Spry, Constance (1886–1960)

views updated

Spry, Constance (1886–1960)

British floral designer. Born Constance Fletcher on December 5, 1886, in Derby, England; died on January 3, 1960; educated at Alexandra School and College, Dublin.

Began her career as a professional flower arranger (1920s); founded a school of floristry (1930s), followed by a cooking school and finishing school after World War II; served as an advisor on the decorations for numerous London weddings and galas, including the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey (1953); lectured and published several books on flower arranging and cooking.

The career of British designer Constance Spry, who was born in 1886 in England and raised in Ireland, in many ways prefigured that of U.S. designer Martha Stewart more than half a century later. During her years as head of the Woman's Staff at the Ministry of Aircraft Production during World War I, Spry first explored flower arranging as a curative for the depressing war-time atmosphere. She soon marketed her talent into a successful flower design shop, which she opened in London when she was in her 30s. Within ten years, her unique designs and savvy marketing abilities made her work so popular in London high society that she combined her love of arranging with her abilities as a teacher in founding a school of floral design during the 1930s. After World War II, Spry and several associates formed London's Cordon Bleu Cookery School, another successful venture that benefited from her expertise. Spry was active in the "Ideal Home" trends that took shape in Great Britain in the 1950s as a reaction to the devastation caused by decades of bombings and social disruption during two world wars. A finishing school for young ladies which she ran at Winkfield Place, Windsor, promoted home design and taught a variety of domestic skills to the future wives of England.

Well known not only for her teaching but as the author of 13 books on cooking and design, Spry was in demand as a lecturer and traveled throughout Great Britain, as well as to Australia, the United States, and Canada, promoting her ideas and designs. In 1953, she was honored by a request to serve as an advisor with regard to the floral decorations for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey. An in-demand designer for London society, Spry continued to create settings for many royal weddings, social galas, and gatherings for the arts until her retirement. Through the Royal Gardeners' Orphan Fund, she also used her considerable influence to raise large sums of money to aid needy children throughout Great Britain.


Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1940.

Uglow, Jennifer, ed. The International Dictionary of Women's Biography. NY: Continuum, 1989.

suggested reading:

Coxhead, E. Constance Spry, 1975.

Pamela Shelton , freelance writer, Avon, Connecticut