We may think that our concern for bees is something relatively new but over a century ago, back in 1882, The Herefordshire Beekeepers Association was formed.

Image from many thousands held in Hereford Library's Outrider/ Alfred Watkins project

The aim of the organisation, partly funded by the Herefordshire County Council, was to travel around the countryside giving demonstrations of bee keeping and also magic lantern shows to illustrate and popularise the skills related to the art.

Alfred Watkins 1855~1935

One of the founding members, by the name of Alfred Watkins, was particularly keen to educate those locals who so often used to kill bees in great numbers whenever they were extracting the honeycombs from hives. 

For many more images and a great deal of related written material concerning Watkins and bee keeping, please see Hereford Council's History website.

Watkins was born into a wealthy business family who ran a flour mill, a brewery and a hotel in the city of Hereford. As he grew up he often travelled around the county and soon became a self-taught expert in local archeology. He was also very interested in the theory of ley lines after standing on a hillside on 30 June 1921 and experiencing a 'revelation' that most of the ancient Neolithic monuments set across the English countryside were connected by grids of straight lines. The term 'ley' was used because those lines tended to pass through places which had the letters that formed the syllables of 'ley' or 'ly' in them. However, he did not believe that there was any supernatural reason for the connections ~ simply that over the years the trackways would have been worn by travellers heading from one landmark to another. To demonstrate his theory he published Early British Trackways in 1922, and then The Old Straight Track in 1925.

Photography of Watkins Bee Meter, taken by Tony French

Another great interest was photography for which he was widely respected, and he took many pictures of wildlife, including his beloved bees. To do so he invented an exposure meter that was known as the 'Watkins Bee Meter' (one of which was taken by Robert F Scott when he travelled to the South Pole). Today thousands of Watkins' plates are still held at the Hereford Library and can be viewed on request.

Hereford Butter Market in 1860 - which can still be visited today.

The HBKA still exists and welcomes new member to learn the skills required for the keeping of bees. Each year they hold a 'honey show' the first of which was held at the Hereford Butter Market in 1910. The website of the HBKA is here

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