A Memory of Violets: A Novel of Londons Flower Sellers by Hazel GaynorIn 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s flower girls—orphaned and crippled children living on the grimy streets and selling posies of violets and watercress to survive.
Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a diary written by an orphan named Florrie—a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after she and her sister, Rosie, were separated. Moved by Florrie’s pain and all she endured in her brief life, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.
Covent Garden Market
Sunday is the best day for flowerselling, and one experienced man computed, that in the height and pride of the summer four hundred children were selling flowers on Sundays in the streets. The trade is almost entirely in the hands of children, the girls outnumbering the boys by more than eight to one. The ages of the girls vary from six to twenty, few of the boys are older than twelve, and most of them are under ten. Of flowergirls there are two classes. Some girls, and they are certainly the smaller class of the two, avail themselves of the sale of flowers in the streets for immoral purposes, or rather, they seek to eke out the small gains of their trade by such practices. Their ages are from fourteen to nineteen or twenty, and sometimes they remain out offering their flowers until late at night. The other class of flowergirls is composed of girls who, wholly or partially, depend upon the sale of flowers for their own support or as an assistance for their parents.
Forgot password? This is not to say the congestion stopped it from being a successful market. It supplied all manner of fruits and vegetables, most of it homegrown but with an increasing amount arriving from overseas. The spring especially saw an abundance of goods, ranging from broccoli, cucumbers, French beans, onions, new potatoes, asparagus, sea kale, grapes, apples, strawberries, and spring flowers. The abundance of products and vendors, all with differing points of view, made the methods of buying and selling needlessly complicated; a sieve equaled one bushel and a half-sieve was one peck. A pottle , on the other hand, changed meanings often enough that nobody could be quite sure what it measured, and the quantities people were sure of varied by the manner in which the products were filled or heaped.
Proclaiming feelings in public was considered socially taboo, so the Victorians expressed intimacy through flowers. Coded into gifts of blooms, plants, and floral arrangements were specific messages for the recipient, expressing feelings that were improper to say in Victorian society. Housing exotic and rare plants, conservatories enjoyed a golden age during the Victorian era, while floral designs dominated interior decoration. Plants sensitive to touch represented chastity, whereas the deep red rose symbolized the potency of romantic love. Made from brass, copper, gold-gilt metal, silver, porcelain, glass, enamel, pearl, ivory, bone and straw, the holders often had intricate engravings and patterning. The film versions of Oliver! So high was the demand for flowers that it created many opportunities for street traders and the exploitation of child labour.
Read more. In , philanthropist John Groom set up a Christian mission to help the poor and often disabled girls who sold watercress and flowers to eke out a living in the streets near Farringdon.
let me see what you have
The Flower Girls | John Groom
When we think of flower sellers, we often think of Eliza Doolittle, the flower seller in Covent Garden who went from rags to riches thanks to the attentions of Professor Higgins. Hers was of course just a story, but her trade was common, although her rise out of poverty was hardly in any way the norm. Flower sellers were common on the streets of London and are one of the occupations about which contemporary writers have left us a great deal of information — we are able to visit their homes, know some of their names, see the hardships they faced, know their banter, and get a chance to look behind the common thought that many were prostitutes. That this was the case is beyond doubt — there are many recorded cases, but in this post I want to focus on the women working to support their families and the hardships they faced. Black writes that the family lived in a basement flat of 3 rooms, one of which they sublet, but the rooms were dark and damp — added to the fact that the husband was an obvious danger to his family two children already having died of consumption — the other three of convulsions Black lamented the state in which this woman and her children found themselves. Their eldest daughter, a girl of 14 would watch the younger children during the week, but on Saturdays went out with her mother flower selling.
The street-sellers of whom I have now to treat comprise those who deal in trees and shrubs, in flowers whether in pots, or merely with soil attached to the roots, or cut from the plant as it grows in the garden , and in seeds and branches as of holly, mistletoe, ivy, yew, laurel, palm, lilac, and may. The "root-sellers" as the dealers in flowers in pots are mostly called rank, when in a prosperous business, with the highest "aristocracy" of the streetgreengrocers. The condition of a portion of them, may be characterised by a term which is readily understood as "comfortable," that is to say, comparatively comfortable, when the circumstances of other street-sellers are considered. I may here remark, that though there are a great number of Scotchmen connected with horticultural labour in England, but more in the provincial than the metropolitan districts, there is not one Scotchman concerned in the metropolitan street-sale of flowers; nor, indeed, as I have good reason to believe, is there a single Scotchman earning his bread as a costermonger in London. A non-commissioned officer in an infantry regiment, a Scotchman, whom I met with a few months back, in the course of my inquiries concerning street musicians, told me that he thought any of his young countrymen, if hard pushed "to get a crust," would enlist, rather than resort, even under favourable circumstances, to any kind of street-sale in London. The dealers in trees and shrubs are the same as the root-sellers. The same may be said, but with some few exceptions, of the seed-sellers.