Constance Spry: records

Scope and Content

This archive has been survey listed only; this is not a full catalogue record

The archive consists of personal papers of Constance Spry and organisational records of the businesses she set up and ran and later of the business after it was sold.

Administrative / Biographical History

Constance Ellen Spry (1886-1960), nee Fletcher, daughter of teacher George Fletcher and Henrietta Maria Clark, was born in Derby on the 5 Dec 1886. The family moved to Dublin, Ireland, in 1902 where she studied nursing and physiology at Alexandra College, Dublin.

She was appointed assistant lecturer in first aid and health for London County Council in 1907. She returned to Dublin in 1908 to lecture in first aid and home care for the Irish Women’s National Health Association. On 10 Nov 1910 she married mining engineer James Heppell Marr, a widower with a three-year-old daughter, in Booterstown, Dublin, and the family lived in Castlecomer, County Kilkenny. Their son Anthony Gordon Heppell Marr was born in Castlecomer on 12 Mar 1912. Constance Marr was appointed secretary of the Dublin Red Cross in 1914.

In 1916 Constance Marr and her son returned to England where she worked as female welfare supervisor at the Vickers Munitions Factory in Barrow-in-Furness. In 1917 she was appointed head of women’s staff at the Aircraft Production Department of the Ministry of Munitions, where she met chief establishment officer, Henry Ernest Spry. They went on to set up home together and she took his name. In 1921 Constance Spry was appointed headmistress of the Homerton and South Hackney Day Continuation School which taught cooking, household budgeting, dressmaking and flower arranging to young women from the East End of London. James Heppell Marr divorced her in 1923.

Constance and Henry Spry moved to live at Abinger Rectory, Reigate, Surrey, in 1926. She started to create flower arrangements for friends before receiving her first professional commission from Sidney Bernstein, owner of the Granada Cinema chain. She gave up teaching in 1928 to open her first flower shop, 'Flower Decoration', at 7 Belgrave Road, London. By 1934 the business had moved to larger premises at 64 South Audley Street, Mayfair, employing seventy staff, and here she established the Constance Spry Flower School. In the same year she published the first of her thirteen books, 'Flower Decoration'. She was commissioned to design the flowers for the wedding of the Duke of Gloucester to Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott in 1936 and for the private wedding of the Duke of Windsor to Wallis Simpson in 1937.

Constance Spry resumed her teaching career in 1939, lecturing to the women of Britain, encouraging them to grow, cook and eat their own products. In September 1946 Constance Spry and her friend Rosemary Hume opened the Residential School of Cooking, Gardening and Home Decoration at Winkfield Place, Winkfield, Berkshire.

She received the commission to arrange the flowers for Westminster Abbey and the processional route from Buckingham Palace for the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Spry was awarded an OBE in the 1953 Coronation Honours List. Constance Ellen Spry died at Winkfield Place, Winkfield on 3 Jan 1960.

Source: Online birth, marriage, death, probate and electoral records. Desmond. National Archives J77/2028/3525 Divorce Records. biography Constance Spry. garden

In 1990 Robert and Martine Frost were approached by D.C. Gardner, then owners of Constance Spry and Cordon Bleu, as they ran a Finishing School in Farnham, Surrey and purchased Constance Spry (trade marks, brand names, intellectual property etc). Monsieur Cointreau (of the liqueur) purchased the Cordon Bleu. The land the Constance Spry School stood on was sold for development. The school is understood to have previously been owned by a Michael Watt, a businessman, who had bought it from the Spry family.

Access Information


Partially open for consultation at the Lindley Library London. Some items are closed to public access for a period, as stated in the relevant catalogue record. Some items may only be accessed with staff assistance; staff are required to handle the item on behalf of readers, as stated in the relevant catalogue record. It is essential to check opening hours and make an appointment providing a minimum of 2 weeks' notice. Readers are asked to take care due to the fragile nature of the original material. Readers are required to wear protective gloves when consulting objects or photographic material

Acquisition Information

Constance Spry archives donated by Mrs V. Marr, daughter-in-law of Constance Spry, in Oct 1993, by Mrs Dora Buckingham per Sue Hopson in Nov 1993, and by Robert and Martine Frost in Jan 2008. There is a list of material donated by Dora Buckingham in the donation file

Other Finding Aids

Online via the Lindley Library archive catalogue and the Archives Hub

Archivist's Note

Survey listed by Liz Taylor, RHS archivist, in 2015.