Have I Found Percy’s Apiary???

The above photograph was found in the 1898 British Bee Journal and is of Percy Wilkins at his apiary in Wantage.  The write-up (see bottom of blog) with the photograph gave a few clues:

a. the apiary was half a mile from where Percy lived.  His home was a cottage  (Belmont Cottage, Wantage).

b. there is a wall to the north of his apiary and there is view of the Downs.  Therefore we can deduce the wall runs east/west.

c. The wall is “high”.  Also you can see the wall has capping stones on the top.

d. Trees surround the area. It has been suggested the trees in the photograph look like apple trees.

A half-a-mile radius from Belmont Cottage, Wantage which is shown in green.
A half-a-mile radius from Belmont Cottage, Wantage which is shown in green.

Today I had a look at the 1901 Census and Percy lived with his wife, Beatrice, at Belmont Cottage as shown with the blue pin on the map.  A half a mile radius is shown in green on the map.  With the above “radius” I think we need to be a bit flexible because half a mile could have been given by Percy as an approximate measurement.

1900 Map of Charlton House, Wantage. My theory is that Percy's apiary is to the west of Coopers Lane (see 1).
1900 Map of Charlton House, Wantage. My theory is that Percy’s apiary is to the west of Coopers Lane (see 1).

 

I had a look at an Ordnance Survey map of 1900 and came across Charlton House which is outside the half a mile radius (but not that much) and is on Charlton Road (see the radius map).  I have annotated the 1900 Ordnance Survey map with numbers which I believe correspond to the numbers in the photograph below.  ‘2’ and ‘3’ appear to be buildings which are behind the high wall.

(1) - is a tall wall with capping stones. This is to the north of the apiary therefore the wall runs east/west. (2) - to the left of this number appears to be a building??? (3) - to the left of this number appears to be a building???
(1) – is a tall wall with capping stones. This is to the north of the apiary therefore the wall runs east/west.
(2) – to the left of this number appears to be a building???
(3) – to the left of this number appears to be a building???

 

I visited the Charlton House locality today and there is indeed a high wall with capping stones.  The house in question is called Charlton House, although it is not the same one as in 1900.  The site I believe to be Percy’s apiary is somewhere between Coopers Lane and (new) Charlton House. See photograph below.

A tall wall in the garden of (new) Charlton House, Wantage.
A tall wall in the garden of (new) Charlton House, Wantage.

 

As another point of note, the wall along Coopers Lane is constructed with brickwork called ‘garden wall bond’.  This supports the idea that Percy’s apiary was in the garden of (old) Charlton House.  The 1900 Ordnance Survey map above also shows a lot of ‘tree’ symbols.

 

Tall brick wall with capping stones adjacent to (new) Charlton House. Note the brickwork is 'garden wall bond'; header-3 stretchers-header.
Tall brick wall with capping stones adjacent to (new) Charlton House. Note the brickwork is ‘garden wall bond’; header-3 stretchers-header.

 

In closing, a lot has changed over the last century and who knows, my theory could be way-off the truth and any traces of Percy’s apiary are now lost forever.  Nonetheless, I like to photograph of Percy and his bees; I hope you will enjoy the write-up which accompanied the photograph in the British Bee Journal of 1898.

 

HOMES OF THE HONEY BEE

THE APIARIES OF OUR READERS

Our illustration this week depicts the orchard apiary of Mr. Percy Wilkins, situate near the town of Wantage, Berks, historically famous as the birthplace of Alfred the Great, a statue of the renowned king standing in the market-square of the town. Mr. Wilkins began bee-keeping eight years ago, in the place whereon the hives now stand, with two skeps, and the total number of colonies now totals sixty-seven, so that progress has been unusually rapid. In response to our usual request for particulars of his bee experience, Mr. Wilkins writes: “When I bought my first two skeps of bees in the year 1890 I had no idea whatever of becoming a bee-keeper on any large scale, but a cottager in the neighbouring village from whom the skeps were got, assured me that bees were the most profitable of all live stock. How far this has proved correct in my case may be gathered from the fact that in seven seasons I have, by following the policy of making the cash got for honey pay for all new hives and appliances required — now increased to sixty-seven stocks from two — and made some money besides from the sale of my bee-produce.

“The position and surrounding of my quiet little corner of the bee-world has been visited, and not a little admired I am proud to say, by some well known bee-keepers and experts at the business. So far, too, as the suitability of the place for a bee-garden, I am — as experience is gained — more than satisfied with the position and district. The hives face south, are well sheltered by the high north wall at the back, and have fruit trees growing in all directions, while the range of hills — about one and a half miles from Wantage — rise high above the town and make up a pleasing picture. On these hills grow abundant crops of sainfoin and other bee-flowers.”

The photo from which the view is reproduced was taken last year, Mr. Wilkins being shown in the act of removing a rack of finished sections from a hive, on which were left three other racks, all of them being filled and sealed before the honey season of 1897 ended.

The apiary is worked almost entirely for comb-honey in sections, these being most in demand to meet the wants of London customers, who take sections from him in bulk for retailing. It speaks volumes for the quality of the sections sent out from this apiary when we are told that the best of these customers last year took no less than six gross. In view, therefore, of the present adverse honey season, and the fact that the “notes” sent us to furnish material for this notice were written some time ago, we were curious to know how he had got on “up to date”. In reply he writes, a few days ago : “I have been busy this week, my London customer, who has had two gross of sections already, is worrying me for two gross more, so that will be a nice little job for the coming Bank Holiday”. Can it be that “honey-dew ‘ has not “fallen” at Wantage? We hope so, for it would indeed be a pity to have a regular trade interrupted by a visitation such as has damaged so many bee-keepers this year.

In concluding his interesting “notes” Mr. Wilkins further says: “I am proud to be, in one sense, a cottager bee-keeper, for in our present cottage I was born, and have lived ever since with my father and mother; not only so, but it was the home of my mother’s parents also”. The apiary, however, is quite half a mile away, consequently none but the appliances in actual everyday use are kept there. All honey, hives, and appliances are stored and dealt with in a house specially built for the purpose in the garden at home. It is a substantial wooden structure 25 ft. long by 12 ft. wide. One-third of the whole is divided off as a honey room, the rest being devoted to appliances and material. “In my warm and snug little honey room”, our friend adds, “many a winter evening passes pleasantly away as I am busily occupied in preparing racks of sections, wiring frames of foundation, and the various little ‘wants’, so that everything may be ready for use in the coming season. Our honey flow is of such short duration that to be a day behind would be a loss of valuable time that cannot be regained”. In wishing continued prosperity to this Wantage apiary, we add a line to say, in Mr. Wilkins’ concluding words, we have one of the secrets of success in bee-keeping, which we hope readers will take note of.

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2 thoughts on “Have I Found Percy’s Apiary???

  1. An amazing piece of detective work. It also makes me reflect on how actively employed people were in past times. His evenings were employed in up keeping the needs of his interest; not in watching television or other “leisure” activities. Food for thought. Amelia

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