The Primrose Family

© Michael and Wendy Bird 2001

About six hundred years ago a man moved into the area surrounding Trunch, where he came from is still a mystery. Some say France and others say from “The lands of Primrose” which was owned by the monks of Dunfermline in Scotland. This man was called Bartholomew Prymrose, he settled in a little hamlet very near to Trunch called Southrepps.

From him now comes the steady unbroken line of Primroses sometimes spelt under different names such as Primerose, Prymrose, Primros and Primerese. We have a Peter and a William Prymrose who were Jurors of Trunch in 1493 and we have a Thomas Prymrose who was summoned before the jury where his brothers were jurors for obstructing a certain common lane which leads from Trunch to Bromholm with a ditch in 1497.

Gradually generation by generation, the Primrose families flourished growing bigger and bigger spreading their branches ever further. A family branch moved away and settled in North Walsham while another settled at Thorpe Market. This left only one branch in Trunch but this was the main one which continued the Trunch connection that still remains to this day.

In 1727 a William Primrose married Anne Worts, this marriage strengthened the Primroses standing within the village as the Worts family are also a very large and influential Trunch family having been prominent since the sixteenth century. William died 21.3.1758 and is buried alongside his wife Anne in St Bolotoph’s cemetery.

Another William Primrose, a gentleman of Trunch was born at Sidestrand 9.5.1756. He grew up to become one of the richest and most admired figures in Trunch. He married Anne Mason in 1791 and went on to establish Trunch Brewery in 1803. In his heyday he owned over 600 acres of land and employed 42 workers who manned his ever growing business.

On the 19.4.1796 his second child was born a son also named William. This William took over the brewing business and increased its potential threefold. He started to purchase public houses like the “Jolly Farmers” at Baconsthorpe, “The Bull Pub” at Hickling, “Kings Arms” at Bacton, “The Cock Pub” at North Walsham, “Half Moon” at Briston and of course “The New Inn” at Trunch.

He refurbished and extended the brewery in 1837 and by 1851 was living with his wife Harriot (nee Cremer) at the Rookery in Trunch having fathered 14 children. In the 1860’s William Primrose was visited by Archibald Primrose the Earl of Rosebery.

My great grandfather Guy Rosebery Primrose’s father (another William Primrose) who was about ten years of age at the time, remembered the visit. They made the long journey down to Trunch from Barnbougle castle in Scotland. The reason for the visit was to see an ancient family tree that William Primrose senior had, unfortunately this is now lost. The outcome was most favourable as William Primrose was allowed to use a coat of arms and a motto which reads “Fide ET Fiducia” this translates as faith and trust.

The coat of arms and motto turned out to be the same as the Earl of Roseberys. So it seems safe to say that the outcome must be that somehow the two families are related, how only time will tell. On the 6.1.1882 at the advanced age of 86 years, William Primrose died of senile decay. At the time he was living in the “White House” which is still a lovely family residence in Trunch and at his bedside was his lifetime friend John Fuller Wegg.

In his last will and testament he left a personal fortune of 4,056 pounds, 15 shillings and 3 pence. To his sons Henry, William, Alfred and Robert he left numerous plantations, meadows and cottages. To Henry he left 150 acres, to William 157 acres, to Alfred 133 acres and to Robert 153 acres of land.

As his other son Philip Smyth Primrose was already in charge of the day to day running of the brewery, William left the brewery in the hands of Philip. This was only 47 acres of land but included the public houses, Blacksmiths Close, the Malthouse and yards, Home Close opposite the brewery, the actual brew house and its yards, Church Close and Knapton Close amongst other plantations.

Philip Smyth Primrose died 12.3.1879 and the brewery passed into his wife’s hands, she was called Elizabeth Primrose (nee Carter) or by her alias Betsy Neal. She died in 1905 without having any children to inherit the brewery, so Trunch Brewery was sold to a William Dix Churchill and then taken over by Morgan’s Brewery.

It is a shame that they were childless or that one of William’s other sons could not have taken more interest in the brewery – you never know it still might have been a small rural family run brewery to this day. If you are wondering what happened to William’s other sons well Henry Primrose my great, great, great grandfather moved to Gimingham and married Eleanor Roper. Robert Primrose stayed in Trunch, never married and died in 1882.

Alfred Primrose also stayed in Trunch and married Mary Frances Johnson and lived in the “The White House”. William Primrose married Ann Hayn from Felmingham and lived in the quaint and romantic cottage still standing today known as “Ivy Cottage”. Unfortunately the new up and coming generation of Primroses decided to find their fortune in the bigger cities and moved away to places like London and Norwich.

This only left a couple of family members to carry on the distinguished family line that made Trunch what it is today. As for my Primrose line, the descendents of Henry and Eleanor, they moved to Wolferton, West Norfolk where my great grandfather Guy Rosebery Primrose become King George V’s accountant but that is another story that I may tell when time permits. I hope you enjoyed that brief but I hope very interesting history of my Primrose family that started out in 1411 with my fifteenth great grandfather Bartholomew Prymrose.

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