Download the July 2012 Kent Beekeepers Association newsletter.
Dartford celebrates 100 years of beekeeping
Beekeeping in Dartford has a long and influential history, and can claim to be one of the founding forces behind the KBKA. The current branch can trace its roots back to 1912 when the Crayford & District Beekeepers’ Association, which had been formed around the turn of the century, approached other beekeepers in Kent with a view to creating a county organisation. Four years later the Kent Beekeepers’ Association (KBKA) was formed and the Crayford group changed its name to the Dartford branch of the KBKA as Dartford was the market town for the area.
In 1932, the Dartford branch established its first clubhouse and apiary on Bedonwell Farm, Belvedere. Since then the apiary has had to relocate four times to sites in Erith, Birchwood, Longfield and, finally, to its current location at Tredegar Allotments, Dartford. It is still known as Bedonwell apiary in recognition of that first site 80 years ago.
The branch still has the original minutes from its first apiary meeting on 21 January 1932. Members agreed to buy shares in the apiary for one shilling (5p) each on the understanding that they would receive a dividend each year based on any profit the branch made. At that time, a single hive plus bees was valued at 40 shillings (£2).
During both world wars the government granted extra sugar rations to beekeepers to support their hobby on the basis that it provided a valuable source of food. In 1945 the accounts show that the branch sold 262lbs of honey for almost £29, whilst spending less than £5 on sugar to feed the bees through the winter. The profit that year was just over £10 and there were 526 shares in the branch.
In 1977, the club sent 25 jars of its honey to the Queen to celebrate the Silver Jubilee. The gift was evidently well received by Her Majesty and the club still has the thank you letter from the Palace.
The Chairman of the Dartford Beekeepers, William Mundy, has been keeping bees for 76 years and been a member of the branch for 75 years. During all that time, his only absence from the Association was during the Second World War when he was captured by the Japanese in the Far East and spent three and a half years in POW camps. Even then, he managed to keep bees in order to provide honey for medicinal use in the camp hospital.
Mr Mundy’s enthusiasm is as infectious as it is lasting. New members are always welcomed by the club, which holds an annual beginners’ course starting each autumn. Members meet regularly at the apiary and have an active program of talks and demonstrations by guest speakers. There is also an active schools programme and attendance at local events.
To celebrate 100 years of beekeeping in Dartford, the club is holding an open day at its apiary on Saturday 7 July – all are welcome. Please visit their website for directions and contact numbers. (website currently down)