We trust that this beautiful G.L. Watson designed sloop was a very special 1890 St. Valentine’s Day gift to his wife from one of Watson’s many fascinating Victorian clients, G.A. Schenley, of Warsash, Hampshire.
We can have some confidence in this suggestion: high romance of the most pure abandon was a vein that ran strong in George Alfred Schenley’s upbringing.
Grace Atkinson Schenley, seen here at the helm aged 23 during a race on the Solent, was descended from a family of high ranking Royal Navy officers and Church of England Rectors. Three years earlier she had married George Alfred Schenley, the 10th offspring of an infamous Victorian elopement with a happy ending.
Schenley’s mother, born Mary Elizabeth Croghan, gets her own Wikipedia page:
“As young girl she was quite the romantic. While in boarding school in Staten Island, New York at the age of 15, she met, fell in love, and promptly eloped to England with 43-year-old Captain Edward Wyndham Harrington Schenley of the British Army. It was the Captain’s third elopement.” Read more…
As George and Grace shared the same initials, it is impossible to decide properly who G.L. Watson’s client was for more than one Schenley yacht.
Victorian sensibilities would point to George, but it is very clear that Grace was the racing sailor.
The American Outing magazine of June 1890 reported that she “had made a great reputation for herself in the Thief [her previous G.L. Watson designed racing yacht of 1889], and had the honor of administering a square beating to the crack Hummingbird.”
Valentine was G.L. Watson & Co. design no. 203, a 5-rater, built by Camper & Nicholson of Gosport in 1890. Her lines were published in Dixon Kemp’s Yacht Architecture, 2nd Edition, 1891, and then used by Scottish-born Auckland, New Zealand boatbuilder Robert Logan in building the 5-rater Rona. Logan built well; Rona is still in commission.
Martin Black’s exquisite biography: G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design can be purchased online here.
~ Iain McAllister ~
[Update 15 September 2016: Some nice info on Grace Schenley and her contemporaries at the wonderful SailCraft blog.]