March 5, 2024


y2000-cover-thumbThe following article appeared in the 2000 Year Book and gives an interesting insight into the history of our association and some of the individuals responsible for the development of the association during this period. It is interesting to note that the existing association is the fourth, the previous three having failed after relatively short periods.

  • Bedfordshire Beekeepers Association 1883 – 1901
  • Bedfordshire Beekeepers Association 1909 – 1916
  • South Bedfordshire Beekeepers Association 1910 – 1913
  • Bedfordshire Beekeepers Association 1922 – present

This article has been reproduced from an original copy of the 2000 Year Book. Although we have tried to be faithful to the text of the article there may have been some adjustments to formatting. I hope you enjoy the read.




In 1961 the Hon. Secretary Mr Ken Briggs was asked to research and write an article on the past of the Association from its beginning in 1922 to appear in the Ruby Anniversary Year Book of 1962, described on the front cover as a “Souvenir Edition”. Well Ken did a splendid job and it appeared as planned and it was not signed and I noticed there was nothing in that Year Book attributing Ken to the article which was plainly entitled “Beekeeping in Bedfordshire”.

Twenty years later in 1982 I was asked to update the article and this (without the list of Officers) was printed in the 1984 Year Book which is reproduced. In 1999 our Year Book Editor asked me to bring the record up to date for publication in this 2000 Year Book, so the minutes and year books since then have been consulted and a list naming every President, Secretary, Treasurer and Librarian elected.

An article appeared in the B.B.K.A. November issue news sheet, stating that “Beds.B.K.A. celebrate their centenary in 1983”. This raised several comments as to how we could mark this important event – truth is we are the fourth Association to be formed.


With the formation in 1874 of the British Beekeeper’s Association, County Associations of beekeepers became more numerous, and in due course an Association was formed in Bedfordshire in 1883 with the Revd. L R Whigham, Rector of Millbrook, as its Honary Secretary. The first Annual Meeting of the Association was in 1884 when the President was Earl Cowper K.G. and two members of parliament were included in the list of Vice-Presidents. The Revd. Whigham who had resigned as Hon. Secretary in December 1883 was succeeded by the Revd. N Royds of Little Barford: seven other Priests in Holy Orders were also serving on the Committee. Subscriptions were 5/- for Full Membership, 2/6d for artisans and cottagers, and 1/- for the labouring classes. The income was £28:15:6d from which it would appear that each of the 114 members paid at least 5/-. The Association ceased to exist after 1901, most probably owing to the ravages of the so-called “Isle of Wight Disease”, a catastrophe which could not have been foreseen when an article in the “Bedfordshire Times” of the 10th of March 1883 said of the newly formed Association “we have before us a prospectus of the new Bedfordshire Beekeeper’s Association and from it we learn that the movement has been taken up by a number of ladies and gentlemen whose names are a guarantee that it will not be allowed to languish for want of energetic patronage”.

Some years later the British Bee Journal reported the “first meeting of the Bedfordshire Beekeeper’s Association held at the Cookery School, Dame Alice Street, Bedford on 2nd July 1909 with C W Kaye, late Headmaster of Bedford Modern School in the Chair”. Sir H Trustram Eve was the President of this Association, which had a membership of 63, an income of £10:2:0d and a life of only seven years, it apparently ceased to exist in 1916

Meanwhile in 1910 the South Bedfordshire Beekeepers Association had been born; had flourished for three years, and in 1913 finally died.

It was to be the privilege of a fourth “Bedfordshire Beekeeper’s Association” to realise the ideal expressed in the “Bedfordshire Times” article of 1883 “We can only hope that what is now begun somewhat tentatively may grow to be an important and permanent institution in the County, yielding to its members and to others whom it may stimulate a large amount of pleasure and profit”. This Association- our present Association – was formed in 1922 and has for 40 years, made its contribution to the cultural, social and economic life of our County.

