Life and Times
Constance Spry lived from 5 December 1886 – 3 January 1960. She was an English food writer, and flower-arranger. She was also co-principal of the Constance Spry Cordon Bleu School of Cookery in London, along with Rosemary Hume.
In 1956, along with Hume, Constance published “The Constance Spry Cookery Book.” It included the recipe for Coronation Chicken that had been served at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation lunch in 1953. At the time, it was also widely published with her name attached so that it could be made and served at street parties throughout the country.
The book was written at a time when war-time rationing was just starting coming to an end in Britain. It really was Hume, however, who was the food authority (she was a Paris Cordon Bleu graduate): Spry was the “big name.” Spry had gained her fame through her flower arranging business and through her advice on how to make homes beautiful. She felt that all homes, even poorer ones, could be beautified.
Some feel that it was actually Hume who invented Coronation Chicken; some feel that it was the students at their Cordon Bleu School school who came up with it. In any event, it was the students who made it for the Queen’s lunch that day in 1953.
There is still today (2007) a company called “Constance Spry” which carries on Constance’s ideals and mission. It teaches cooking, etiquette and flower design.
A rose is named after Constance Spry.
Chronology of Her Life
- 1886 — Constance was born in Derby, England. Her parents were George Fletcher, a railway clerk who later became a civil servant, and Henrietta Maria Clark. She was their first child; the other five were all boys. The Fletcher family moved to Ireland. Constance studied nursing and physiology at Alexandra College in Dublin.
- 1907 — Constance gets her first job, over in England, as assistant lecturer for the London County Council on first aid and health.
- 1908 — Constance became a lecturer at the Women’s National Health Association back in Ireland, teaching on first aid and home nursing.
- 1910 — Constance married James Heppell Marr, a widower. They moved to Coolbawn, near Castlecomer, Ireland. At her new home, she started to get interested in gardening.
- 1912 — The couple had one son, Anthony Heppell Marr, born 23 March 1912.
- 1914 — Constance becomes secretary of the Dublin Red Cross.
- 1916 — Constance separates from Marr, and returns to England, this time for good, taking her son Anthony with her. She takes a job as a welfare supervisor in the Vickers armament factory in Barrow-in-Furness, England.
- 1917 — Constance started working for the Department of Aircraft Production as head of women’s staff, overseeing medical treatment and welfare.
- 1921 — She is appointed head mistress of the Homerton and South Hackney Day Continuation School. She taught cooking, dress making, flower arrangement and household budgeting to working class women in East End London who were sent there one a day week.
- 1926 — Constance married Henry (aka “Shav”) Ernest Spry. They move to Abinger, Surrey. She was starting to get commissions to arrange flowers for friends. She did an arrangement for Atkinsons, a perfume shop in Bond Street, which created a sensation and even stopped traffic.
- 1928 — She gave up teaching and starts to build her own flower-arranging business. Some say her family was supportive, other sources say that her family felt she was giving up a very promising teaching career.
- 1929 — She opened her business called “Flower Decorations” at 7 Belgrave Road (between Victoria and Pimlico) in London. She attracted society customers. She was 42 years old at the time.
- 1934 — She moved her business to a larger store space in Mayfair on South Audley Road. By this time, she had 70 people working for her. Out of the new store, she ran the “Constance Spry Flower School” to teach.
- 1934 — Published her first book, called “Flower Decoration.” She would publish many more flower-arranging books. She placed a high emphasis on having good quality colour photographs in them.
- 1936 — She did the flowers for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (Mrs Simpson.)
- 1939 — Constance resumed some teaching.
- 1940 — She renamed her business to just “Constance Spry.”
- 1942 — She published “Come Into The Garden, Cook” to teach and encourage people to grow their own food.
- 1945 — Le Petit Cordon Bleu Culinary School, opened in 1933 by Rosemary Hume and Dione Lucas, had closed for the duration of the Second World War. Constance bought into the school to help it re-open, and she and Rosemary ran it as co-principals at 31 Marleybone Lane. The school was renamed to “Constance Spry Cordon Bleu School of Cookery.” (In 1990, it was bought out by the parent company, Le Cordon Bleu. As of 2007, the school was at 114 Marleybone Lane.)
- 1946 — She and a friend, Rosemary Hume, founded the Domestic Science School in Winkfield Place, near Ascot in Berkshire.
- 1953 — For the Queen’s coronation on 2 June 1953, Constance manages the flower arrangements at Westminster Abbey and along the processional route. She is appointed to the Order of the British Empire.
- 1956 — The Constance Spry Cookery Book is published.
- 1959 — Toured Australia.
- 1960 — On 3 January 1960, she slipped on the stairs at home and died an hour later.
1956. The Constance Spry Cookery Book (with Rosemary Hume.)
Literature & Lore
“Cooking is an art. The kitchen should be raised to the status of a studio, as indeed it is in some homes where the mistress of the house is a cook.”
— Constance Spry