Hilda Leyel (née Wauton) (6 December 1880 - 15 April 1957), who wrote under the name Mrs. C. F. Leyel, was an expert on herbalism and founded the Society of Herbalists (later the Herb Society) in England in 1927, as well as a chain of herbalist stores called the "Culpeper Shops".
Leyel is author of a book on herbalism, called Elixirs of Life, among other works on the subject, as well as the cookery book The Gentle Art of Cookery. She was a fellow of the Royal Institution and an officer of the Académie française.
Background and early career
Leyel was born in London and educated at Uppingham School, where her father Edward Wauton was a teacher. While still young, she developed a precocious interest in herbs and flowers and after leaving school studied medicine. She worked briefly with Frank Benson, who was an actor-manager, and in 1900 married Carl Frederick Leyel (d.1925), a theatrical manager with whom she had two sons. They later divorced. As a young woman in Lincoln's Inn, she developed an interest in food and wine and made influential friends, who rallied to her support in 1922 when she was prosecuted for running the Golden Ballot, a charity which raised money for ex-servicemen and various hospitals. Her acquittal helped to establish the legality of such ballots. She was elected a life governor of St Mary's, the West London, and the Royal National Orthopaedic hospitals.
Leyel became very interested in herbalism, and with her academic training in botany, she studied the work of the herbalist Nicholas Culpeper, among others. She wrote The Magic of Herbs in 1926, and in 1927 she opened Culpeper House on Baker Street, a shop selling herbal medicines, food and cosmetics; these proved very successful, especially with women. She founded the Society of Herbalists, a non-profit organization, for the study and application of herbalism. In 1941 the society's existence was threatened by the Pharmacy and Medicines Bill, which would have destroyed the work of the herbalist in England. Influential friends rallied to Leyel's support, and the bill was modified to enable patients to obtain treatment upon joining the society. She also joined Sir Albert Howard in his campaign for compost versus synthetic fertilizers, and those working for pure water and food.
In 1931 Leyel edited Mrs M Grieve's A Modern Herbal in two volumes. She herself wrote a long series of works on herbs, including Herbal Delights (1937), Compassionate Herbs (1946), Elixirs of Life (1948), Hearts-Ease (1949), Green Medicine (1952), and Cinquefoil (1957), as well as others on cooking.
Honors and retirement
Leyel was a fellow of the Royal Institution, and an officer of l'Académie française. She received the Palmes académiques of France in 1924. She died in the Harley Street Nursing Home in London on 15 April 1957.
- The Herb Society's official website
- Mrs. C.F.Leyel - Elixirs of Life - Kegan Paul (2002) ISBN 0-7103-0742-X
- Leyel, H. and Hartley, O. The Gentle Art of Cookery, Kegan Paul (2003) ISBN 0-7103-0915-5