The inaugural meeting took place at the Girl’s Evening Club, Bromhani Road, Bedford on Thursday 28th September, 1922. The pages of the original Minute Book, now yellow with age, recorded seven names: Dr. W A P Martin, Mr. N Lowis, Mr. R Turner, Mr. J Mowe, Mr. E F Thevenard, Mrs. Bateman, Mrs. Sanderson. Of these seven a Committee of five was formed: Dr. Martin- Chairman; Mr. Thevenard – Hon. Secretary; Mr. Turner-Hon. Treasurer; Mrs. Bateman, and Mr. J Hamson a co-opted member.

The Committee was instructed to appeal, through the press and by letter, to beekeepers and sympathisers throughout the County, and to report progress at the next General Meeting on the 12th October, 1922.

At this third meeting, Sir H Trustram Eve, President, was in the Chair and the membership had grown to 24, amongst the new members being Mr. F Holland and Mr. T Seckstone. The meeting was followed by a lecture by Mr. Herrod-l-lempsall, to whom was accorded a vote of thanks, both for his lecture and for his offer to pay the first years Affiliation Fee to the British Beekeepers Association.

At the next meeting on the 10th January, I923, Mr. F Holland was appointed District Representative for Dunstable.

In May 1923 an Association label for use on honey jars and sections was designed by the Chairman, Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer.

In August that year, Mr. Seckstone was appointed District Representative for Limbury. And in October he was Honey Judge at an exhibition in Bedford. In the same year, the Minute Book records a vote of thanks to Messers. Robert Lee of Uxbridge for a gift of wax foundation.

In 1924 the first Yearbook was published, and by then the membership had increased to 138. It carried a full-page advertisement by Messers. Robert Lee, and included in the list of members, E H Taylor, the Herrod-Hempsall brothers and the Duke of Bedford. This then, was the beginning. The Hon. Treasurer during the Association’s first seven years is now our President; at the 1962 AGM Alderman Turner was re-elected, and he is now in his twentieth Presidential Year. Mr Holland, President of the Association in 1939 and 1940 and a Vice-President since 1941, is extremely busy as D.R. for Dunstable. He has filled this post since it was created in January 1923, a record which will surely never be equalled. Mr. Seckstone, who judged at the first Association Honey Show, travelled many miles in 1961 to judge at Honey Shows in Luton, Watford and other centres. The queens he donated as prizes for earlier shows were the first of thousands to be reared commercially, and he is still active in this business.

Mr. A J Howlett who held many offices from 1923 onwards, still loves to chat about bees, having had to give up his bees three years ago. Mr. C B Wilks who served for 25 years as D.R. for Leighton Buzzard, is as interested as ever in the affairs of our Association. Mr. S E Cannon, who joined in 1924 was one of the first to support the Co-operative Purchase Scheme introduced in 1959, and was first to place an order for 1962. Mr. Kent who served for 11 years as D.R. for Ampthill from 1944 to 1954, returned to the committee in 1961 as D.R. for Leighton Buzzard, where our membership was increasing dramatically from 5 to 18. More names could be added to this list, all of them faithful servants of the Association, but to include them all would fill our Year Book several times over.

And what of the future? The growth of our Association has fluctuated since it’s beginning; the war years brought about a boom in beekeeping, and inevitably a slump followed. But we believe the decline has been halted, and that our membership will now increase – indeed, the benefits of membership are such that no beekeeper can afford to remain outside.

The tremendous interest shown at the Summer Meetings, and even more so at the Winter Meetings, is a sure indication that the life of an Association, as of an individual, really does begin at forty!

Those then are the words of Ken Briggs, the Association’s only Honorary Member, who was secretary at that time. What of events since 1962? I have been consulting the Minutes, and have gleaned the following.

The subscription, as from the 1st January, 1963, was raised from 7 shillings to 10 shillings; here in 1984 it is £4. The membership reached its peak in 1950 and then slowly declined. The last 5 years however, have shown a steady increase.

For the past 30 years members have been taking exams to gain proficiency certificates; a small proportion continue to be interested in more advanced study of the bee, and they seem to be very successful in their efforts.

