Life at Mr Woodley’s Home Apiary


I have been reviewing the notes I have been making on Mr Woodley’s column in the British Bee Journal.  To date I have made notes from 1906 – 1918.  Below is a selection from the pen of William Woodley which describes life at his home apiary which today is called Garden Cottage.  The reference of [NBTW + date] after the quotes below refers to’ Notes By The Way’ the title of Mr Woodley’s column.

[As an aside I will be in Worlds End/Beedon on Monday (11/8/14) –  drop me a line before Monday via this blog and perhaps we could meet?]

A photo of William Woodley from 1892.
A photograph of William Woodley from 1892.

I am guessing that Mr Woodley began living at Worlds End at some point between 1871 and 1879; see the postmark on the picture of the letter.  The census of 1881 indicates that Mr Woodley and family are living in Worlds End.  Mr Woodley describes himself as a watchmaker.  He lives with his wife Annie, his son Francis (aged 7) and daughter Elizabeth (aged 5).

Mr Woodley would have had quite a vista from his Worlds End cottage and paints this Christmas scene:

Christmas Weather. — The Hampshire hills in the distance, as viewed from my window, are of the old-fashioned Christmassy type.  The green glades are encrusted with snow, and the thermometer outside my house registered 10 deg. of frost this morning, affording the boys a happy time sliding on a roadside pond, the ice of which is strong enough to bear them. The apiary bears the aspect of a great lone land, but as all stocks are packed snugly away for winter, one’s mind is at rest so far as the bees’ welfare is concerned. [NBTW 1908]

Worlds End had more of a rural and less suburban feel then:

During the last few days we have had a little more sunshine and warmth, and the bees have been busy on what little forage is left.  I have a field of mustard within a furlong of my home-apiary, which I hope will help with the accumulation of winter stores by the busy workers. [NBTW 1910]

But that is not to say it was a sleepy place, I feel that there would have been a lot of farming activity happening around the Woodley apiary.  Naturally one activity can interfere with another.

The apiary is situated between two farms, and the farmers have been obliged to thrash out their corn to save it from destruction by vermin, which swarm in thousands, and the mice driven out have invaded the hives where the entrances have been large enough for them to get in.  The combs were useless except for melting up into wax. [NBTW 1908]

[7643.] The weather continues very un-settled, and is likely to remain so for a time.  It is an unusual sight to see corn still standing in shocks in the fields so late in the year; in fact, I saw the reaping machine at work to-day (October- 25) cutting oats.  It is many years since the ingathering has been so late.  A neighbouring farmer told me he had to remake his ricks, as the rain had penetrated them before they were finished, with the result that in the centre the corn was rotting. [NBTW 1909]

I have heard recently of bee-keepers who have lost every stock simply from starvation, spring dwindling, and the plague of mice, which are so prevalent this season.  I suspect the inclement weather has driven the mice to seek shelter in the hives.  I myself have lost several good stocks quite recently at my out-apiary from this cause, the combs and contents being eaten up by mice.  The apiary is situated between two farms, and the farmers have been obliged to thrash out their corn to save it from destruction by vermin, which swarm in thousands, and the mice driven out have invaded the hives where the entrances have been large enough for them to get in. [NBTW 1908]

Hives on Legs. — Anent the letter of “A. H.” (6461′, page 406).  I myself consider hives on legs far preferable to several hives placed on long strips of timber.  When manipulating a hive on a long stand, on which several other hives are resting, it  is impossible that a slip may disturb the whole lot and give trouble to neighbours.  One cannot be too careful in these days of  “compensations”. [NBTW 1906]

1. Worlds End Chapel 2. Worlds End Farmhouse 3. Barn associated with Worlds End Farmhouse 4. Trees 5. Rickyard 6. Mrs Woodley 7. Mr Woodley
1. Worlds End Chapel
2. Worlds End Farmhouse
3. Barn associated with Worlds End Farmhouse
4. Trees
5. Rickyard
6. Mrs Woodley
7. Mr Woodley

I refer you to ‘5’ on my annotated photograph above.   I believe one of the farms referred to in the quote above  is Worlds End Farm with its rickyard.  The other farm I don’t yet know.  One interesting fact about the annotated photograph above is that we know the type and height of hedge adjacent to the rickyard, see below:

Hiving Swarms from Difficult Places. — Referring to the swarm in quickset hedge (6334, page 235), when swarms cluster in centre of hedge that cannot be shaken they may be soon made to move from  grass, etc. if a carbolised feather is inserted into the grass below the bees ; then have your skeps ready, and as soon as the bees are running fix it so that they can run up into the skep.  This done, you will have but little trouble in hiving the swarm.  We have this job every year, as our apiary is enclosed by a whitethorn hedge 7 or 8 feet high. [NBTW 1906]

Mr Woodley’s home apiary was an industrious place:

[7704.] The closing month of the year inclines one to be retrospective, but as this is more properly our Editor’s prerogative, I will pass on to the bee-doings for the past month.  These, we all know, should have been nil and if the advice given in the columns of the B.B.J, in the past has been heeded and put into practice, our bees will be safe in their comfortable brood-nests, and bee-keepers, I hope, will be as busy as we are at Beedon Apiary filling orders for honey for dispatch to all parts of England. [NBTW 1909]

