A cottager's bee hives Surrey History Centre ref. 6521/2/2/198

A cottager’s bee hives
Surrey History Centre ref.6521/2/2/198

This photograph was taken by Gertrude Jekyll and appeared in her book Old West Surrey in 1904. She wrote:

‘Many cottagers are clever bee-keepers. The old straw hive is still in use amongst the poorer folk. Luckily for appearance sake, it is cheaper than the more scientific wooden one, and the cottagers device for sheltering it, as in the case shown, with a bonnet made of pieces of sacking, and the broken halves of a red-ware washing-pan, adds to the prettiness of the little bee establishment.’

Beekeeping ‘the scientific way’

Traditional straw hives, or skeps, had their disadvantages. To harvest the honey and wax, the bees had to be killed or driven out, and the honeycombs cut away from the walls. It was impossible to inspect the interior of the hive for signs of disease.

In 1851 the Reverend LL Langstroth, the father of beekeeping, invented the modern method of hive design, in which movable frames, which the bees fill with comb, are suspended in boxes so they can be easily removed by the beekeeper.

Surrey Photographic Record, photographer, J Kenrick
Surrey History Centre ref. 7828/2/18/232

This picture was taken at Bletchingley c.1905, to illustrate the procedure used when a hive had to be moved. The hive was moved very slowly, a yard per day, up and over the wire fence to a prepared site in the apiary.

Surrey Beekeeper’s Association

Surrey Beekeeper’s Association was inaugurated in 1879. In 1895, rules and regulations were drawn up, as well as a programme of bee and honey shows.

Much of the early success of the association stemmed from the use of bee experts appointed to inspect hives and to encourage better standards of beekeeping through education and advice to members.

The records of the association have been deposited at Surrey History Centre, click here to see the catalogue record.

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