A study group was formed during March 1968 that flourished for a few years, and folded up through lack of interest in December 1975. This was mainly due to evening classes being established at Hastingsbury School in Kempston – which still continue to be held today. Speakers of some note used to visit Bedford in the early years and it would seem that this trend has continued. Dr. Eva Crane, Ingrid Williams, Mrs. Clark, Clara Furness, Messers Arthur Dines, Harrison Ashforth, A V Pavord, Cecil Tonsley, I lerrod – Hempsall, John Powell, Ted Hooper, George Knights, and some I have surely missed, have delivered talks to our members. The Social Evenings, over the years, have been held in venues ranging from a Public House to the Sculpture Gallery at Woburn Abbey. On the whole they have been well supported, mostly by the hard core stalwarts.

The Honey Shows of the past must have been something to see; there seemed to be an abundance of them in this area, and it was minuted “that an extra judge was deemed necessary just to judge member’s honey”.

Our current President, Mr. W G Ruff, was Show Secretary for many years, and over the years there are many mentions of him and Mrs. Ruff.

Today there are very few professional beekeepers as members. In these modern times the professionals become members of the “Bee Farmers Association” and have little use for an amateur Association. I am happy to say we still have a few who were taught by “the old school” and very successful they are – one such is ‘Charlie’ Wilks who was mentioned earlier and is still a regular committee member, still keeps several apiaries going; he has difficulty removing supers but “thoroughly enjoys his bees”. Charles was again President from 1975 to 1979 – 40 years after his previous two years.

We had the first lady President in Mrs Jean Purcell who succeeded Mr. Wilks. She has through the years, been Show Secretary, Yearbook Editor and Vice Chairman. Her main objectives centre on education, and she runs classes on advanced study in preparation for Intermediate and Senior exams. Recently she had the honour of being elected to the Executive Committee or the B.B.K.A. and she is also on the Executive Committee of the National Honey Show.

One memorable occasion was when a deputation visited Richard Turner on the eve of his 100th birthday. How thrilled he was to meet us and recalled the committee members of those first years with great clarity, and was delighted that the Association was still thriving. Alas he was not to reach his 101st birthday, and in his passing we lost our final remaining link with the founders.

A name which does not appear on the list is Robert Hammond NDB, the 1996 yearbook mentions him for the first time in the AGM report which stated “he had joined the Education Department of the County Council as County Beekeeping Instructor, and had been co-opted onto the Committee. He had organised courses of instruction in beekeeping which, the Chairman, Alderman Richard Turner thought” would be of benefit to beekeepers” and how right his thought proved to be, for Bob’s teachings have been influential in the Association until the end of the 90’s. He was also a great motivator and was expert at twisting arms when volunteers were needed.

A former student of Eva Crane he knew everyone who was anyone in the BBKA and I believe he was a founder member of BDI. He died in 1976. His teaching courses were carried on by Mrs. Jean Purcell who served on the Committee for many years as Show Secretary and Year Book Editor. She resigned from the Association during 1986 when she and her family moved to a London suburb.

Alan Sunman took over the Presidential role from Wilf Ruff in 1986 and a photograph shows them with Jean Purcell at the 1983 AGM. Alan had only been a member for a short time before he found himself in the role of Secretary, a task he did for three years, later he did a seven-year term as Chairman until 1984 when he had a four year break and re-elected Chairman until 1994. Alan who is now a retired Headmaster had skilfully steered the way through two or three hectic AGMs.

The next president was Robert Porter a retired Lt-Col in the Royal Artillery, I had known him for many years before I discovered he held such a rank, for he never spoke of his military exploits. He joined the Association in 1973 and in 1980 became Brood Disease Officer until 1985. In 1986 he became our Treasurer before handing over to John Martin in 1990. He was elected President in 1993 until the 1999 AGM. Sadly his obituary can be found in this Year Book. He was a warm friendly man always very helpful and we are missing him.

