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Mitcham Lavender

The early years

The growing and distilling of lavender(Lavendula vera) was an important industry for many years. The area around Mitcham was well known for lavender from the 1500 hundreds. In its heyday during the 19century the area around Mitcham, Wallington,Carshalton and Sutton must have been a sea of blue in the summer. This idyllic image was not reflected in the working conditions of the harvesters many of whom were paid very little to work 14 hours a day. Ten to fifteen shillings(50p to 75p) a week near London, and as little as 8s ( 40p ) further south. Many only survived because of the charity of some of the wealthier landowners of the community.

Potter & Moore

The name that comes to mind in association with Mitcham Lavender is Potter & Moore.The company was founded in 1749 by Ephraim Potter and William Moore. They set up a distillery to extract lavender oil in Eveline Road overlooking the green now called Figges Marsh. The business grew and flourished especially under James Moore grandson of William. James was a shrewd businessman and an expert nuseryman. He bought up surrounding land and by the end of the 19 century he had more than 500 acres of land growing lavender and peppermint, which at thai time was the larger crop. He also grew other herbs such as chamomile, spearmint, roses and pennyroyal.

Harvest

The lavender was harvested in August when the oil was at its best. The women would cut the lavender and bundle it loosely in 'mats' which were carried to the still-room. Where the lavender was distilled, the resulting oil was used as the basis for the lavender perfume.

Moore paid one guinea(1.10) an acre for cutting and sold the oil at forty shillings(2.00) a pound.

The later years

WhenJames Moore Died in 1851 the business went to James Bridger, James Moore's illegitimate son. Who ran the business very successfully until his death in 1885. The business was bought by W.J.Bush who was pleased to take over the goodwill earned by Potter & Moore. In 1968 Bush's company merged with two other companies to form Bush Boake Allen, the world's largest supplier of flavours and perfumes.

Tail end.

In 1968 the Potter & Moore section of the business was sold to E.C. De Witt & Co Ltd, part of the De Witt International Organization. But it hasn't disappeared for the companies headed writing paper proudly bears witness to the fact that they have incorporated a firm established in 1749.

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