A ROUGH HISTORY OF WORCESTERSHIRE BEEKEEPERS' ASSOCIATION

In March 1882 Mr AH Martin of Evesham gave a lecture on Bees and Beekeeping to the Evesham Institute Field Naturalists Club The lecture was printed, in full, in the Evesham journal and provoked a great deal of interest so that Mr Martin sent 50 postcards to ladies and gentlemen to determine the level of interest for the establishment of an association.
He had 40 positive replies. He wrote to Lord Beauchamp of Madresfield Court, Malvern asking whether he would be willing to take the role of President. On Saturday 14th October 1882 a meeting was held in the Worcester Guildhall for the purpose of establishing a beekeeping association for Worcestershire.

The new vicar of Evesham Rev. Ross Barker was actively involved chairing the inaugural meeting, Mr Martin (Evesham) was elected secretary, and Mr T. Slatter (Evesham ) treasurer.
Rev. Ross Barker stated that the dissemination of literature, showing the improvements in methods of beekeeping, was a great advantage.
In Hertfordshire he had found that to interest villagers in beekeeping did a great deal of good. In 1880 he had sold for one poor man £9 worth of honey in London, and in 1881 a cottager had produced nearly 1000 lbs. from 14 stocks of bees.
Beekeeping was not always a success but it was a source of interest and cultivated the intelligence.
Dr Fernie of Malvern said that some of the happiest moments of his life were those he had devoted to his bees. In his busy professional life, if he could run to his bees for a half hour he found inexhaustible delight.

The Worcestershire Beekeepers Association was duly formed with Earl Beauchamp as its President.
And vice presidents The Lord Bishop of Worcester, The Earl of Dudley, Lord Northwick, Lord Lyttleton, The Dean of Worcester, Lady Georgina Vernon, Lord Edward Churchill, Sir E. Lechmere Bart.M.P . Mr G Hastings M.P.
The objects of the association were the same as those of Warwickshire BKA namely:
"The encouragement, improvement, and advancement of bee culture particularly as a means of bettering the condition of cottagers and agricultural labourers, as well as advocating humanity to that most industrious of labourers, the honeybee."
This was a time of great encouragement and innovation in beekeeping with many associations being founded. Indeed, a few years earlier, Lady Georgina Vernon of Hanbury Hall, had tried to start a Worcestershire Association and had held a honey show in Worcester, but it had foundered for lack of support.

Frame hives were being advocated at this time as a much more humane method of beekeeping compared to skeps, as it permitted honey harvesting without colony destruction and permitted easier overwintering of colonies.
This was followed by the easier extraction of honey and the re-use of combs.

A further surge of interest in Beekeeping occurred between the world wars. The National hive came in 1920 (preceded by the Economic and Simplicity hives) and in April 1932 Kidderminster branch was formed and the county committee hoped that it might be possible to form new branches at Evesham, Bromsgrove and a joint branch of Malvern and Worcester in the near future.

The Ministry Beekeeping Advisor Mr William Herrod Hempsall gave a lecture on "Prominent Apiaries and Beekeepers of Great Britain illustrated by cinema films" at various venues, throughout the County. On Friday 10th November 1933 he gave the lecture at Prince Henry's Grammar School Evesham, and the result of his visit was that a branch was formed at Evesham.
The Northeast Worcestershire branch (Bromsgrove) was flourishing in 1934, but I will need to do further research to discover the origins of Hagley and Stourbridge. A group of Gt Witley members who had been meeting as a sub group of Worcester city, hived off on their own in 1953, and the Tenbury and Redditch branches disappeared.

This leaves us with the current position of seven branches occupying the county of Worcestershire with a combined total membership of around 700.

Martyn Cracknell
28 June 2014.