I advise bee-keepers to always glaze or box sections before sending out.  It costs money and labour, but it pays to do it, not only from the financial point of view, but as helping to hold the trade together.  Besides, it enhances the value to the trades-man by keeping it secure from wasps, flies, etc., while protecting the tender combs from the finger-and-thumb marks of careless assistants.  We have glazed every section sent out this season (except one dozen required for immediate use), and have had several large orders from different customers for despatch  one after the other, and all have been glazed.  It may seem tedious work to some, but it forms one of the most pleasant items of labour connected with bee-keeping in our household, for my good wife loves the work equally with myself. [NBTW 1906]

In response to a request to give my method of foundation fixing in the two-bee-way plain-top sections, I give my plan with pleasure, as I believe it to be the best, neatest, and the cleanest.  I fold the sections square by pressure of the hand when folding them up; occasionally I have to give a tap or two with a light hammer at the corner.  The foundation we use is “Weed” (extra thin), cut to fit, i.e. 4 in. long by barely 4 in. wide.  Now, to fix these sheets you want a fixer (Messrs. Abbott Bros, sell a very neat one).  Take a section, place it standing with bee-ways top and bottom on a corner of a table near the fire (or you can use a table-lamp to warm the edge of the foundation) warm one end, place it from the other side of the section with the end just over halfway inside the section; now take the fixer (which should be kept in a mug of cold water), give it a shake, then run it to and fro, using a little pressure while so doing on the warm end of the foundation, and it is fixed quite firmly.  Mrs. Woodley has fixed from 500 to 600 per day and put everyone in the racks with dividers ready to put on the hives.  A guide can be used to ensure the foundation is fixed in the centre of each section, but with use and practice this is not required.  Of course the foundation when fixed should hang in centre and be square with the section and clear of bottom. [NBTW 1908]

Mr Woodley makes references in other Notes By The Way to Scotland, which highlights how far his bees, sections and honey would go;  in some articles he adopts the Scottish phrase “Abide a Wee” (wait a little).

Along with the hive, the home apiary had a pleasant kitchen garden:

Birds and Fruit. — My home-apiary is located on a plot of land planted with fruit trees, and every season I am troubled with birds, and as the years pass I think the birds increase in numbers; blackbirds, thrushes, and starlings, sparrows ever on the alert for bees, tits in abundance for insects, and a small light brown bird (whitethroat ?) which is very fond of fruit — raspberries, gooseberries, and currants.  These little birds are very bold, and will get inside and clear trees which are tied up with old window curtains after the fruit is cleared.  I do not see them till another season.  Just now the blackbirds and thrushes are gorging on the ripening plums and before the rain came spoiled many apples, pecking holes in them on the trees.  Last year we had a heavy crop of plums, and hundreds of starlings came at 7 in the morning and at 4 in the afternoon every day for a feast.  The bees never interfere with or attempt to sting a bird, except on one or two occasions (years apart).  I have known sparrows stung to death when they have got entangled by a foot getting between the hive and extended alighting-board. [NBTW 1908]

And to leave you, Mr Woodley has a clever use of artichokes next to his roadside wall.  See the last paragraph in the article below:

Bees and those passing the road by Garden Cottage. Don't knock down the bees with your caps!
Beware those passing Mr Woodley’s home apiary. Don’t knock-down the bees with your cap!



5 thoughts on “Life at Mr Woodley’s Home Apiary

  1. “We have glazed every section sent out this season” – what do you think he meant by ‘glazing’?

    1. Charlton Estate Trust 9 August 2014 — 9:41 pm

      Mr Woodley’s answer is this:

      “Glazed Sections. — I hope that Mr. Carver’s section-glazing machine may help to improve the sale of comb honey, and induce British bee-keepers to take the trouble to glaze their sections before putting them on the market. If comb honey was always glazed before marketing I believe there would be a far greater demand for it than at present. Glazing not only protects the comb from damage, but preserves the honey from dust and fly-marks, which so often mar the appearance of unglazed sections seen in shop windows. It also protects the honey from absorbing bad or noxious flavours from other strong-smelling foods placed near it. I work for section honey principally and invariably glaze every section sent out, finding that tradesmen prefer handling them when prepared in this way. Buying the glass and paper in large quantities will effect a saving, as both will keep indefinitely in a clean place; while the outlay is very small, and that glazed sections will bring 1s. per dozen more than unglazed is the experience of — W. Woodley, Beedon, Newbury”. [NBTW 11 April 1909].

      1. Thanks! So he was probably wrapping it up in paper and then making a glass box for it? Or perhaps putting between two slabs of glass and wrapping it together with string?

      2. Charlton Estate Trust 10 August 2014 — 6:35 am

        How do you glaze your sections? Have written a blog on glazing sections and do you have any photos to share?

      3. No, I’ve never done glazing – still not entirely sure what it involves!

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