Soap has always been handy. And at this time of year, soap is the default template present for Mother’s Day. The slippery piece of luxury that keeps on giving.
The UK is freshening up its act.
We have become a nation of soap-makers as well as scented candle makers and house-scenters. And hand sanitizers.
There are now over 300 independent soap-makers in the UK offering artisanal hand-cut, hand-stirred soap scented with everything from liquorice to bluebells and whisky.
But there is only one jonquil soap maker. In west Wales where the Penlanlas Cymru Soaps makes spring-flowering daffodil soap scented with a blend of Mandarin, Neroli and Begamot.
Owner Kate Frames says:
“It’s the narcissus head which is poisonous. The petals are fine, and I use them to colour the soap yellow. Welsh daffs of course! All hand- foraged. All my soap formulations have been assessed and approved by a cosmetic assessor which is a legal requirement.”
We have come a long way from coal tar.
There is even a “National Guild of Craft Soap and Toiletry Makers, a non-commercial peer support group representing far-flung soap making locations like Uist in the Outer Hebrides which makes seaweed and bog myrtle soaps.
Britain’s most northerly commercial soap maker is probably Shetland Soap Company which sells Norseman (cedar and black pepper), Crofters (lemongrass and rosemary) and Hjaha wild rose and rhubarb.
The Highland Soap Company offers heather, juniper and whisky and rosemary lathers, London’s Funky Soap Company: black walnut, Chuckling Goat: milk kefir soap, Sophie Goodwin-Hughes’s Dartmoor Soap Company: ale soap, Lovely Greens on the Isle of Man: natural Manx Honey soap, Westward Farm on St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly: rose geranium, the Sussex-based English Soap Company’s: osmanthus and vintage seaweed as well as Kew Gardens’ range soap and the Caurnie Soaperie in Scotland’s hundred-year-old nettle.
Bronnley triple-milled luxury soaps are for kings and queens, princes and princesses, duke and duchess. As well as commoners with exquisite taste.
Since 1943. Messrs H. Bronnley & Co of England “has been proud to announce” that it has been granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment as supplier of toiletries to both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.
Founded in 1884 by James Bronnley, a France-trained perfumier and operating first out of a shed in Holborn in central London and then a factory in Acton, west London, the Lancashire-based company now offers its Regency Collection and Herbarium consisting of rosehip, calendula, thyme, apple mint, heather and rowan berry soaps, as well as classic Lemon and Neroli and its new “Nature House” range. It is based in Pemberton, near Wigan.
What soap could be more British than “Welly Wash” made by Jacqui Sheard’s Quintessentially English who also make Buttercup Meadow and Neroli. Or hand-poured in South Shields Lumiere Hot Apple Pie?
Or Margate-based Haekels “Pluviophile” or its soaps, Acton Lock and Richborough Castle, made from herbs and flowers foraged around Kent. Or St Eval’s Sea Mist and Samphire and Sage from Cornwall?
So, there is no need to get in a last-minute lather. Artisanal, small batch is the answer.
And if she is into baths and flowers, there’s always Denis Aaronson’s Heathcote & Ivory Sweet Pea & Honeysuckle Scented Soap or the Lacock-based Quintessentially English’s Lavender Fields or English Rose Heart Bombs.
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photographs courtesy of Penlanlas Cymru Soaps and Chuckling Goat