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!

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.

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.

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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.