HISTORY OF THE SDBKA
By Tony Herbert, former Chairman (and subsequently updated)
From an obituary of the first chairman ECR White by JE Pinder, it appears that Salisbury & District Beekeepers' Association was formed in 1907. JE Pinder is known to have been Honorary Secretary in 1910, from a Salisbury & Winchester Journal entry from August 1910 describing the association's annual show. The photograph above, from 1907, shows that the Jenkins and Pinder ironmongery shop sold beekeeping equipment at that time. J.E. Pinder's son, Bernard presumably took over his father's shop, on the corner of Winchester Street and Endless Street in Salisbury, as well as his interest in keeping bees. JE Pinder passed the BBKA Preliminary exam in 1916, the Intermediate in 1919 and the Senior in 1922, and Bernard passed the BBKA Preliminary exam in 1920 and both the Intermediate and Senior exam in 1932.
There is evidence that the Association operated in the Woodford valley before the Second World War. Further documented evidence comes from 1942 editions of the Wiltshire Beekeepers Bulletin (WBK) (later to be replaced by Wiltshire Beekeepers gazette in 1948 and then Honey Bee Times in
1961). The May edition contains a list of 8 apiary meetings for Salisbury and in the July edition Mrs Teal is described as being secretary together with a list of some 6 local advisors for Salisbury, so the club must have been operating in some official capacity at that time. A formal constitution however was not established until the year 2000 (see later). There is also mention of insurance premiums for foul brood at 6d per member plus 1d for any hive in excess of 6. Salisbury was also busy with winter lectures. The September edition of WBK contains a list of lectures by various speakers in the Rechabite hall (Crane Street) and also records the beginnings of the ‘Honey Sub-mariners’ Scheme’, which Salisbury coordinated. This scheme presumably donated honey for the welfare of our submarine fleet and the November edition of the same year records that 1 cwt of honey had been donated.
Despite this concession to the war effort, Salisbury beekeepers appears to have been otherwise unaffected by the atrocities taking place abroad. Winter lectures were delivered by a variety of invited speakers throughout the war years; these usually being held in the Rechabite hall. Salisbury members were allocated 15lbs of sugar per hive in August 1943 for winter feed and this may have been an incentive to join a local club. This figure remained the same for the war years and for some years to follow. March 1943 records an allowance of an extra 5 lbs of sugar per member due to a particularly harsh winter. May 1943 records that brood disease insurance rose to 1s 6d for six stocks with a further 3d per additional colony. The first request for a registration of bees was recorded.
May 1943 saw the establishment of an Association apiary in the palace grounds in Salisbury Cathedral Close (where the workshops are now). Permission was granted for 4 colonies and this arrangement continued for the rest of the war with meetings being held every Saturday at 6.00pm during the summer months. These meetings attracted groups of 30 members on some occasions. 210 lbs of honey had now been donated to the submariners. In 1944 the apiary in the Close attracted H.J. Wadey (then editor of BeeCraft) to give a lecture and 20 members of the association were presented with the first BBKA certificates for the Preliminary examination.
Mrs Barter of Bishopstone started to record honey crop by placing a hive on scales and publishing the results. This continued for the next 30 years. January 1944 records the first mention of a Salisbury library and it is assumed this is the ‘Greville’ library, established following the donation of funds by the Hon. Louis Greville (see below) when he retired as a member.
A recurring event is the AGM, combined with Honey Show which took place in November of each year usually at a venue in either Salisbury or Amesbury. The opportunity was taken to invite a well-known speaker to encourage members to attend. 62 members were recorded as having attended the AGM in March 1945 where it was also recorded that the library had grown to more than 50 books. The apiary was moved in 1947 from its position in the Close to a site at the rear of the Old Deanery. The Royal Counties Agricultural Show was held in Hudson’s field (Salisbury) in 1948 with the honey
tent being successfully manned by the Salisbury branch. Field trips were organised for many summers to events such as the National Honey Show and Bath Honey Show as well as trips to Gales Honey farm and Roberts on the Isle of Wight. Salisbury regularly joined other associations at Lackham Agricultural College for the Annual Field Day.
Honey Shows have been important to some members and Stan Barter, Bernard King and John Read were prominent in showing at the larger shows with considerable success. Lastly from the review of Wiltshire Beekeepers Bulletins is the prominence of Ernest Sheppard who was so well known to all local beekeepers for his help towards new beekeepers and considerable knowledge of beekeeping in general. He joined the Salisbury branch in 1923 from Dorset and served as a popular president for about 12 years before dying in 1960.
The present Committee has access to formal minutes from and including 7th December 1955. The minutes document ‘matters arising’ from a previous meeting thereby confirming the existence of a thriving association. The meeting took place on a Wednesday evening at 7.30, a practice we still hold to today. The meeting was held at St. Thomas’s Boys School, now named Westwood St. Thomas after an amalgamation of Westwood County Girl’s Secondary Modern School and St. Thomas’s Boys school and currently stands in Bemerton Heath.
Further committee meetings were held in a variety of members’ houses, halls and local hostelries Membership in 1955 was recorded as 98, with a statement that ‘the low numbers following the war have now picked up and levelled off’. There was a marked drop to 53 in 1963 and an all time low of 49 in 1964, recovering to 65 by 1973 and now (2013) stands at a healthy 140 members.
There were an average of 3 meetings a year, without any set diary commitment, finishing with the AGM, usually being held around November. The minutes are very brief, and the most illuminating records come from hand-written notes submitted by officers at the AGM and attached to the minutes book with paper clips.
Regular comments centre around honey yield each year, price of honey, poor attendance at meetings and general apathy among members, attributed on several occasions to poor advertising and the fact that the committee had missed the publication date of the Wiltshire magazine ‘Honeybee Times’ and therefore members were unaware of the forthcoming events. It appears that group communication and advertising was a particular problem in earlier times and there is a proposal to send post cards to all members prior to meetings. A regular comment from the librarian was the low use of the Greville Library which dropped to only 6 loans a year in 1964. Our current records show that this apathy has continued and we now consider it is not worth adding to the collection since information is freely available on the internet and many members have the finance to purchase their own copies. We do however still provide core educational books for those members wishing to study for BBKA modules.
Mike Farrar joined the association in 1943 as Lecturer, was bee disease officer, president of Salisbury BKA and president of Wiltshire BKA. He retired from active beekeeping in 2006. (see past distriguished members below). A recurring theme to attract new members, was the initiative to man demonstrations at local shows. These appear to have been largely successful although there are comments that the fee for attendance made the venture less attractive for continued patronage and several shows were approached.
The minutes improve considerably in 1983, both in quality of typing and greater detail due perhaps to
the ability to photocopy notes and thereby circulate minutes. A further improvement can be seen from 1998 coinciding with the arrival of desktop publishing and e-mail. It is sobering thought to read that some members who gave much time to the association, rose to local prominence and then fade with time from advancing age or ill health only to appear in the minutes again as a posthumous note of thanks to be sent from the Chairman to a spouse in recognition of the enormous contribution the person had made to the association.
More recent milestones include:
The successful bid for National Lottery money in the year 2000 to establish a queen rearing programme, which precipitated for the first time the documentation of an association Constitution, as proof of a thriving club.
A website () was set up in 2010 as a successful way of attracting members and advertising future meetings, training courses, and association business. The new Association website (www.sdbka.org) was launched in 2018.
(11 November 2013)