William Woodley: Early Years At Stanmore (beekeeping documentary)

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.

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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]

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Mr Woodley’s Hilltop Cottage apiary, Stanmore, Beedon.


“In addition to the home-apiary, with its over a hundred hives, shown in the illustration, Mr. Woodley has an out-apiary of fifty to sixty hives at Stanmore, a little over two miles from his house at Beedon.  This entails considerable labour during the Summer months, and the only help he gets in all the actual work at both apiaries is that of Mrs. Woodley, who may be taken an ideal bee-man’s wife.  To use her husband’s own worth, “she has proved a true helpmeet in everything pertaining to the work in the apiary, either in hiving and packing swarms, folding and preparing sections for putting on the hives, cleaning and glazing sections after removal from the hives, for show or market, and thus handling in some way nearly all the output for the past fifteen years from both apiaries.  The only help we have being that of an old man to watch for and hive swarms into straw skeps of the out-apiary during the swarming season.” – The British Bee Journal of  January 1909

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