Mr Woodley: Towards the End

The teen years of the twentieth-century were tough on Mr Woodley as they were on Beekeeping in general.  Mr Woodley’s stance on foul brood legislation made him an easy target for critics when Isle of Wight Disease (believed at the time to be caused by the acarine mite) devastated bee colonies throughout Britain.  Mr Woodley lost respect among the beekeeping profession and entries of his column ‘Notes By The Way’ began to peter out by 1913.  This is his last entry in the British Bee Journal:

I, as a scourged member of the craft, am not chastened by being wiped out, or nearly so, twice.  “When perseverance fails the swan sinks”, I set about repairing the damage at the outset with some success; in fact, by using formalin and Lysol in equal proportions spread on strips of thin board and pushed in at the entrances twice weekly of many of my hives, the first spring of the outbreak of “Isle of Wight” disease I preserved every stock so treated, and I quite thought I had got a remedy, and had a good take of honey from these hives, but the following winter and spring I lost most of them.  Then I bought new swarms, both English and Dutch.  Both strains were hived in disinfected hives, boiled frames, new foundations.  Again using most of the advertised remedies, I had a fair take of honey.  The winter of 1915-16 reduced me to a few stocks, and as the spring advanced these developed symptoms of “Isle of Wight” disease.

[NBTW 1 February 1917]

The BBJ’s official line for Mr Woodley becoming an infrequent contributor was this:-

Although Mr Woodley is not so well known to our present bee-keepers, his name was almost a household word some fifteen or twenty years ago.  For many years he was a constant contributor to our pages, until, through advancing years and his many other interests, he was unable to write so much.  His “Practical Notes’’ were a regular feature of the Bee-keepers’ Record, and his “Notes by the Way“ of the British Bee Journal for several years.

[BBJ 25 October 1923]

I believe that during the War Years and after, Mr Woodley’s contributions to the BBJ were less than welcome.  In 1922 Mr Woodley was still advertising in the BBJ the of sale sections and swarms, although it is interesting that his last advertisement for the year (22 June 1922) was the sale of some beekeeping equipment (see picture below), although the entry in his obituary below provides a reason:-

Years ago Mr Woodley worked over 200 stocks, and did a large business in honey and in supplying swarms of bees, many going to Scotland, where they were worked for the heather.  Acarine disease robbed him of the whole of his stack, but he had began to work it up again, without any intentions, however, of going so extensively as formerly into the business.

[BBJ 25 October 1923]

22 June 1922 - Mr Woodley's last advert for the year.
22 June 1922 – Mr Woodley’s last advert for the year.


Mr Woodley's inadvertently endorses this Isle of Wight Disease cure.
1916 – Mr Woodley inadvertently endorses this supposed Isle of Wight Disease cure.

Mr Woodley sold the Stanmore cottages (now Hilltop Cottage which he had inherited from his great aunt) to Arthur Thomas Loyd of Lockinge on 13 January 1923 for the sum of £240.  It is unknown whether the Stanmore out-apiary (which was rented on the adjacent land) was still active at this time.

Later that year tragedy struck:-

Mr Woodley was taken ill in the middle of September [1923], while on a visit to his cousin, Mr A. D. Woodley, at Reading. He refused to have a doctor, and insisted upon returning to his home at Beedon.  There his condition became so much worse that medical aid was obtained, and he was taken into Newbury Hospital for a serious operation.  This was successfully performed, but at his advanced age—78 years—he was unable to recover from the shock, and died on the evening of October 8.  The funeral took place at Beedon on Saturday, October 13 and was attended not only by relatives, but by a large number of friends and neighbours.

[BBJ 25 October 1923]

The details about what become of Mr Woodley’s home-apiary (now Garden Cottage) are unclear.  I understand the home-apiary was purchased around the time of Mr Woodley’s death.  I am unsure of the chronology of these facts, however the advert placed in the BBJ for Mr Woodley’s apiary as a going concern might provide some clues for future research.


Sale of Mr Woodley's Apiary
Sale of Mr Woodley’s Apiary
Mr Woodley's grave at St Nicholas Church, Beedon.
Mr Woodley’s grave at St Nicholas Church, Beedon.

5 thoughts on “Mr Woodley: Towards the End

  1. A very sad ending. I see similarities between trying to culture large numbers of bees and the problems of the large monoculture farms of today. Amelia

    1. Charlton Estate Trust 19 February 2015 — 9:03 am

      I agree, monoculture is a big problem. I’ve just bought a book on the changes in agriculture since the second world war, so I will be posting blogs on this topic in the future, with particular reference to Mr Woodley of course 🙂

  2. Oh how sad. What was his stance on foul brood legislation? Like many beekeepers at the time, it sounds like he was using a lot of hard chemicals which probably didn’t help, in an attempt to cure the Isle of Wight disease.

    it’s now thought that the crawling behaviour first observed upon the Isle of Wight was probably due to Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus (CBPV). It was in the 1950’s that Dr Leslie Bailey (who worked in the Bee Disease Section of the Rothamsted Research Station) first suggested that CBPV was spread by the acarine mite, with many of the colony losses in the 1910s ultimately being due to attack by this virus. I presume poor Mr Woodley would not have known about the virus.

    1. Charlton Estate Trust 22 February 2015 — 2:39 pm

      Mr Woodley’s stance on foulbrood legislation was that from the American experience there was no evidence that having bee inspectors to visit cases of foul brood would be effective in reducing foul brood. Indeed Mr Woodley argued that the Bee Inspector would spread disease around a particular area.

      I shall be writing a blog on this topic in the not so distant future. I would be interested to hear more on the Isle of Wight Disease – are you going to be writing something on this topic in the near future?

      1. I see. I think the British way of doing things – a bee inspector testing to confirm foul brood and then shook-swarm/destroying the colony is better – so I would disagree with Mr Woodley about that. But of course he was right that beekeepers can spread disease if they don’t clean their equipment and clothes between apiaries. I wonder if he was anti bee inspectors generally!

        I don’t know a lot about the topic, but I learnt a little bit while doing one of the module exams and did a blog about it at the time – see, B4 a).

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