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Rusholme & Victoria Park Archive

An Apiary in Fallowfield?

Birch Fold Cottage, Old Hall Lane.

Bee Keeper Journal

You may be surprised that Fallowfield should feature in a journal devoted to bee-keeping. A bee-keeper at Rainow in Cheshire, Peter Neville, sent me some archived material from the British Bee Journal published in August 1897. There was a regular column about the apiaries of Bee Journal readers and on that occasion it was the Secretary of the Lancashire and Cheshire Bee-Keepers Association. He was a Mr F H Taylor who lived at Birch Fold Cottage, (off of Old Hall Lane) which is the border of Rusholme and Fallowfield.
Birch Fold Cottage was reputed to be the oldest house in Rusholme, indeed William Royle in his History of Rusholme repeated the (myth?) that Oliver Cromwell had slept there. What clearly is on record is that Birch Fold Cottage was for many years the home of the Cottrell family, Thomas Lowe, who married two women in the Cottrell family, died there in 1892. The illustration below is from Thomas Royle’s History of Rusholme.

Oldest house in Rusholme

How long the widow of Thomas Lowe remained at the cottage is unclear, but by 1897 Mr Taylor was living at Birch Fold Cottage with a well-established Apiary. The journal opened its account;
“Few readers, knowing the reputation of Manchester for dirt and smoke, will believe that the picturesque cottage and garden we depict this week stands within three miles of the Exchange. Indeed, until quite recently people living a few minutes' walk were ignorant of it. But district secretarial work of the L and C. B K.A., and the numerous bee-meetings held at the "Cottage,’ have made it a household word with number of enthusiastic bee-keepers, who soon make themselves at home there. Mr. Taylor welcomes all and any who love the honey-bee and spring, summer, and autumn the place is the rendezvous of those wishing to learn of bees and of bee-keeping.

The watercolour painting below of Birch Fold Cottage belongs to Charlotte Broadbent, a great, great granddaughter of Thomas Lowe; It had belonged to her mother who described it as the family home. Charlotte has now very kindly offered the opportunity of displaying the watercolour.

Birch Fold cottage by E Wilson

"Writing to us on the honey production of the district, Mr. Taylor says “One cannot expect great results so near a large city as Manchester, yet I make the bees pay well. In 1894, four hives gave me 995 lb. of honey and five swarms. The largest "take" from a single hive was 82lb. of honey and one swarm, which latter yielded 28 lb. of honey and a virgin swarm. Even in such poor seasons as 1895 and 1896 the average was over 20 lb. per hive". On undertaking the duties of local hon. secretary to the L. and C. B.K.A. three years ago Mr. Taylor began with three members. There are now sixty on his list. Birch Fold Cottage in spring has been compared to a very " Paradise," and though the encroaching hand of the builder is visible around, we hope its present occupier will for years be enabled to retain the quaint old place as a " Home for the Honey-bee."

The illustration below is a drawing by Sarah Corbett who drew a number of homes in the locality

Birch Cottage 1888 by Sarah Corbett

"The late Mr. Pettigrew of big skep fame kept his bees within a quarter of a mile from the apiary which is the subject of the present notice; but, as stated in his ‘Handy Book’ on bee keeping, he found it a poor neighbourhood for bees. “They can barely keep themselves in ordinary season'' he says. Seeing, then, that Mr. Pettigrew failed with his famous skeps, it says much for modern management when so much better results are obtained by the intelligent use of frame hives.
The apiary, (photo below), now numbers eighteen hives— sixteen frame hives and two skeps — scattered all over the garden, as seen in the photo. The hives are built on modern principles and the influence of this apiary extends far beyond its own district, which, of itself, is extensive, for we learn that its owner has correspondence with bee-keepers so far away as Palestine in the east, to Brazil in the west".

The hives in the garden of Birch Fold

"Birch Fold Cottage stands in a large old- fashioned garden, nearly an acre in extent, and plentifully supplied with fruit trees of every kind and an abundance of flowers all through the year when blooming is possible. Crocus first appear, succeeded later with Limnanthes. Borage grown in great masses causes keen delight. Then in autumn there are giant balsams, grown by hundreds indeed, the place is sometimes called " Balsam Forest".

The photograph below is of the back garden of Birch Fold cottage and is presumed to be of Mr Taylor and bee-keeping friends.

Bee-keeping friends of Mr Taylor

Now although that is the end of the article in the Bee-keepers journal I can well imagine that readers will presume that was the last of bee-keeping in this locality. However, during the 1970’s, I lived on Conyngham Road in Victoria Park and the adjoining property was No.2 Conygham Road, generally known as Mr Hadfields, (now Lane Court), photo below.

Mr Hadfields, No 2 Conyngham Road

The house was used as offices for the Building Trades Federation and the caretaker lived in the old coach house. I cannot remember the name of the caretaker, but he kept bees and the hives were spread across the extensive garden of No. 2 Conyngham Rd. Again, I cannot remember the detail, but when the caretaker told me about the amount of honey he collected from his hives I really was surprised……………if there are aspiring bee-keepers in Rusholme or Fallowfield perhaps there is an opportunity to revive a past hobby.