Saturday 19 January 2013

Lady Georgina Vernon, Hanbury Hall beekeeper.

I keep my bees at Hanbury Hall in the village of Hanbury in Worcestershire ( which is now owned by the National Trust.  When it was still in private hands it was owned by the Vernon family (  Lady Georgina Vernon (1840 - 1928) was one of the family who lived at the property who was reputed to be a beekeeper.

Lady Georgina Vernon (c) National Trust

Out of interest, as the current beekeeper, I did some investigation to find out about Lady Georgina's involvement with beekeeping and any mention of Hanbury and beekeeping, the rest of this post shows my findings.

In 1874, the British Beekeeping Association was instituted as with the aim of “Encouragement, Improvement and Advancement of Bee Culture in the United Kingdom, particularly as a means of bettering the Condition of Cottagers and the Agricultural Labouring Classes” (DAVIS, et al.). However, it was initially established as a London based association.

Two years later, in 1876, Lady Vernon founded a Worcestershire Beekeepers association.  Little is known about this association except that it held a honey show, but by 1883 had “fallen to the ground through lack of support” (WBKA Secretary, 1883)

On 14th October 1882, a meeting was held in the Guildhall, Worcester to establish a Worcestershire Beekeeping Association with the aims of “Encouragement of cottagers keeping bees and keeping them in the most humane and profitable way.” (Worcestershire Chronicle, 1882) At the first committee meeting of the newly formed association of around 50 members, Lady Vernon was asked to be one of the vice-presidents together with a number of local worthies including the Earl of Dudley, the Lord Bishop and Dean of Worcester and two local MPs.

At the Worcestershire Agricultural Show held at Pershore in August 1884, the association organised a honey show in which Lady Vernon exhibited a number of combs of honey, described in a newspaper report of the show as “remarkable for the evenness with which they were built”, although she was beaten into second place in the comb section class by another beekeeper from Hanbury! (Berrow's Worcester Journal, 1884)

Lady Georgina remained a vice-president of the association for 12 years, until 1894.  Although the vice-presidents appear to be local worthies in a similar way that organisations have “patrons” now, she must have attended the AGM on a regular basis because in 1885 Lady Georgina was asked to draw the ballot at the AGM for a lucky member to win a beehive!  The “Ballot for a beehive” seems to have been an established tradition every year.  Possibly it was an incentive to encourage members to attend the AGM!

At the very first AGM, the “Ballot for a Beehive” was won by Rev. Ogilvy, who was the vicar of Hanbury. Rev. Ogilvy was involved with the association from the start.  He served on the committee of the new WBKA for many years.  Beekeeping must have been a common hobby for the clergy because in total there were 6 vicars on the association’s committee out of a total of 21!

The Rev. Ogilvy must have been a knowledgeable beekeeper because he was asked to act as one of the judges at the first show in 1883. It is not known if he was involved, but in 1894/5, there were courses being offered in beekeeping as part of the “Technical Education” administered by Hanbury School. (Hanbury School, 1884/5)

Works Cited

Berrow's Worcester Journal. 1884. Worcestershire Agricultural Show at Pershore. Berrow's Worcester Journal. Saturday 2nd August, 1884.
DAVIS, Ivor and BBKA. BBKA - The History. British Beekeeping Association. [Online] [Cited: 12 09, 2012.]
Hanbury School. 1884/5. Timetable of Classes. 1884/5. Worcestershire Archives BA11198 xxxiii.
WBKA Secretary. 1883. Minute Book 1883 - 1906  1883. Worcestershire Record Office BA12701.
Worcestershire Chronicle. 1882. Proposed Beekeepers association for Worcestershire. Worcestershire Chronicle. 21st October, 1882.