Florist, Author + Social Reformer (1886-1960)
As a florist, social reformer, teacher and best-selling author, CONSTANCE SPRY (1886-1960) democratised home-making in mid-20th century Britain by teaching millions of people that – with a little imagination – they could beautify their homes with flowers plucked from hedgerows and scraps of wasteland.
Few people have had such a powerful influence over the way we decorate our homes as Constance Spry. First as a teacher and social reformer, then as a society florist and best-selling author, Spry (1886-1960) taught mid-20th century Britons how to beautify their homes with such unassuming materials as berries, vegetable leaves, twigs, ferns and weeds displayed in a motley assortment of containers from gravy boats and bird cages, to tureen lids and baking trays.
In an era when millions of people were decorating their homes to their own taste for the first time, Constance Spry helped them to do so with flair and for very little money. Believing that everyone had the right to beautify their home and that the means of doing so could be found in woods, hedgerows, vegetable patches or scraps of wasteland, Spry popularised her democratising and essentially bohemian style of home-making by dispensing no-nonsense advise in books, articles and radio broadcasts all over the world. “I do feel strongly,” she once wrote, “that flowers should be a means of self-expression for everyone.”
A household name in the UK throughout the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Constance Spry was then regarded as a quaintly anachronistic, if not obscure figure. Yet her influence as a home-maker and social reformer has endured in the do-it-yourself creative spirit of such diverse institutions as art schools and the Women’s Institute.
Born in Derby in 1886, Constance was the eldest child and only daughter of George Fletcher, an ambitious railway clerk, and his wife Henrietta Maria. George studied hard to become a civil servant and the Fletcher family moved to Ireland, where Constance studied hygiene, physiology and district nursing. After lecturing on first aid and home nursing in Ireland, she married James Heppell Marr in 1910 and moved to Coolbawn, near Castlecomer, where she developed a passionate interest in gardening. When World War I began in 1914, Constance became secretary of the Dublin Red Cross. Two years later she left Ireland and her unhappy marriage with her son Anthony to work in welfare in England.
Constance Spry Resources