Jones, Valentine (1711–1805), merchant, was born in Belfast. An ancestor, also Valentine Jones, had come from Wales c.1640; a Valentine Jones bought the timber on eight townlands in Co. Londonderry before 1705; and a Valentine Jones (d. 1761) of Belfast was high sheriff of Co. Antrim in 1730 and was survived by his wife Mary Close (m. 1715), seemingly a second wife. Valentine Jones (b. 1711) was probably this Valentine Jones's son by a first marriage, and had at least one brother, Dr Conway Jones of Lisburn, father of William Todd Jones (qv). Henrietta Jones (1729?–1814), who married (1758) Edward Gayer (d. 1799) of Derriaghy, was either a child of Valentine Jones and Mary Close, or of the marriage of Valentine Jones (b. 1711) and Mary Rochet (though family sources do not list her as a child of this marriage). Edward Gayer was a wealthy linen bleacher and property owner who like his brother William Watts Gayer was clerk to the Irish house of lords; William Watts Gayer married Catherine Jones , who was also a daughter of Valentine Jones. After trying in vain to find spiritual comfort in the Church of Ireland, Henrietta Gayer (d. 1814) became one of the earliest and most important methodists in the north of Ireland; she and her husband were largely responsible for building the first methodist chapel in Lisburn (1772), at a cost of £500, and provided the site. John Wesley (qv) often stayed with the Gayers, and in 1775 Henrietta Gayer's household rejoiced when their nursing and prayers helped the old man recover from a fever in which he almost died. Henrietta Gayer died on 25 March 1814, aged 85, having given away almost all her wealth to charity. She had three sons and one daughter; Charles Robert Gayer, Church of Ireland rector of parishes in Kerry, who died in 1848 of typhus contracted while trying to assist his parishioners during the famine, was a grandson. He established churches and schools around Dingle, including a school on the Great Blasket island, and encountered strong opposition to his efforts to convert Roman catholics to protestantism.
As a young man, Valentine Jones (b. 1711) was a partner with Thomas Bateson, ancestor of the Barons Deramore, in trading with the West Indies. He was also a wine merchant, and his extensive business, carried on throughout the north of Ireland from large premises in Winecellar Entry, Belfast, brought him considerable wealth and prominence in the town. On several occasions he chaired meetings of his fellow townsmen, such as that in 1782 which expressed gratitude to the earl of Donegall (qv) for his support of the Lagan navigation canal. Jones was himself a notable supporter of many projects and schemes intended to benefit Belfast: he was a generous contributor to the funds for the building of the Linen Hall, as well as the Poor House set up by the Belfast Charitable Society, and he built some of the original houses on Donegall Place. He signed a resolution in favour of the political and economic policies of the Volunteers after the Dungannon convention in 1782. When only 16, he married (25 February 1728) his first wife, who was a year younger: Mary, daughter of Louis Rouchet or Rochet, a huguenot who had come to Lisburn, Co. Antrim, from Picardy. Stories of the young couple's lively behaviour were remembered for many years. They had five children; the eldest son (d. 1834) was also named Valentine Jones, as were his son and grandson in turn. All four Valentine Joneses are said to have danced together at a ball in Belfast; the old man displaying ‘great vigour and hilarity’ (Benn). All his life Jones was sociable and popular, and after his death (22 March 1805) he was remembered fondly by William Drennan (qv), who noted the old man's party trick of skilfully twirling a small carafe of punch. After his first wife's death, his second marriage (c.1763) was to Eleanor (only daughter of William Agnew of Kilwaughter, Co. Antrim), the widow of his partner, the merchant James Ross (d. 1763) of Portavo, Co. Down. She brought a good deal of wealth to the marriage, whether inherited from her first husband or from her dowry.
There were two children of this marriage; the daughter Margaret (1764–1848) rejected in 1785 a proposal of marriage from William Drennan. She was a considerable heiress by her grandfather Agnew's will, but died unmarried. Her brother Edward (1765–1834) took the surname Agnew and inherited large estates around Kilwaughter. He attended Harrow school, and as Edward Jones Agnew entered TCD (17 January 1785) and graduated BA (November 1788). He represented Co. Antrim in the parliament of 1792–7, was a member of the Northern Whig club in Belfast, and on 7 May 1797 chaired a meeting of Co. Antrim freeholders which complained of government oppression and sought catholic enfranchisement. He wrote an account of his actions and emotions on 7 June 1798, when he rode with his relation Henry Shaw of Ballygally through rebel posts to Glenarm Castle to secure the release of the United Irish commander Robert Acheson (qv). On the following day he visited the encamped United Irishmen before the battle of Antrim, and possibly prevailed on Acheson to capitulate. He clearly sympathised with the ideals of the United Irishmen: he sheltered some of them in his house and helped them to escape to America, and he may have been the ‘Agnew of Larne’ listed by the informer Samuel Turner (qv) as a member of the United Irish national directory (PRO, HO 100/70, f. 341). He was described on a list of Co. Antrim grand jurors in 1797 as ‘disaffected’, but seems not to have suffered reprisals. His house at Kilwaughter, near Larne, Co. Antrim, was rebuilt before 1803 in an impressive castellated style to designs by John Nash of London. In 1819 he was a member of a group that revived the Irish Harp Society in Belfast, and at the time of his death from typhus (18 March 1834) he was overseer of the new Antrim coast road for the grand jury. He never married, but had a son and a daughter with Eleanor Gilbrath.
Edward Jones Agnew's half-brother Valentine Jones (1729?–1808) was an influential merchant in Barbados, where he lived for thirty-three years. He married Kitty Moore and had two daughters and a son, Valentine, who served as an officer in the British army in the American revolutionary war and became a major-general in the 62nd (Wiltshire) Regiment and commissary-general in the West Indies. In 1809, after years of proceedings in chancery and other courts, he was found guilty of fraud and peculation and imprisoned for three years in Newgate. The amount involved (over £87,000 in contemporary values and perhaps up to 10 million euro at c.2000) was said by the Newgate Calendar, which regarded the case as particularly significant, to be but a moiety of what he had in fact embezzled. The report of the commissioners of a military inquiry stated that ‘such a mass of public corruption . . . has probably never been equalled in the history of this country’ (quoted in Times, 19 May 1809). The case is still cited as a paradigm of a particular kind of conviction for fraud. In 1805, unknown to his dying grandfather, Jones was hidden for some time in the family house in Belfast. Many prominent people in the north of Ireland were related to or descended from the Joneses: for instance, William Reeves (qv) and Anthony Traill (qv).