It was suggested at the 1984 AGM that the Association should consider becoming a Registered Charity and it was referred to Committee. After discussing the matter it was agreed we do try to gain Charitable Status and the task fell on the shoulders of the then Vice President Harry Harrison, it proved to be a tedious job, but his efforts were rewarded when in 1986 it was granted. Also in 1986 Bedfordshire BKA made a vow to sever it’s affiliation to the BBKA for it was felt we were not getting value from them for the subscription they demanded, we had visits from the current President Dr. Harry Riches and the Secretary Kingsley Law of the BBKA, but they both failed to convince us. A ballot was held and all members were sent a ballot paper and a stamped addressed envelope, about three quarters of the membership responded and the result was clear two to one in favour of breaking our ties with the BBKA and this became a milestone in our history.

Some events of the past that I miss- the annual trips to Woodland Apiaries and Taylors of Welwyn.

Events that seem to have been lost – Harvest Festival Service, Bedford Market Stall and Association Apiary Meetings.

Positive events – offering theoretical and practical courses for beginners.

Members no longer with us I was privileged to know:

  • Richard Turner – an elder statesman who showed interest in our Association to the end.
  • Robert Hammond – he managed to teach me about beekeeping.
  • Charles Wilks – a thoroughly nice man, always pleased to see you.
  • Bernard Kent – a quiet, gentle giant of a BDO.
  • Harry Harrison – a capable man who took on and gained us Charity Status. He was too young to depart.
  • R D W Smith – a man of the country and full of support, a good committee member.
  • Alf Sizer – for the incredible Open Meetings we shared with North Bucks BKA.
  • Cyril Bird – for his Open Meetings followed by the goodies he prepared and also a good friend.
  • Alf Cave – a keen committee man, he loved to be involved and a keen DIY enthusiast.
  • Vic Abraham – A real genuine farmer, a late starter with bees, he was a great supporter.
  • Leslie Gingel – he started keeping bees very young and knew some of the greats.

Ken Briggs wrote a moving tribute to him in the 1983 Yearbook and he summed him up in one sentence “If one man in particular can be said to have been more influential than any other during the first half of the century he is surely Richard Turner”.

The 1891 document preceding this article came to me at the last minute and appears to be a copy of a copy etc. The paragraph at the bottom of the first page I have repeated here as it may prove difficult to read.

“The object of this Association is the encouragement, improvement and advancement of Bee Culture in the County, particularly as a means of bettering the condition of Artisans, Cottagers and the Labouring Classes, as well as the advocacy of humanity to the industrious labourer” – The Honey Bee.


