Essays in Beekeeping History: William Broughton Carr (Part 1)

From Bee Craft: November 2009

Karl Showier

The WBC hive is still in use today and epitomises the English country garden


William Broughton Carr as a young man

William Cowan, whilst owner of the British Bee Journal (BBJ), described the life of Broughton Carr on two occasions. Firstly, on appointing him as assistant editor of his publication in January 1890 and secondly, in an obituary in February 1909. The latter is, to a degree, based on the former but together gives a general picture of Broughton, paying tribute to his evenness of temper and high moral character.

Broughton was well known in British beekeeping circles. He had established himself as a beekeeper of national repute. He was also a honey showman and judge. He was chosen to judge bee products at the prestigious Royal Agricultural Show held in Windsor in 1889 and was latterly a British Beekeepers’ Association Examiner.

William Broughton Carr should not be confused with William Carr, of Newton Heath, Manchester. The latter was a well established beekeeper and contributor to the BBJ in the 1870s but he also produced the Carr-Stewarton Hive and took part in the BBKA sponsored tour of Ireland in 1880 with Charles Nash Abbott.


William Broughton Carr was bom in 1836. His parents were Robert and Ann Carr, butchers, of Bracewell, Yorkshire. The family moved to Liverpool when Broughton was 5 years old. At the time of the 1851 census, the Carrs were living at 76 Mount Pleasant. Broughton, then aged 14, had three brothers all living at home, together with a sister-in-law and her baby, and a brother-in-law. At that time Broughton was a copper-plate engraver.

In the spring of 1861, Broughton, now aged 25, married Margaret (1839-1901) a 22-year-old girl from Edinburgh. They continued to live at the parental home now located at 4 Rosemount, Liverpool. The census shows that, in addition to his parents, there were two unmarried sons (22 and 20), a son-in-law aged 36 and his wife Anne aged 29, a widowed daughter-in-law, Anne Carr, and her son John, together with a servant girl Maria Harrison, aged 15.


A WBC hive as shown in Root’s catalogue

At his parents’ house Broughton and Margaret had their first two children-Minnie, born in 1862, and Frederick in 1864 who, in due course, became an active beekeeper.

In the decade preceding the 1871 census they moved out of Liverpool to Rock Ferry on the south bank of the Mersey. It was here that their third child, Charles, was born in 1866.

However, the family’s stay at Rock Ferry was limited as the Carrs then moved to Green Lane Cottage, Green Lane, Higher Bebington, a more rural area.

In the 1871 census Broughton was shown as a copper engraver established in his own home. The family was steadily increasing. Minnie was then aged 9, Frederick 7, Charles 5 and there was a new baby, Charlotte aged 2, who was the first to be born at Higher Bebington. Living with the family were his parents and a Swedish copper-plate engraver, 24-year-old J Oscar Molander, who may well have helped Broughton catch his first swarm.

For the 1881 census, the Carrs were at Greenway Lane, Higher Bebington. Broughton was shown as a copperplate printer in addition to engraver. Minnie, now 19, was a music seller’s assistant, Frederick, 17, a joiner improver and Charles, 15, an engraver apprentice. Charlotte, 12, was entered in the census as a scholar (the census term for school child) as was Lilian, 9, together with two more sons, William aged 4 and George, 1. At the time of the census there was also resident in the house Albert Kelly, aged 18, a book-keeper.

By the 1891 census, the Carrs had moved to North Cray, Orpington, Kent. Here Broughton described himself as an Editor and Author. Also at home on census night were Charlotte, 22, single, George, 11, and, born since the last census, Margaret aged 9.


William Broughton Carr, wearing a smock, uncapping frames prior to extracting their honey in a radial extractor. Another knife is warming nearby

Ten years later, the Carrs had moved to 45 Morley Road, Orpington. In this I 1901 census Broughton described himself as a sub-editor. Several of the adult children were still at home: Charlotte, Lilian May, recorded as a journalist, William, George and Margaret.

By this time at least two members of the Carr family had become involved in beekeeping. Frederick H Carr became the first county expert for Lancashire. He submitted a report to The Record, subsequently emigrating to America. He and his wife returned to Birkenhead with Lilian aged 9 and a younger daughter Bertha. Frederick was then working as a joiner. Herbert

Mace reported the death in Australia of one of Broughton’s daughters who was a well-known beekeeper, but did not mention her name.

Broughton’s wife Margaret died just after the 1901 census, her death being registered in Lewisham. In Margaret Carfs obituary, Thomas Cowan, proprietor of the BBJ, noted that she had written an article for the Co-operative News. It took the form of ‘a letter to a friend dealing with the life of a beekeeper’s wife’. Cowan claimed it was reprinted in the British Bee Journal in 1891 but I was unable to find it.

Broughton Carr died eight years later on 11 February 1909 at 69 Station Road, Finchley. His death was registered in Barnet, when his daughter Lilian May Carr (spinster) was granted Administration, with Will. Broughton’s effects were £205/195.

The British Bee Journal recorded that he was buried at Lewisham Cemetery on 15 February. Those present included Mrs W Herrod, Stephen Abbott and his son, and Lt Col PJ Cowan, as well as a number of leading beekeepers including Robert Lee and EH Taylor.


William Broughton Carr in his later years

Although his family were butchers, Broughton was apprenticed as a copperplate engraver in 1851. It is clear from Gore’s (Liverpool) Directory that throughout the late nineteenth century there was considerable and growing competition in the printing industry. By 1880 there were at least 85 lithographic

printers listed by Gore. Most, like Carp’s customers, were small-scale firms which could not afford the cost of a bold type name or a display advertisement. Broughton was listed as either Wm B Carr or William B Carr.

In 1862 Broughton was shown in Gore’s Directory as trading from 6 Roscommon Street as a copper engraver, lithograph and copper-plate printer with an office at 87 Hanover Street. In the 1864 Directory he was at 6 Coifs Buildings, 16a Bretton Row, a site also occupied by Alfred Dreary, a lithographic printer.

By 1867 Carr had moved out of the city to Poplar Road, Rock Ferry. He had an office at 4 South John Street and was still there in 1880, being listed as a letter press printer.

So far I have found only one example of Carr’s work as an engraver. His initials appear on the frontispiece of HP Jones’s Welsh language beekeeping book published at Bala in 1888, Y gwenynydd (The Beekeeper) Llaw-lyfr ymarferol ar gadw gwenyn (a Practical Handbook on Keeping Bees). This book included a Welsh/English check list and bilingual advertisements from English beekeeping appliance manufacturers and was based on the early editions of TW Cowan’s British Beekeeper’s Guide Book.

[To be continued.]

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