'World's oldest Valentine's Day card' - sent to woman in Aylesbury in 1790, to go under the hammer

An extract from the world's oldest Valentine's card, sent to Hartwell House near Aylesbury
An extract from the world's oldest Valentine's card, sent to Hartwell House near Aylesbury

A newly discovered centuries old Valentine message is to be auctioned on February 14 giving old romantics something to talk about.

The message of love, which dates back to circa 1790 making it around 230 years old, has just been discovered by Charles Hanson, owner of Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers.

The world's oldest Valentine's Day card, sent to Hartwell House near Aylesbury

The world's oldest Valentine's Day card, sent to Hartwell House near Aylesbury

Charles said: “I was assessing a large, private collection of more than 200 mainly Victorian and Georgian Valentine’s cards in three albums and had gone through them several times when I came across something very special.

“It’s delicate and torn as it’s been written on paper.

"Nevertheless, it resembles a traditional card with a picture on the front and a verse inside.

“The damage was caused by the fact that the message was folded to post to its recipient, ‘Ann’, who lived at Hartwell House just outside Aylesbury.

"However, its heartfelt, handwritten declaration of love is still intact and that’s enormously touching.”

The front of the message features the word ‘Love’ above drawings of hearts and a dove carrying a sealed envelope.

The message on the front reads “Farewell you sweet and turtle dove.

"On you alone, I fixed my love.

"And if you never can be mine.

"I never can no comfort find!”

Inside, the touching handwritten verse reads:

‘Life they say is but a span

Let’s be happy while we can

Life is short then don’t decline

Therefore make your choice today

Let me pray thee to be mine

Oh my dear sweet Valentine

You are not sure my dearest dear

Of a Valentine next year

Pray thee answer by a line

If you will be my Valentine.’

It is believed that the message, dated circa 1790 to 1810, dates back to the reign of Mad King George III.

The valentine was due to be sold in the spring library auction but, in the name of true romance, the auctioneers wanted to give people the opportunity to bid for the card on February 14 - so it goes under the hammer at 10am.

Hansons Auctioneers believe it is the world’s oldest valentine still in existence that is available to buy and describe it as 'a fitting way to honour everlasting love.'

The card is part of a collection, which belonged to the late Lawrence Randle, a keen philatelist and card collector who died at the age of 88 in 2009.

His son, Oliver Randle, a retired computer service manager from Newbury said: “My father collected most of these cards in the UK between 1949 and 1990 before moving to South Africa on his retirement.

"He worked for the Inland Revenue, rising to district valuer before retiring in the 1980s.”

In Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be celebrated in the 17th century.

By the middle of the 18th century, friends and lovers of all social classes exchanged small tokens of affection or handwritten notes.

The ancient Valentine will be sold at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, at 10am on February 14.

The valentine is estimated to go for around £300 to £400.

To find out more e-mail charleshanson@hansonsaiuctioneers.co.uk or to register to bid e-mail service@hansonsauctioneers.co.uk