Early on Christmas morning Mr. Steward Slater, the last of the growers of lavender in Mitcham for commercial purposes, died in Wandle Road at the age of 91.
Mr. Steward Slater was born in a wood-framed cottage in Love Lane, which was the Slaters' home for a century and more. It still stands, with an abbreviated market garden at the rear. Three sons and two daughters survive him. One son is Mr. Benjamin Slater, the caretaker of the Town Hall premises for the past 35 years, and a market gardener in his spare time.
There is no land available in Mitcham for growing lavender on any scale now. Besides, cheaper and inferior varieties have ousted it from many markets. Lavender used to be imported from Japan before the war.
"But there is no lavender like Mitcham lavender," the Slaters contended. "It yields more and better oil, and consequently commands a better price in the best markets. The French perfumiers hold Mitcham lavender in high esteem," Mr. Steward Slater told "the Advertiser" reporter in a recent interview. He was a grand old man physically and mentally right to the end.
"My father and we three sons worked together on our land, which consisted of patches in various parts of the village," said Mr. Steward Slater. "Where the County School for Boys now stands was one of them. But out homestead was close by here in Love Lane, where I was born and lived all my working life. We grew lavender and peppermint in a fairly large scale, but Major Moore's farm off Figges Marsh was, of course, the big thing in that line. My brother William built a still in Australia and extracted not only lavender oil but eucalyptus oil as well. We used to take all our lavender and other stuff to the Borough Market in London. In the herb harvest season Mitcham was a sweet smelling village, I can tell you. My father held the land in Love Lane and the two wooden cottages still standing (now Dent's) were built for him."
Mitcham lavender lives - in Carshalton. Contact Carshalton Lavender on 020 8404-4880, or at www.bioregional.com [Full image 28.8kb]
The Slaters not only conquered Mitcham, or a big slice of it; one of them went out to Australia and planted a family there which set up two and started Mitcham lavender growing in both of them. There is an Australian flag and a box of documents and things somewhere in the borough to prove it, besides the Slater correspondence. One of the Antipodean Mitchams is near Adelaide, the other near Melbourne. Representatives of both townships have visited Mother Mitcham and a few of her offspring have returned the compliments. William Slater it was who went out to Australia 85 years ago and called the place he settled in Mitcham. One of the first things he did there, naturally, was to plant a root or two of Mitcham lavender. They multiplied and flourished abundantly. He was the eldest son of Daniel Slater.
The funeral service took place at the Parish Church this (Thursday) morning. Mr. S. Slater died fifteen years ago.
The funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr. A.J.Stringer.
(Mitcham and Tooting Advertiser, Thursday December 30th, 1943
Established over 70 Years. TWOPENCE)