wreath and flowers were laid at the memorial, local history buff Roger Fruen – who researched the timeline of the young boy’s tragic 14-week stay on the island – gave a detailed account the last weeks of his life.

Mr. Fruen said:

“Valentin was chosen because he was very small for his age, possibly due to malnutrition or illness.

“I (believe) he was terrified and (due to) the nature of the job he had abrasions and wounds that weren’t healing.

“He scratched his wounds, so his master and mistress tied him to a table, literally pushed the eagle aside and beat him regularly (for such ‘indiscretions’).

“About a week before his death, Valentin was seen being beaten with a piece of wood by his master, an autopsy later showing a badly bruised brain from the beatings he received.”

Valentine was born into a poor family in Alverstoke, Hampshire. In 1821, when he was only nine years old, his future master, Benjamin Davies, took him on as an apprentice sweeper, bringing him to the Isle of Wight.

Mr Davies was convicted of manslaughter after his death, but only served a year in prison.

Most of the young chimney sweeps were beaten, starved and forced to work long hours.

Newport’s Gray’s Walk (between Pyle Street and Scarrots Lane) was also named in memory of young Valentine Grey.

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