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In The Lavender Fields Of Surrey

June 23, 2023
by the gentle author

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I cannot imagine a more relaxing way to enjoy a sunny English summer afternoon than a walk through a field of lavender. Observe the subtle tones of blue, extending like a mist to the horizon and rippling like the surface of the sea as the wind passes over. Inhale the pungent fragrance carried on the breeze. Delight in the orange butterflies dancing over the plants. Spot the pheasants scuttling away and – if you are as lucky as I was – encounter a red fox stalking the game birds through the forest of lavender. What an astonishing colour contrast his glossy russet pelt made as he disappeared into the haze of blue and green plants.

Lavender has been grown on the Surrey Downs for centuries and sold in summer upon the streets of the capital by itinerant traders. The aromatic properties and medicinal applications of lavender have always been appreciated, with each year’s new crop signalling the arrival of summer in London.

The lavender growing tradition in Surrey is kept alive by Mayfield Lavender in Banstead where visitors may stroll through fields of different varieties and then enjoy lavender ice cream or a cream tea with a lavender scone afterwards, before returning home laden with lavender pillows, soap, honey and oil.

Let me confess, I had given up on lavender – it had become the smell most redolent of sanitary cleaning products. But now I have learnt to distinguish between the different varieties and found a preference for a delicately-fragranced English lavender by the name of Folgate, I have rediscovered it again. My entire house is scented with it and the soporific qualities are evident. At the end of that sunny afternoon, when I returned from my excursion to the lavender fields of Surrey, I sat down in my armchair and did not awake again until supper time.

‘Six bunches a penny, sweet lavender!’ is the cry that invites in the street the purchasers of this cheap and pleasant perfume. A considerable quantity of the shrub is sold to the middling-classes of the inhabitants, who are fond of placing lavender among their linen  – the scent of which conquers that of the soap used in washing. – William Craig Marshall’s Itinerant Traders, 1804

‘Delight in the orange butterflies dancing over the plants…’

Thomas Rowlandson’s  Characteristic Series of the Lower Orders, 1820

‘Six Bunches a-Penny, Sweet Lavender – Six Bunches a-Penny, Sweet Blooming Lavender’ from Luke Clennell’s London Melodies, 1812

‘Spot the pheasants scuttling away…’

From Aunt Busy Bee’s New London Cries

Card issued with Grenadier Cigarettes in 1902

WWI veteran selling lavender bags by Julius Mendes Price, 1919

Yardley issued Old English Lavender talcum powder tins from 1913 incorporating Francis Wheatley’s flower seller of 1792

Archive images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

Mayfield Lavender Farm, 1 Carshalton Rd, Banstead SM7 3JA

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Andy permalink
    June 23, 2023

    Beautiful lavender. Thank you.
    Ps Sweet memories of seeing a lavender field for the first time on the way to our annual family holiday to Cliftonville.
    Thanks Mum and Dad.

  2. Pippa permalink
    June 23, 2023

    A visit to Mayfield each year is a part of summer for me. Go early during the week if you can as it can get busy, especially weekends.

    Lovely article and even lovier photographs. Know where I’m off to in the next couple of weeks.

  3. Gill Baron permalink
    June 23, 2023

    I was born in Mitcham, Surrey, before the war, and was only telling a friend last week about Mitcham Lavender. I remember there being fields of it there when I was a young child. It was SO refreshing!

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