Every so often I find myself on an adventure of discovery that sees me joining dots to worlds I never knew existed. This adventure features an 18th Century House, a candle, a candle-maker and a Victorian shop in the heart of Columbia Road.
I read about ‘Mr Severs’ a new candle in last month’s Elle Decoration, possibly the most magical candle ever invented because of its transportation qualities. The candle replicates the scent of 18, Folgate Street (or Dennis Severs House) – an 18th Century house/time capsule in London’s old East End. The candle is scented like the house dressed for Christmas, highlighting the smokiness of the flickering flames in the hearth, leaves and herbs strewn on the floor of the cellar kitchen and the fragrance of pomegranates, sweet meats, cloves and cinnamon adorning the luminous dining room.
The maker of this candle is Angela Flanders an artisan perfumer also based in the East End of London. I wasn’t too familiar with Angela Flanders before I read about the brand but had grown so obsessed with the idea of this candle and booked an appointment to visit hoping they would let me have a sniff!
I made my way to Columbia Road on a deserted weekday (businesses on Columbia Road are only open on weekends) on the bitterest of mornings. As I knocked on the door of an inky black Victorian shop-front I had a sense of deja-vu – of knocking on a similar door only a few streets away lit by gas-light on a similar frosty Christmas night …
Kate Evans, Angela’s daughter who has taken over the business since Angela’s passing welcomed me into the warmth of a small golden yellow room filled with glittering bottles, busy with antique furniture and an aroma of rich perfume.
The space crammed with charming details seemed like it could exist behind any one of the doors at 18 Folgate Street. With a genteel theatricalness in decor, walls and cane furniture are painted in a calming parchment yellow with an array of homemade details. Gold stencilled vines border the doors, sublime shell decorations made by Angela herself hang above a fireplace, a branch above a door trails with gold ribbons, dried flower wreaths and ribbon rings (seen in a basket here) are sprayed with perfume and usually hung outside.
Angela Flanders was a noted artisan perfumer in the vanguard of the influx of small craft businesses that breathed new life into the Bethnal Green area of east London. Surprisingly Mr Severs candle was not made for commercial purpose, Angela was approached by the Curators of 18 Folgate Street almost twenty years ago, asking her to create an exclusive fragrance for the house. A devoted admirer of Severs creation, Flanders like me had visited often, particularly at Christmas. Inspired by the seasonal displays of Christmas cakes, sweet meats, jellies, fruits and their accompanying aromas of orange, clove and cinnamon, the scent began to take shape.
Angela sadly passed away earlier this year (you can read more about her life here) but I imagine a space as layered with someone’s touch, hard-work and memories must feel like that person is never too far away. The joyful image of her in her shop doorway surrounded by her bountiful creations says it all.
I’m reluctant to burn my candle – lest it carry me away to the sometimes haunting close and atmospheric rooms of 18 Folgate Street, to the scent of the piney winter boughs that brush your head in the dark corridors, strewn herbs that adorn the kitchen table below stairs and the musk of flickering log fires which linger years after leaving the house.
You can buy the Mr. Severs Candle here.
96 Columbia Rd, Shoreditch,
London E2 7QB
Author: Rohini Wahi
Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.
She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org