Valentine Coppen
Founder of "V. COPPEN (Sutton) Drapers"


Coppen Drapers
Coppen Drapers
Image courtesy Bourne Hall Museum

Named for the day he was born on, Valentine was born on 14 February 1863 in Dagenham, Kent, the son of Joseph and Mary Ann Coppen. His father Joseph had married Mary Ann Twyford Seabrook in 1858 in Dagenham Essex.

Valentine and his five siblings, Mary Ann, Joseph, Selina, Elizabeth and George, were brought up on Potters Farm at 11 Broad Street, Dagenham, which was where they were living when the 1871 census was taken. His father was farming 70 acres and employed four men, two boys and two women to help him. Valentine was ten years old when his father died in 1873.

By 1881 Valentine, aged 18, had started his training as a business assistant working for Charles Henry Reed who ran a Draper, Stationer and House Furnishing business at 1 Eastbourne Terrace, Eltham Road, Lee, Kent.

When the 1891 census was taken ten years later, Valentine was living and working as a draper's assistant in 226-234 Kensington Park Road, Lambeth. Aged 29, Valentine married 30-year-old spinster Alice Brown on 12 April 1892 in St. Mary's church Battersea, Surrey. Her father, Edwin Henry Brown, was also a draper. That same year, Valentine established "Coppen (Sutton) Drapers" in Sutton, Surrey.

Valentine and Alice's marriage entry
Valentine and Alice's marriage entry
Click on image to enlarge, opens in separate window.

Valentine and Alice were living and working together at 169-172 High Street, Sutton, Surrey when the 1901 census was taken. Working and living with them was Alice's brother Frederick Brown along with another 14 draper assistants. The following year Valentine's drapery business appeared in the 1902 Kelly's Directory as numbers 169, 171 and 173 High Street, Sutton.

1902 Kelly's Directory
1902 Kelly's Directory

Valentine and Alice were still living and working there together when the 1911 census was taken. Valentine filled in the census form stating that he and Alice had been married for 19 years and had not had any children during that time. He also recorded that there were nine other people living there with them that he employed.

On 16 August 1930, Alice died. Probate records gave her address at that time as 221 High Street, Sutton, which was the new address of their Drapery Department Store, and valued her personal effects at 56 5 shillings.

In 1933 Valentine extended "V. Coppen, Drapers" by leasing premises in Upper High Street, Epsom. The following year Valentine, aged 71, married 29-year-old Olive Aileen Hughes in the Surrey Mid Eastern registration district.

Coppen Staff Outing 1949
'Coppen' Staff Outing c.1949
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

The 1954-1957 British Phone Directories have records of Valentine living at 'Reygate', 5, Fiddicroft Avenue, Banstead and trading as "Coppen (Sutton) Ltd., Departmental Stores" at 221 High Street, Sutton as well as at 2 High Street, Epsom. He also had an electrical department store around the corner at 5 Upper High Street, Epsom.

Coppen Phone Directory 1954
The 1954 British Phone Directory

Valentine was 94 years old when he died on 10 September 1957. Probate of his effects, valued at 13,274 13s. 5d., was granted to his widow Olive. After his death, his widow travelled to Canada and Australia.

Even though Valentine had died, the 1957-1960 phone directories still listed him living and trading in the same places.

The 1970 British Phone Directory listed Olive as living at 5, Fiddicroft Avenue, Banstead but only the Epsom store at 2 High Street was listed as still trading. However, in 1972, the directory not only contains contact details of the Epsom branch at 2 High Street but also details of "Coppen (Sutton) Ltd. Departmental Stores - Drapers, Gents Outfitters" trading from 242 High Street, Dorking as well.

Coppen Newspaper Cutting
Newspaper Cutting confirming store will not be demolished.
Source: 'The Advertiser', 6 September 1973
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In September 1973 the Epsom store finally closed after trading for 40 years. The Dorking branch was still trading in 1979. Olive married Edward Plimmer in 1990 in Guildford; she was aged 87 when she died two years later in Farnham Hospital in Surrey.

Coppen's Wrapping Paper
Coppen's Wrapping Paper
Image courtesy Bourne Hall Museum

See also 'A Visit To Coppens In the 1950s'

Hazel Ballan June 2013

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