Year President Treasurer Secretary Librarian
1922 Sir H Trustram Eve R Turner E F Thevenard
1923 Sir H Trustram Eve R Turner E F Thevenard
1924 Sir H Trustram Eve R Turner E F Thevenard
1925 Sir H Trustram Eve R Turner E F Thevenard
1926 Sir H Trustram Eve R Turner E F Thevenard
1927 Sir Richard Wells R Turner E F Thevenard
1928 Brig Gen W Warner R Turner E F Thevenard
1929 Lt Col Talbot Jarvis W H Wooding E F Thevenard
1930 H Preedy W H Wooding E F Thevenard N Lowis
1931 N P Symonds W H Wooding E F Thevenard N Lowis
1932 A Scott Cooper W H Wooding J Boaler N Lowis
1933 C B Wilkes W H Wooding J Boaler N Lowis
1934 C B Wilkes W H Wooding J Boaler N Lowis
1935 The Rev Filewood W H Wooding E A Allen N Lowis
1936 The Rev Filewood W H Wooding E A Allen N Lowis
1937 F Kenworthy W H Wooding E A Allen N Lowis
1938 F Kenworthy W H Wooding E A Allen T Lucas
1939 F Holland W H Wooding E A Allen T Lucas
1940 F Holland W H Wooding E A Allen T Lucas
1941 T F Marsh W H Wooding T F Marsh T Lucas
1942 E A Allen W H Wooding T F Marsh T Lucas
1943 R Turner W H Wooding T F Marsh T Lucas
1944 R Turner W H Wooding T F Marsh T Lucas
1945 R Turner G S Turner T F Marsh T Lucas
1946 R Turner T J Bell T F Marsh T Lucas
1947 R Turner T J Bell T F Marsh T Lucas
1948 R Turner R Empsall T F Marsh T Lucas
1949 R Turner R Empsall T F Marsh T Lucas
1950 R Turner R Empsall T F Marsh T Lucas
1951 R Turner R Empsall T F Marsh T Lucas
1952 R Turner R Empsall L Chesher T Lucas
1953 R Turner R Empsall L Chesher T Lucas
1954 R Turner R Empsall S McCullagh T Lucas
1955 R Turner R Empsall S McCullagh T Lucas
1956 R Turner R Empsall S McCullagh H G Murray
1957 R Turner J Ashby S McCullagh Lt Col Young
1958 R Turner J Ashby K C Briggs Lt Col Young
1959 R Turner Lt Col Young K C Briggs Lt Col Young
1960 R Turner Lt Col Young A J Rayner Lt Col Young
1961 R Turner Lt Col Young A J Rayner Lt Col Young
1962 R Turner Dr B J Wagg A J Rayner Lt Col Young
1963 R Turner Dr B J Wagg K C Briggs Lt Col Young
1964 R Turner Dr B J Wagg K C Briggs Lt Col Young
1965 R Turner Dr B J Wagg G B Edwards Lt Col Young
1966 R Turner Dr B J Wagg W D Allen Lt Col Young
1967 R Turner K C Briggs W D Allen Lt Col Young
1968 R Turner K C Briggs W D Allen Lt Col Young
1969 R Turner K C Briggs W D Allen Lt Col Young
1970 R Turner K C Briggs A A Sunman A Billington
1971 H Jeffs K C Briggs A A Sunman E Headleand
1972 H Jeffs K C Briggs A A Sunman E Headleand
1973 H Jeffs R E Maskell P Jones E Headleand
1974 H Jeffs N H Inman P Jones E Headleand
1975 H Jeffs N H Inman P Jones E Headleand
1976 C B Wilkes N H Inman P Jones E Headleand
1977 C B Wilkes N H Inman R J Sherwood P Stanbury
1978 C B Wilkes N H Inman J T Martin P Stanbury
1979 Mrs J Purcell N H Inman J T Martin P Stanbury
1980 Mrs J Purcell N H Inman J T Martin P Stanbury
1981 Mrs J Purcell N H Inman J T Martin P Stanbury
1982 Mrs J Purcell N H Inman J T Martin P Stanbury
1983 W G Ruff N H Inman J T Martin P Stanbury
1984 W G Ruff N H Inman J T Martin P Stanbury
1985 W G Ruff N H Inman J T Martin P Stanbury
1986 A A Sunman Lt Col R M Porter J T Martin I Beaty
1987 A A Sunman Lt Col R M Porter J T Martin I Beaty
1988 A A Sunman Lt Col R M Porter J T Martin I Beaty
1989 A A Sunman Lt Col R M Porter J T Martin Z Kuzmanov
1990 A A Sunman J T Martin J T Martin Z Kuzmanov
1991 A A Sunman J T Martin J T Martin Z Kuzmanov
1992 A A Sunman J T Martin J T Martin R W Smith
1993 Lt Col R M Porter J T Martin J T Martin R W Smith
1994 Lt Col R M Porter J T Martin I Beaty R W Smith
1995 Lt Col R M Porter J T Martin I Beaty R W Smith
1996 Lt Col R M Porter J T Martin I Beaty R W Smith
1997 Lt Col R M Porter J T Martin I Beaty R W Smith
1998 Lt Col R M Porter J T Martin I Beaty R W Smith
1999 R J Sherwood P Walton I Beaty R W Smith
2000 xxx xxx xxx xxx


R J Sherwood, January 2000