This video is about the early life of William Woodley.William’s mother died when he was a child and he was looked after by an elderly aunt who lived at Stanmore.Stanmore is a hamlet in the parish of Beedon, Berkshire, England.
During the swarming season William (aged seven) would mind his aunt’s bees, which in those days would be kept in straw skeps covered with hackles.Should one of the hives swarm he would bring notice to the neighbours by tanging pots and pans.He would help retrieve the swarm.
As the young William grew up, he was apprenticed to a firm of grocers at Chieveley.He later took an interest in the clock and watch trade and returned to Beedon.
This video touches on the folklore surrounding the Stanmore tumulus (barrow): fairies, thunder and ploughs.I also look at the Enclosure of Stanmore.
By 1917 the Isle of Wight Disease had ravaged Britain’s honeybee population. It was also a time when Britain was fighting the First World War and suffering large numbers of casualties. Many bee-keepers were blaming Mr Woodley for the Isle of Wight Disease:-
This had never any right to be, and I am satisfied we should not be in the position we are today had it not been for Mr. Woodley and a few of his friends; while our true friends of the B.B.K.A. were trying to get a Bee Diseases Bill passed, a few of these gentlemen of knowledge were giving their time and money and visiting the Board of Agriculture trying to defeat this Bill.
– J. Pearman, Derby. (1)
The opponents of legislation were in the minority, but they were better organised, and by the exercise of some occult influence they were able, as Mr. Woodley claims with the arrogant assumption of the possession of a monopoly of the knowledge of bee-keeping, to thwart a measure which, would have been of inestimable value not only to bee-keepers but to the community at large. Mr. Woodley and his clique are quite welcome to all the credit they claim for having inflicted what is in reality a serious injury upon the bee-keeping industry, and the stigma attaches to them of having been the means of allowing “Isle of Wight” disease to run its course unchecked for an additional four years, thereby reducing the number of bees and the output of English honey to such scanty dimensions that £187,000 worth of foreign honey had to be imported in 1916 to make good the deficiency.
– George E. H. Pratt, Sheinton, Salop.(2)
I should like to say how heartily I agree with Mr. Pratt  for his chiding Mr. Woodley in his article “Notes by the Way,” for it is very apt to give the impression to the uninitiated that legislation is not so urgently needed as most of us think, and I must add that the standpoint taken by Mr. Woodley seems hardly in accordance with his profession. What would he say if he heard of a case of anthrax in which the owner of the infected animals absolutely refused to take any precautionary measures as laid down by law? Especially if he had close neighbours keeping cattle. If we have legislation for cattle breeders — why not for bee-keepers? As all able bee-keepers are aware, it is not the bee-keeper proper for whom we require this legislation, but to bring those careless or ignorant, obstinate or indifferent…into proper line, and compel them to reduce the danger of infection by doing away with their “died out” skeps and old box hives. “Old Dick Welch” would have to take up that rotten old skep, and so save Mr. Woodley much needless expense in the way of outlay for disinfectants and medicines for his own bees, by way of precautionary measures, to say nothing of time and labour.
The cottager beekeeper of the late nineteenth century was giving-up keeping bees. There were many reasons for this including the fact that making a living as an agricultural labour was becoming a precarious occupation and better prospects lay in the towns and cities working in the factories.
In addition to this, the cottager beekeeper was having difficulties selling their honey. The Berkshire Beekeepers’ Association was trying to arrest the decline the cottage beekeeper, Mr Woodley describes the situation:-
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.”
This is a piece I stumbled on in the British Bee Journal. Mr Woodley responds to a misinformed journalist/correspondent at the Newbury Weekly News. I would be interested to know from my readership, whether the standard and accuracy of journalism at the Newbury Weekly News has improved since 1890?Read More »
Mr Woodley wrote on 24 December 1890 in the British Bee Journal on the subject of Christmas Cards.
“I have seen many times on Christmas cards the old-fashioned straw skep or beehive figuring amongst the illustrations, but never in a single instance the modern frame hive, loaded with snow. On more than one occasion I have wished for a ‘Kodak’ so that I could snap a view of my apiary when the row of hives have been laden with with snow, and have taken friends to see the unique vision of a snow laden apiary. I am sure the view would inspire lovers of the beautiful in Nature with enthusiasm if they could share in the view.”