Webpage created: June 27, 2018
Webpage updated: February 16, 2019
ANTONIO VALENTI (1866-1941)
Had you been waiting for admission to the New Palace Theatre of Varieties, in Union Street, Plymouth, or the Grand Theatre in Union Street. East Stonehouse, in 1901 you would have been entertained by some street musicians. They may have worked individually or as a group. They would have all been Italian subjects and amongst them would have been Mr Antonio Valenti, then 35 years of age. Possibly his wife, Mrs Benedetto Valenti, also 35, or his children, Maria Valenti, 9, and Carlincio, 8, would have gone around the crowd with a cap or bowl to collect any money that was offered in appreciation of the music and singing. In fact, they lived just around the corner from the New Palace Theatre, at number 3 Phoenix Street, East Stonehouse. Indeed, there were three other families of Italian street musicians living at that address, totalling thirteen adults and children, two of them being only two years of age and born in Italy, indicating they were very recent immigrants.
Exactly how long they remained in Plymouth, or in England, is not known, but there was no trace of them in the 1911 census. However, it would appear that Mr Antonio Valenti was quite impressed with Plymouth because in 1914 he was in residence at number 10 Flora Street, Plymouth, as a confectioner. As such, he may have been creating his own ice cream but there were already two other Italian ice cream vendors in Plymouth at that time, Mr Dominico Damario, who in 1911 was living at number 48 Rendle Street, and Mr Filomeno Prete, at number 46 Rendle Street. Mr Damario's Great-Granddaughter, Mrs Susan England, of Reading, in Berkshire, told the author in 2014 that the three of them were in business together but for some unknown reason Mr Damario set the business up in the name of Valente's ice cream, substituting an "e" for the original "i". An advertisement used by Mrs Francesca Valente in 1953 stated that the business had been founded in 1912.
Mrs Bendetto/Beneditta Valenti died in 1929 and Mr Antonio Valenti died in 1941. The business passed to his son, Carlincio, known as Carlo, and his wife, formerly Miss Francesca Veronesi, who had married in 1917. Unfortunately Carlincio himself died in 1948, leaving his widow in charge. As 'Makers of the Really Creamy Ice Cream', the Valente's were now ice cream manufacturers with a factory at numbers 1 and 2 Belmont Street, Plymouth, a retail outlet at stall 56 in the Central Stalls of the Plymouth Fruit, Fish and Poultry Market and a restaurant at number 24 Princess Square. But they were facing stiff competition from two national companies, Messrs T Wall and Sons Limited, who had a depot in Mill Street, and the Elderado Ice Cream Company Limited, whose storage depot was in Union Place, East Stonehouse.
After the Nissen huts in Princess Square were demolished the Valente's Cafe and Snack Bar moved to number 8 Windsor Place, on the way up to Plymouth Hoe. As the redevelopment of the City Centre continued, both the Cafe and Factory were closed. Carlo and Francesca did have two sons, Joseph Anthony Valente, born 1915, and Dominic Valente, born 1918, but both of them were involved in the laying of ashphalt. Dominic died in 1942 at the very young age of just 24 years. Mr Joseph Anthony Valente (and probably his mother) kept the business going until 1959, when it sold was taken over by Messrs Williams Ice Cream Limited.
Mrs Francesca Valente died on Wednesday December 8th 1976 at the age of 77 years. She was then living at 87 Athlone House, Union Place, East Stonehouse, close to the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Mary and Saint Boniface, where the funeral service was held on Tuesday December 14th 1975. Mr Joseph Anthony Valente died in 1997.