Sarah Sprules 1836-1912

Lavender Distiller

By Sue Watson

Photo:Miss Sarah Sprules in her garden

Miss Sarah Sprules in her garden

Sutton Local Studies and Archives

Sarah Sprules was born in 1836 in Croydon, Surrey. She was the fifth of ten children born to William Henry Edmund Sprules and Frances Rebecca Sprules nee Hancock. William was the third generation of William Sprules to be born in Surrey and was himself a physic gardener.

William grew and distilled herbs and as the business expanded the family moved within Surrey to a number of different properties such as Reynolds Mill in Carshalton, North Cheam, Mitcham Common and finally Wallington. The market garden plot adjoined the Sprules' bungalow at 40 Melbourne Road, Wallington, which backed on to the West Croydon - Sutton railway line. It was here in Wallington that William died in 1889 at the age of 82. Sarah had remained alongside her father her whole life, neither marrying or having children. After her father's death, she took over the business which she ran single handed growing and distilling lavender, roses, chamomile and peppermint. The distillery gave employment to a number of the villagers. Some of the local women were employed on commission gathering, drying, packing and selling fragrant essence, lavender salts, sachets and faggots.

Sarah's lavender water won her medals at exhibitions in Jamaica and Chicago but the highest accolade was the title of 'Purveyor of Lavender Essence to the Queen' bestowed on her after a visit from Queen Victoria and Princess Louise during August 1886. There is a reference to Sarah on a coat of arms by Robert Douglas Sprules, Uxbridge, Ontario* The cinquefoils represent lavender flowers, symbolizing that his ancestor Sarah Sprules held a Royal Warrant to provide lavender oil to Her Majesty Queen Victoria. Sarah was known worldwide. Her products were highly sought and were purchased as gifts for the Queen of Italy, Margherita di Savoy. Also a Miss Fabrice en route to Czarina, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, took with her by request an assortment of Miss Sprules' specialities.

Sarah was regarded as a charming and a very busy old lady, even described as a fairy godmother by the local poorer villagers she employed. She remained active up to her death on 22nd October 1912. Charles Lestock Sprules, Sarah's brother, remained in the bungalow until his death in 1932. At which time also residing at the bungalow was Sarah's widowed sister, Elizabeth Morton Brown, and her son, Thomas Warren Brown. Elizabeth died in 1935. Thomas was last recorded on the electoral register at this address in 1936.

The industry was in decline at the time of Sarah's death and it would be interesting to know what became of the business and distillery. Did it get taken over or was it closed down? If anyone has any information as to what happened next, you can add comments to this page to complete the story. 

*Website - The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada

Census Returns -  

Editorial - 'Ladies' Gossip' 1897   

Brisbane Courier 1895     

Festing, Sally, 'The Story of Lavender', (Heritage in Sutton Leisure, 1989)  

Bioregional Development Group paper


This page was added by Sue Watson on 26/10/2010.
Comments about this page

I think that I am descended from the Mitcham Sprules. My father used to speak of Mitcham lavender, it was thought that Yardley took over.

By Frederick George Sprules
On 14/06/2019

I think that's highly likely; I worked at Yardley's in Bond Street in the early 1970s when the factory was in Stratford in East London.  I'm writing an article about The Lavender Lady for a writing group and Miss Sarah Sproules certainly embodies that title!

By Angela Hoy
On 28/09/2019

I was looking through a ladies magazine from 1897 and discovered this article about Miss Sprules; It seems she was quite influential in the industry, but is sadly not widely known today. I thought I would share it for those interested.

By Thomas Oldham
On 10/02/2024

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