The Bee Shelter, Hartpury
Fresh from the success
of the caterpillar episode, we pulled off the main road and followed the signs
to 'Bee Shelter'. Mum, Bear and certainly me had never seen or heard of one, so
we went to find out.
The Bee Shelter is a freestanding
structure, highly decorative, measuring twenty five feet long, eight feet high
by two foot six deep, it has twenty eight individual compartments known as
'boles' to take the 'skeps' and five shelves below. It can be seen
as the culmination of many types of structure built since Anglo-Saxon times
to house bee skeps. The need for such buildings died out with the development of
the wooden bee hive in the mid nineteenth century. The era of the skep was over.
The last recorded use of wicker skeps was in Herefordshire in the 1880's, but
straw skeps continued to be used into the 1930's - few bee boles were built
after 1850. The sole purpose of a bee shelter was to protect the bee skeps.
The stone carving is very ornamental, and the
building is described by the International Bee Research Association (never heard
of it) as exceptional - "an unique historic monument". There are no
known similar structures anywhere else in the world.
Hartpury has a long tradition of bee
keeping. The Domesday Book states that Gloucester annually paid twelve sesters
or twenty four pounds of honey to King Edward, and in 1260 it is recorded that
tenants from the manor of Hartpury, owned by Gloucester Abbey, held land in
return for payments of honey. By custom tithes were not payable on bees, but
only on their produce. An ancient treatise on the law of tithes in 1743 states
'...it hath been adjudged that they (tithes) shall not be paid
in kind, by the tenth swarm; but that the tenth measure of honey, and the tenth
pound of wax, shall be sufficient' an example of ecclesiastical
Honey and Beeswax have always had a
very close connection with the Church. In the ancient world, indeed until the
eighteenth century, it was commonly believed that honey had a heavenly origin.
In 1609, the Reverend Charles Butler explained in his beekeeping book 'the
greatest plentie of the purest nectar commeth from above which almightie God
doth miraculously destill out of the aire.... The very quintessence of all the
sweetness of the earth..... drawne up..... and condensed by the nightly cold
into this most sweete and soveraigne nectar: and then doth it descend unto the
earth in a dew or smale drizling raine.'
Reverend Charles Butler also said
'For your bee-garden first choose
some plot nigh your home, that the Bees may be in sight and hearing, because of
swarming, fighting, or some other sodaine happe, wherein they may need your
present helpe. Your garden of herbes and flowers is fit for the purpose. See
that it be safe, and surely fenced, not onlie from cattaile.... but also from
the violence of windes, that when the Bees come laden and weary home, they may
Originally thought to be of Caen
stone, it is now established that the Bee Shelter was built in the mid
nineteenth century by bee-keeping stonemason and quarry master Paul
Tuffley using local (Cotswold) stone that came from quarries worked by the
Tuffley family. Intended to house bee skeps - it was assembled in his ornemental
garden in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. His house subsequently became part of the
town police station and in the 1960's this was closed and the site planned for
redevelopment, the Bee Shelter was threatened with destruction. It was saved by
volunteers from the Gloucester Beekeeping Association, who dismantled it and,
with the encouragement of the principal of Hartpury Agricultural College,
reassembled it in the college grounds.
It has been suggested that the Bee
Shelter may have been built for an order that was for some reason not fulfilled.
There is some evidence that it was not originally intended for Paul Tuffley's
garden, but might have been reduced in size to fit there. The repossession of
Tuffley's home by his mortgagee in 1852 suggests the possibility that an
intending purchaser had defaulted on payment. A second theory is that the
Tuffley family, being quarry masters and having the stone, the means and the
men, might have intended the shelter as an advertisement of their capabilities.
In the 1840's they had supplied stone for the building of the new Palace of
Westminster and were then striving to retain the contract against fierce
opposition (which eventually prevailed) from, ironically, Caen in Normandy. This
being the case, a structure such as the Bee Shelter might well have been
prepared as an exhibition piece illustrating the uses of different types
Cotswold stone available. We may never know.
To be sold by
auction, by Tabram & Son
At the GEORGE
HOTEL, NAILSWORTH, on THURSDAY, APRIL 27th, 1882, at Six in
valuable FREEHOLD PROPERTY viz:-
Lot 1. - An
exceedingly well-built and pleasantly situated DWELLING-HOUSE, with Greenhouse,
and Brewhouse with two Rooms over, an ornamental stone-carved Beehouse to hold
28 hives, Lawn and large Garden well stocked with choice Fruit Trees, situate
in Chapel-street, Nailsworth, and now in the occupation of Mr E.
This Lot will be
sold with a right of way into "Tanner's Piece"
Lot 2. - A
DWELLING-HOUSE and Garden, with detached Shop and Room over, situate
adjoining the above, in the occupation of Mr John Roberts.
particulars apply to Messers G. B. and A. K. Smith, Solicitors; or to
The finials, roof
ridge-crests, roof slabs, lower Doric columns and bases, and the left and right
gable wall plinths were originally composed of Minchinhampton weatherstone of
the Middle Jurssic, Great Oolite Series; later repairs were not of the same
material. The thin roof slabs may even be from the Planking beds. The most
extensive weatherstone workings were at the Hampton or Crane quarries on
Minchinhampton Common, Gloucestershire. These were leased to the Tuffleys before
1856. The remainder of the Shelter, the panels, wall plates, shelves, shelf
fronts, divisions, arches and gable walls above the plinth height were
originally of Lower Freestone of generic 'Painswick' type of the Middle Jurassic
Inferior Oolite, Painswick stone (there will be a test later) is often confused
with Caen. Known as 'building freestone' by the Victorians, quarries in the area
were listed by Edwin Witchell in 1882 at Painswick Hill, Quar Hill, The Frith,
Walls and Balls Green. The Tuffleys leased Balls Green quarries. The 1968
repairs and additions used second hand stone of either 'Painswick' or 'Bath'
type. The Bath stone may originally have been quarried at Combe Down. This
was used in 1968 for both the weatherstone and freestone repairs. The original
slabs were cut with a crosscut (two-man) saw, or, a frigbob (one man)
saw from previously squard and scabbled blocks. Axe marks - typically three
inch - are found underneath some of the shelves, showing that it was the first
piece sawn from the block. Typically this axe and saw work was performed
underground. Once sawn the surfaces were finished off with a drag. The visible
tooling marks on the original stonework are typically Victorian, using all the
then current technology - routing, core-drilling, sawing, fretting and
Restoration: Over the last few years
the Bee Shelter had begun to deteriorate, with the ornamental stonework breaking
and eroding to an extent that English Heritage became concerned and put it on
the schedule of listed buildings at risk. The Shelter was given to Hartpury
Historic Land and Buildings Trust by Hartpury College, and with lottery funding
and help from a number of charities, other organisations and many individuals,
has saved it for the second time in its history. It has now been re-erected in
Hartpury's churchyard in a restoration by expert stonemasons, giving the public
full access at any time.
Lovely to find a churchyard that was
ALL IN ALL WHO WOULD HAVE