Nuggets – bite size chunks of London


Accord­ing to Thomas Tickell’s poet­ic fairy tale Kens­ing­ton Gar­den (1722), the snow­drop first grew in Kens­ing­ton, where it was cre­at­ed from the life­less body of Princess Kenna’s lover Albion.

Dr E Cob­ham Brew­er sum­marised Tickell’s nar­ra­tive in the first edi­tion of his Dic­tio­nary of Phrase and Fable (1870):

“Oberon, king of the fairies, held his roy­al seat in these gar­dens, which were fenced round with spells ‘inter­dict­ed to human touch;’ but not unfre­quent­ly his thievish elves would rob the human moth­er of her babe, and leave in its stead a sick­ly changeling of the elfin race. Once on a time it so fell out that one of the infants fos­tered in these gar­dens was Albion, the son of ‘Albion’s roy­al blood;’ it was stolen by a fairy named Milkah. When the boy was nine­teen, he fell in love with Ken­na, daugh­ter of King Oberon, and Ken­na vowed that none but Albion should ever be her cho­sen hus­band. Oberon heard her when she made this vow, and instant­ly drove the prince out of the gar­den, and mar­ried the fairy maid to Azuriel, a fairy of great beau­ty and large pos­ses­sions, to whom Hol­land Park belonged. In the mean­time, Albion prayed to Nep­tune for revenge, and the sea-god com­mand­ed the fairy Oriel, whose domin­ion lay along the banks of the Thames, to espouse the cause of his lin­eal off­spring. Albion was slain in the bat­tle by Azuriel, and Nep­tune in revenge crushed the whole empire of Oberon. Being immor­tal, the fairies could not be destroyed, but they fled from the angry sea-god, some to the hills and some to the dales, some to the caves and oth­ers to river­banks. Ken­na alone remained, and tried to revive her lover by means of the herb moly. No soon­er did the juice of this won­drous herb touch the body than it turned into a snow­drop.”

When lo! the lit­tle shape by mag­ic pow­er
Grew less and less, con­tract­ed to a flower;
A flower, that first in this sweet gar­den smil’d,
To vir­gins sacred, and the Snow­drop styl’d.
The new-born plant with sweet regret she view’d,
Warm’d with her sighs, and with her tears bedew’d,
Its ripen’d seeds from bank to bank convey’d,
And with her lover whiten’d half the shade.

“When Hen­ry Wise laid out the grounds for the Prince of Orange, Ken­na planned it ‘in a morn­ing dream,’ and gave her name to the town and gar­den.”
Snowdrop in Kensington Gardens