Battersea was far enough to the west of the City of London to avoid the City’s pollution (the poor East-Enders got that) and is underlain by good growing soils: it became one of the gardens of the Great Wen (a disparaging nickname for London, coined in the 1820s by William Cobbett, a radical champion of rural England). In about 1800, more or less at the beginning of the industrial revolution, some 20 market gardeners farmed above 300 acres of land in the area. As well as growing pigs and asparagus, they cultivated Lavender, then coming into even greater demand for its fragrance and its aroma-therapeutic effects – famous enough for the most productive area to be called Lavender Hill.
London expanded even more rapidly while the 19th century went on. The coming of the Railways first brought the City and its necessary farms closer together, and then made possible all the financial industries and clerical occupations which rely upon commuters. People, on the whole, had less and less need for working dogs. The idea of ‘pets’ made people more and more sensitive to any cruelty to animals, especially focussing on those dogs abandoned by their owners, or handed in as being no-longer needed, or simply impossible to look-after.
In response, in 1860 Mrs Mary Teal founded the Battersea Dogs Home (taking in cats as well, since 1884). Many of the dogs accepted by the Home today will have never known good treatment. If they are to be re-homed, they must learn to stop turning every emotion into fear or anger. They must calm down.
Lavender has become a necessary element in these dogs’ rehabilitation: it is the most important of the scents fed as mist into kennel-blocks, through the air-conditioning three times a day.
It is also a major element of Gardens around the Home, where dogs are exercised: as well as the colour the fragrance of Lavender makes the walks more varied and exciting for them… which probably applies to children as well!
If you want to give your own dog (or yourself, for that matter) the same treat, help the Dogs Home by buying the oils of camomile, cappuccino and Lavender which work so well in Battersea – a place which is, quite literally, going back to its roots!