Our photograph this week shows the local young Conservatives' Valentine's dance from 1960.

That year, shopkeepers in Salisbury reported that people had taken more notice of February 14 than in recent years with the sale of Valentine's cards being excellent - one of the reasons given was that 1960 was a Leap Year (as is 2020).

It is estimated that by the mid 1820s, some 200,000 Valentine's cards were circulated in London alone. By 1960, Salisbury had increased its postings by 10,000, a total that was much higher than the previous year. The number one present that local men presented to women in 1960 was the heart-shaped box of chocolates.

Little is known about the origin of the day, but St Valentine was a priest in Rome who was martyred about the year 270.

All kinds of customs have been attached to the day down the ages, but the West Country had one of its own in the 16th or 17th centuries.

It required three single young men to go out before sunrise on Valentine’s Day with a clapnet (a net for catching birds which can be drawn closed by pulling a string), wherewith to catch in a neighbouring barnowl and two sparrows.

The birds then had to be taken, uninjured, to the local inn before the womenfolk of the house had risen.

This accomplished, they could claim from the hostess a pot of purl each in honour of St Valentine, and they could demand the same from any other inn in the neighbourhood.

Purl is a mixture of hot beer and gin, sometimes with sugar added.

The significance of this custom lay in the fact that the owl was regarded as the bird of wisdom, who influenced the feathered race to enter the net of love as mates on that day.