Primroses & Paper Mill

Primroses from Devon

Primroses from Devon

Primroses from Devon

PRIMROSE DAY

This day is in honour of Benjamin Disraeli who died on April 19th 1881. The primrose was his favourite flower and Queen Victoria would often send him bunches.

The tradition of sending primroses to Wiggins Teape customers dates back over 100 years. The Managing Director of the Hele Paper Co Ltd near Exeter (not then a member of the WT Group) had a custom of picking a few early primroses from the hedges around the mill to send to his mother living in Hendon.

 

This pleasant custom caught on and was adopted by the company. When in 1919 Hele Mill was bought by Wiggins Teape the distribution continued. By the 1960s the primrose distribution was handled by Stowford Paper Mill, with thousands of boxes of primroses sent all over the country.

 

Two bunches of 50 primroses, each with 5 leaves, were packed in plastic lined boxes at the Congregation Church Hall in Ivybridge, ready for distribution to all Wiggins Teape clients.

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On a local radio station one year, commenting on Primrose Day, it was mentioned that `` a local paper mill in South Devon used to have primroses collected and they used them to make banknotes``

Work started between 8 and 8.30 with the arrival of the flowers, mainly picked by school children who were paid around 5p a bunch in later years. Volunteers then packed the flowers and labelled the boxes with pre-printed labels from Wiggins Teape. Each member of staff at the mill was permitted to send boxes of primroses to family and friends.

 

Work had to be completed by lunchtime ready for the postman to collect the boxes so they could be delivered the next day. This process went on from Monday to Thursday so that offices would be open for the next day’s delivery.

 

Flowers that were not used each day were put in shallow trays with water to keep them fresh. Monday was a busy day as the children had spent the weekend collecting the primroses which were stored in water, often in the bath, in many homes around Ivybridge!

Each year a different insert card went with the flowers. Often very colourful, they were treasured by recipients, eventually becoming collectors’ items. The pale yellow card celebrates the bicentenary of Stowford Paper Mill with 1987 signifying 200 years of continuous paper making.

Promissory Note pickers break the bank

The mild weather which has brought on the primroses a fortnight earlier than usual had an odd repercussion yesterday. It caused a large paper mill at Ivybridge to run out of petty cash.

 

The mill had been paying 4d. a bunch for primroses to send to customers and friends and yesterday the gatherers took in a record 18,000 bunches.

 

Eventually the clerks had to make out chits-promissory notes cashable at lunch-time, which the children at least, eyed with suspicion.

 

The chits were duly honoured of course as befits a mill that makes for the Post Office a large amount of “security paper” so valuable that its end products cannot be specified.

 

News clipping from the 1960s taken from a mill scrapbook.

Primrose box postage labels

Operation Primrose

Fourth April, D-Day for primroses dawned bright and fair, and brought with it a record inrush of primrose gathers. No less than 18,500 bunches were poured into broke baskets between eight and ten-thirty a.m. and by the evening they were all en route to all parts of England’s suburban and industrial areas. It might be thought that such a vast number of primroses gathered in one day represents the commercialisation of what is mean’t to be a goodwill and cheery gesture and is therefore to be deplored. The fact is that the vast majority of primrose pickers are school children ranging from tiny tots with their four or five bunches to teenagers with anything from 50 to 100, and what is more these children are well enough versed in nature law not to strip the plants and damage their growth.

What is remarkable is, that a project that starts with crowds of scrambling noisy youngsters resolves itself into a major feat of organisation and administration resulting, we hope, in bringing a touch of Devon’s Spring to many people who do not have the opportunity of visiting us at this, the most exciting time of the year.

Gateway (the internal magazine of Wiggins Teape) 1965

In the 1960s there was an environmental controversy about picking the primroses and it was only the Torrey Canyon disaster of March 1967 which kept the article off the front page of The Sun newspaper. It did, however, make the inside pages.

 

After this, to overcome the accusation that the countryside was being pillaged to the detriment of the plant species, the picking of primroses was restricted to farmer’s fields.

 

Each year a different insert card and label were designed to go with the flowers. These were often very colourful and were treasured by recipients, eventually becoming collectors’ items.

 

Environmental pressures grew throughout the 1980s and reluctantly the company decided that 1989 would be the last year.

Environmental pressures steadily grow ...

Beacon & Primroses

During the 1960s displeasure and environmental concerns regarding the about the picking of primroses from the hedgerows of Devon was gaining momentum, and it was only the Torrey Canyon disaster of March 1967 which kept an article on the subject from hitting the front page of the tabloids. Following this negative publicity, the picking of primroses was restricted to consenting farmers fields in a bid to overcome the accusation that the countryside was being pillaged to the detriment of the plant species.

Further set backs were to follow with an outbreak of foot and mouth disease causing the entire distribution of primroses to be halted, with the company following the advice of the National Farmers Union. That year clients were sent a pot-pourri instead, which seemed to be equally well received.

 

”The primroses we miss we must admit

Their arrival is always a pleasure

We realise the problem and because of it

Your pot-pourri we’ll certainly treasure”

 

Environmental pressures surrounding the picking of flowers growing naturally continued to increase throughout the 1980s and with some reluctance, the company decided that 1989 would be the last year for the sending of primroses.

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PRIMROSES FROM DEVON

The tradition of sending primroses to Wiggins Teape customers dates back over 100 years. The Managing Director of the Hele Paper Co Ltd near Exeter (not then a member of the WT Group) had a custom of picking a few early primroses from the hedges around the mill to send to his mother living in Hendon.
This pleasant custom caught on and was adopted by the company. When in 1919 Hele Mill was bought by Wiggins Teape the distribution continued. By the 1960s the primrose distribution was handled by Stowford Paper Mill, with thousands of boxes of primroses sent all over the country.
Two bunches of 50 primroses, each with 5 leaves, were packed in plastic lined boxes at the Congregation Church Hall in Ivybridge, ready for distribution to all Wiggins Teape clients.
Work started between 8 and 8.30 with the arrival of the flowers, mainly picked by school children who were paid around 5p a bunch in later years. Volunteers then packed the flowers and labelled the boxes with pre-printed labels from Wiggins Teape. Each member of staff at the mill was permitted to send boxes of primroses to family and friends.
Work had to be completed by lunchtime ready for the postman to collect the boxes so they could be delivered the next day. This process went on from Monday to Thursday so that offices would be open for the next day’s delivery.
Flowers that were not used each day were put in shallow trays with water to keep them fresh. Monday was a busy day as the children had spent the weekend collecting the primroses which were stored in water, often in the bath, in many homes around Ivybridge!
In the 1960s there was an environmental controversy about picking the primroses and it was only the Torrey Canyon disaster of March 1967 which kept the article off the front page of The Sun newspaper. It did, however, make the inside pages.
After this, to overcome the accusation that the countryside was being pillaged to the detriment of the plant species, the picking of primroses was restricted to farmer’s fields.
Each year a different insert card and label were designed to go with the flowers. These were often very colourful and were treasured by recipients, eventually becoming collectors’ items.
Environmental pressures grew throughout the 1980s and reluctantly the company decided that 1989 would be the last year.