Mr Woodley’s Swarm-Watcher

Enoch Brind

During January I have been ploughing my way through Mr Woodley’s articles in the British Bee Journal from 1889 – 1897.  Last night I came across an important clue to the identity of Mr Woodley’s watcher.

As a bit of a recap from earlier blogs, Mr Woodley had two apiaries in the Parish of Beedon.  Mr Woodley had one apiary at his home at Worlds End and an out-apiary at Stanmore.  Mr Woodley employed a man to watch his bees at Stanmore.  This is what the watcher had to do:

“All he has to do is to watch for swarms, hive them into straw skeps, mark the hive the swarm issued from, and carry the bees to the home apiary — about two miles — after swarming is over for the day. For this service I pay 10s. or 12s. per week for the job, wet or fine. If weather is dull and cool, the “watcher” does a little gardening or any other job required to fill up his time.”

[NBTW 3 December 1908]

Mr Woodley Advertises Ye Olde Englishe BeeIt was worth Mr Woodley paying someone to keep watch over the bees and catch swarms because swarms could then be sold and sent all over Britain.

Following-on from the 1908 quote above, there is one caveat I would like to add about the identity of Mr Woodley’s watcher; during the lifetime of the out-apiary , I believe Mr Woodley had more than one watcher.  I suppose watchers die and watchers move on to better things.

This is the important clue I discovered, Mr Woodley writes:

“…during the winter months I leave that apiary in charge of an octogenarian bee-keeper, whose flagging interest in the bees I manage to arouse when Christmas comes round by a substantial Christmas box.”

[NBTW 21 January 1897]

Mr Woodley - Hilltop Cottage, Stanmore, Beedon greyscaleThe old man sitting on a chair in the photograph appears to fall in the category of an octogenarian (someone in their eighties) or at least appears close to being eighty.  How many octogenarians were there in a small hamlet of Stanmore in 1897?  Well I checked census returns this morning and there was only one and his name was Enoch Brind.  He was born in 1816 and died 1903; Enoch was 81 when Mr Woodley wrote on 21 January 1897.

Another fact (which I will discuss further in a later blog) is Mr Woodley started his out-apiary in 1890 and it ceased in 1915.  Mr Woodley  looks like a man in 40’s or 50’s in the photograph above (man kneeling with hive), which I am guessing puts the time period on that photograph between 1890 and 1905?  This time period falls within Enoch Brind’s lifetime.

Now Dear Reader, if you are a descendant of Enoch Brind then please go and check the old family photograph album.  And tell me whether the old man in the chair is truly Enoch, Mr Woodley’s swarm-watcher.

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3 thoughts on “Mr Woodley’s Swarm-Watcher

  1. Great sleuthing skills! I was interested in whether 10 shillings a week was a good wage. As Enoch had presumably retired from his previous job I assumed it might be like pocket money. When I looked at this website: https://measuringworth.com/calculators/ukcompare/relativevalue.php?use%5B%5D=CPI&use%5B%5D=NOMINALEARN&year_early=1908&pound71=&shilling71=10&pence71=&amount=0.5&year_source=1908&year_result=2016 – it suggested the equivalent labour earnings today would be £177.90. Not big bucks but probably a nice little earner in return for fairly light work? And then supplemented by the Christmas box, which I’m assuming contained honey or perhaps wax goodies such as candles.

    • In one way Mr Woodley was being generous by paying Enoch 10s. because agricultural labourere were being paid the same. Unfortunately in rural Berkshire there was no competition from the mills and factories as say there might be in Lancashire or the hinterland of London. Mr Woodley writes on 6 April 1893 that “the labourer who is working, as they are hereabouts on Lord Wantage’s farms, for 10s. per week, I admit the 25s. hive, or any other hive at half the price, is beyond their reach; therefore, the modern system of bee-keeping has not, is not, and, going farther, I may say is not likely to be taken up by the agricultural labourer in the future. For recruits to the modern system of bee-keeping we must go to a class above the purely agricultural labourer — the small tradesman, the gardener, the country mechanic, the farming class, and the clergy in the country districts, and the dwellers in “Villadom” and younger members of Society who want a hobby in the towns. There are exceptions, I admit, and I am glad — nay, proud — of the exceptions, where cottagers have adopted and been successful in adding somewhat to their small incomes by bee-keeping on humane methods.”

      Thanks for the link. I think your link to the measuring worth website will come in handy. The second hand car Mr Woodley bought in 1906 was worth £165 when new in 1888 (not sure how much Mr Woodley paid for it).

      • In that case it does sound generous, as presumably agricultural labourers would have been doing more intensive and back-breaking work. But perhaps he was paying for Enoch’s bee-handling skills, as not everyone would have had the experience to capture swarms. Was Mr Woodley quite well-off from all his bee activities then, if he could afford to buy a car?

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