Memories of Moyses: A Dedication to Mary M.S. Hickman

Memories of Moyses: A Dedication to Mary M.S. Hickman

Posted by Duncan McCabe on 25th Oct 2021

We would love to hear your Memories of Moyses Stevens

The legend of Moyses Stevens is remarkable. With patronage from generation upon generation of Londoners and beyond, the shops have been a firm favourite with the like of Oscar Wild, Winston Churchill, not to mention being the proud bearer of two Royal warrants, formally HRH the Queen Mother and currently HRH Prince Charles.

Moyses Stevens has prevailed through two world wars, two global pandemics and has witnessed the advances in technology that Miss Moyses and her team may never have imagined! The world has transformed beyond recognition but what remains constant is a passion for flowers for today's team as the brand that approached 150 years.

Whilst we celebrate the team today, we also honour the many florists that have worked for the company in the past. Today we dedicate our Journal post to Mary M.S. Hickman and her remarkably detailed and beautiful account of her time working for Moyses Stevens in the 1920s. Packed with glorious pieces of information and mentions of the distinguished people who frequented Moyses Stevens at that time.

Her name at the time she worked for Moyses Stevens was Mary Margaret Soule Mathias, (1900- 1994)

She married in 1927 and became Mary M.S. Hickman. We were contacted by her granddaughter Sally Whyte who very kindly allowed us the share the following extract.

We would like to discover more memories of Moyses. If you, your parent or grandparent or anyone you know worked at Moyses Stevens, we would love to hear from you! We would be honoured if you would be willing to share your story and delighted if you had any photographs or mementoes of your time working for the company.


‘After being at home for a while, thought I must try to get some more work. One day, when we had gone up to Victoria, with Mum, Aunt Kate and Ma, we looked at Buckingham Palace and then walked across the road. We looked at Gorringes and several other shops, then we turned into Victoria St. After a few more shops we came to a Florists, Moyses Stevens, full of beautiful flowers and arrangements, and I said to Mum "I am going in here to see if I can get a job". So going in, I went up to the desk where the cashier sat and asked if there was any possibility of a job. She asked me how old I was, and where I had been to school etc., and told me to come and see Mr Stevens at 11 o'clock the next morning.

Greatly encouraged by this, I did so and after a lot of questioning he told me to come next day. I could have 30/- (old Shillings) per week and so started my work as a florist. Of course there was a lot to learn, mossing wreath frames, wiring the flowers, but most of all serving the customers. At first I was very nervous but all the girls there were very helpful, and the Manageress, Miss Ayers helped me a great deal. In fact we became good friends, as I did with the other girls. Some had been there a long time. There was a French lady there and she used to get very het up sometimes and blow her top! We were not allowed to sit down in order to be ready to serve, and it aot very tiring sometimes. I used to lean on the counter which was of green marble and got quite a hole in the front of my dress! It was also very cold in the winter. I had to push the wires off the counter to Get hold of them. I had bad chilblains on my fingers. We were always very busy - it was such a well known shop - especially at Easter and Christmas. I often had to start at 6.0 am or soon after, and they used to give us breakfast, and sometimes didn't leave until 10 or My Father used to come and meet me, because he didn't like me travelling on my own so late. We worked all day Good Friday, but got Easter Monday off.

When the Eton College Races were on, we got mothers, fathers and boys coming in for their buttonholes of blue flowers. Armistice Day was also a busy time. One year Mr Stevens was invited to Go to America to arrange flowers for their Special Day. He took Miss Philips with him. They sailed across and had a wonderful time. There were also Churches to be decorated for weddings, with bouquets and buttonholes to be made up. The window had to be dressed to attract customers - people were always coming in for the bunches we sold. We had a great many distinguished customers - Lord Birkenhead (FE Smith) wanted a Gardenia buttonhole - but you had to go out to his car and fix in the buttonhole. Lord Cottesmore had one without any leaves and nearly always asked for me to put it in for him. The girls used to tease me and say "Look at 'Methuselah' blushing!"- not when anyone was about, oh no!

I have seen Owen Nares the Actor, even the two young Princes came in with their Labrador dog. We were always sending out flowers on behalf of the Prince of Wales (Later Edward VIII). I have served Lloyd George, Lady Birkenhead, the Earl of Mulgrave (little did I know that in later years I should live in sight of his castle near Whitby!)

Sometimes when we were not very busy Mr Stevens would say to me "Miss Mathias, Mrs Stevens is busy and short of staff, will you go and take the boys out on Wandsworth Common?"So I did take out Raymond and Edwin and often gave them their tea. It was not far from my home. Later on I met them once or twice in the Shop, Raymond helped in the Victoria St shop, and Edwin in the one in Berkeley Square. Sadly they were both killed within a fortnight of one another in the Second War. It broke their parents' hearts. There were two daughters, but I never met them. I believe one of the grand-daughters now runs the shop, which is no longer in Victoria St, but in Bruton Square, home to the Queen Mother. They were very happy but tiring days. I was there for seven years, leaving to get married - but that's another story!

The shop in Victoria St was near to the Station. Of course as I had to be there for 8.0 am, I had to get up quite early, get my breakfast then very often run across the Common, down Battersea Rise to Clapham Junction Station.I bought a ticket every day, only a few pence. We usually had to stand squashed like sardines, but I generally got there on time.

Mr Stevens went to Covent Garden Market to buy the flowers. We had two men (father and son) who used to go with a van to bring the flowers back.

They were put into water in buckets. At the back of the shop was a big room where young girls worked, massing the wreath rings, chaplets or crosses, or whatever was required. These were then passed to other girls who put on the laurel leaves or fern, then sprays of flowers were arranged in the middle of the crosses or at the end or side of a chaplet as people wished. Downstairs in the cellar the flowers were packed ready for delivery, either by the van or sometimes packed into wooden boxes for carriage by rail.

In the shop, when the customers came in we had to be very alert to go and serve them; there were six of us ready to do so, and after they had chosen what they wanted we put them into paper, very carefully, then taking their money and , of course, opening the door to let the customer out.

I had not been there long when it was Derby Day and we all had a ticket in the draw for the winner. Although I had ridden a horse many years before, I did not know anything about betting - anything like that was taboo in our house! There was great excitement during the afternoon. Of course we had to work as usual and then came the result! I had got the winner, Captain Cuttle, and got the £5 prize - what a fortune!

After I had been there some time one or two of the regular customers asked for No 7 (no names were ever given). One Lady (I forget her name) always asked for me, and one day she rang up for me, panic stations! I had never used a phone before. Anyway, all ended well.

Another day she wanted me to go to her flat, she lived nearby, to see about the flowers she required. I was allowed to go. Another time Mr Stevens told me he wanted me to go to Dover and present a bouquet to the Queen of Spain (Queen Eva) on behalf of the Spanish Embassy in London. I had to go by a certain train to the docks, and of course curtsey to her and give her the flowers. I wore a black satin dress. It had a long bodice with a lace collar, fastened with steel buttons, and a tiered skirt; black stockings and shoes and white kid gloves and a hat. So off went. The Station Master knew I was coming and was very kind to me. I had the bouquet in a cardboard box, it was taken out and I had to wait until her launch arrived to present it to her with a curtsey. A Lady in Waiting was with her; after which I duly returned, either to the shop, or I went home, I can't remember which.’