Bunches of lavender would be bound up by Gypsy hawkers and sold on London’s streets. To advertise their wares, the sellers would sing a lavender cry to draw attention. This exotic melody would vary from hawker to hawker but was always derived from a common melody. Janet Penfold and her mother Florrie were probably the last lavender sellers in London to sing this cry when they were recorded in 1958. They would get up at 4 o’clock in the morning to walk from Battersea to Mitcham, pick the flowers “while the dew was still on” and return to sell them throughout Chelsea, Pimlico and Sloane Square. ‘It was my grandmother learned us. They done it all their life and it sort of come through from generation to generation. It’s because they like the smell of it and the people like to hear the London cry’ (Florrie Penfold aged 70 years).
This song was part of Singing Histories, a national project led by Sing London to create booklets and resources containing traditional folk songs and history from eight areas across England.
The Singing Histories - London illustrated song book (which includes this song) can be downloaded from the document tab at the top of this panel. Audio recording(s) of this song are also available from the audio tab.