Norwich Lanes revives local tradition to bring back Jack for Valentine's Day

Norwich Lanes home of many of our independent shops

Norwich Lanes home of many of our independent shops


Each year in February millions of cards are exchanged across the world for Valentine's Day but for people in Norfolk there is a special man who will get even the coldest of hearts fluttering - and his name is Jack.

Who is Jack Valentine?

An old Norfolk tradition, Jack Valentine - otherwise known as Old Father Valentine or Old Mother Valentine - enigmatically disappears into thin air after knocking at the door and dropping off their gifts.

It is unclear when this mystery figure first emerged but both children as well as adults receive a visit.

It is believed that during the early 20th century children would probably be given an offering bought from the village shop while lovers would be more generous.

Although little is known about the history of Jack Valentine, it is a popular Norfolk custom.

A tradition which dates back to Victorian times, Norfolk’s lovers went the extra mile to anonymously swap parcels on Valentine’s Eve.

In other parts of Britain, a solitary love letter or card would do, but if tradition is to be believed then back then more money was often spent on Valentine’s gifts than Christmas presents.

History tells us that the mythical figure of Jack Valentine would knock on doors across the county and leave gifts but would vanish as quick as he appeared.

Both adults and children were treated and, intent on keeping the tradition alive, the Norwich Lanes have decided to “Bring Jack Back”.

Norwich BID's  Rachael Fretter, marketing and communications manager. Picture: Denise BradleyNorwich BID's Rachael Fretter, marketing and communications manager. Picture: Denise Bradley

The project has already seen support from Stephen Fry who tweeted about the sighting of Jack Valentine to his 6.5m supporters.

Rachael Fretter, marketing manager for the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), which is offering financial support, said: “Norwich BID is proud to be supporting Valentine’s Eve in Norwich Lanes. Norwich is modern and vibrant, but it’s great to see the revival of Valentine’s Eve celebrations adding to the life of the city with exciting events, creatively decorated shop windows and a specially brewed Jack Valentine ale.

“Norwich Lanes will be brimming with love and romance, so we look forward to Jack kicking off a whole host of exciting events.”

In 2000 one Cupid pretender treated the residents of Muriel Road, Norwich, with biscuits with heart stickers stuck to their doors, gates and cars.

And now the Norwich Lanes will be transformed into “the Lanes of Love” when a series of in-store events, late openings and discounts will take place there on February 13.

Local shopkeepers, restaurateurs and bar owners will adorn their windows with Valentine’s decor and gifts in an attempt to win the newly established Jack Valentine Trophy.

People will be able to sit on a love seat and record their Valentine’s memories with the help of the BBC at the Museum of Norwich at The Bridewell, which will be open until late. Items which might have been given as Valentine’s gifts in the past will be on show and there will also be story-telling about the enigmatic Jack Valentine from 4pm-8pm, as well as other events throughout the day.

The Birdcage has organised a party with cocktails, DJs and secret love letter exchanges, to celebrate Jack’s return.

And to mark the occasion further, a special Jack Valentine ale has been brewed by the Great Yarmouth Brewer, Lacons, which will be available in pubs and bars across the area.

In addition, there will be a celebratory newspaper distributed across Norfolk about Valentine’s Eve and a round-up of events.

• Do you have a special Jack Valentine memory? Write to the Letter’s Editor at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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