The Bee Craft Editors: Herbert James Wadey (1937-1972)

From Bee Craft: June 2009

Andrew Gibb

Jim Wadey, Bee Craft’s third editor, lived from 1900 to 1979 and was a director of Bee Craft Ltd from 1950 to 1976


Jim Wadey, third editor of Bee Craft

When an organisation has a problem, the way of finding a solution is to set up a committee, which Kent did and this was chaired by Percy Thornton. They eventually asked Jim Wadey if he was willing to take on the mantle of editor, with Percy acting as liaison between Kent BKA council and the new editor. It worked well enough and eventually Jim attended Kent BKA council meetings himself, although he was not allowed to vote. The committee thought they were fortunate to have found such a ‘lively, keen and experienced’ person. By profession Jim, like his father, was a tailoring manager and, besides beekeeping, had leisure activities of shooting, fishing, gardening and reading.


Jim had a harmonious beekeeping relationship with his father in which they developed a network of small out-apiaries. Although they initially used Cowan hives, they changed to Langstroth hives as these were more manageable and, so that everything was interchangeable, they used only deep boxes. The Wadeys preferred home-reared, hardy, three-banded Italians from the Sussex highlands. Jim was a lecturer and judge, did queen rearing and encouraged and exploited supersedure to keep swarming to a minimum. Students taught by the Wadeys always passed their exams and there was a good team spirit. Jim also founded the Crowborough and District BKA.


Within two years of settling into the job of editor, the Second World War began and Jim Wadey had to deal with how to maintain the journal’s growing circulation with the restrictions introduced on paper supply. The outcome was to reduce the page size of the journal and vary the number of pages to between 8 and 16, but aim to maintain quality. This meant concentrating on practical beekeeping articles at the expense of news from individual counties. Also, in case Jim could not continue as editor for some reason, Kent BKA appointed Mr Gripper as associate editor. There was also the suggestion of passing profits onto Kent BKA by reducing the cost of the journal to the Association’s members.

Jim Wadey was someone whose aim was to emphasise the needs of the hobbyist beekeeper in the journal. He sought to get away from the slightly elitist Victorian/Edwardian style. He wanted beekeepers to read about beekeeping as an enjoyable pastime even though they occasionally got stung in the process! He also tried to reduce the amount of beekeeping political affairs and to report on what was happening in beekeeping research instead. He extended the ‘for beginners’ articles further and added humour to them.

In spite of the war-time paper restrictions, which were to continue until the early 1950s, Jim was able to include black and white photographs and this added a major new dimension to the journal. As photographic techniques developed, the quality and detail also improved. Of course, when Bee Craft became the Official Journal of the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) in 1947, county news disappeared and this was replaced by BBKA matters. By 1969, spot colour was introduced onto the front cover. No annual index was produced after 1970.

In spite of the paper restrictions, Jim was able to write and publish books such as Introducing Bee-keeping (a book for the novice), The Bee Craftsman (1943 with six subsequent editions) and A Diary Record and Guide (1946). He also wrote Behaviour of Bees and Beekeepers (1948), an amusing little book which unfortunately we do not see any more today and, judging by Annie Betts’s preface, she certainly thought it contained views worthy of a wider audience. All these books became very profitable for Kent BKA.

After Bee Craft was adopted as the Official Journal of the BBKA, Jim represented Bee Craft at BBKA meetings and, when Bee Craft Ltd was set up as an independent company in 1949, he no longer attended Kent BKA Council meetings. After splits of earlier years, he was able to make a major contribution to the reunification of BBKA through the pages of Bee Craft and thus make it a fully representative body.


A young Jim Wadey with his sister

Records show that Jim became a representative of Sussex BKA to BBKA Council meetings in the early 1940s and, following the resignation of Joseph Herrod-Hempsall in June 1943 as BBKA Honorary Secretary and all other positions, his was one of the names put forward as replacement, but he declined to stand. William Herrod-Hempsall also resigned as BBKA Vice-chairman at the same time. Jim often spoke on behalf of what was known as the South East

Federation (Kent, Surrey and Sussex BKAs) and contributed to the instigation of the reorganisation of BBKA to include all affiliated and non-affiliated associations, following the resignation of the Herrod-Hempsall brothers. Jim’s friendly style soon led him to be elected to various BBKA committees including the BBKA Council in 1946.


A Surrey BKA proposition was agreed at the BBKA Council meeting of May 1944 ‘that the Council of the BBKA be requested to invite the BSI (British Standards Institution) to call a representative conference of all interested parties to consider the possibility of some degree of standardisation being introduced into the manufacture of beehives and beekeeping equipment with the view to securing a reasonable measure of interchangeability’.

This was agreed and Jim was a BBKA representative at meetings held with BSI where standard frame sizes were eventually agreed. Although no compulsion would be exerted on beekeepers it was thought that this authoritative recommendation would influence beekeepers’ choice of frames. Standardisation was also agreed for the BS National and WBC hives, honey jars and honey grading glasses.

When Bee Craft became the Official Journal of the BBKA, BBKA queried the relationship between it and Kent BKA and where any profits would be allocated. It helped that Percy Thornton was both a BBKA Council member and Chairman of Kent BKA when he said any profits were donated for beekeeping research at Rothamsted Research Station. At the time, BBKA also asked Bee Craft to publish its convention programme.

Jim Wadey enjoyed BBKA committee work and, in 1946, he joined the bee disease committee, the publications and advertising committee, the convention committee and the standards committee. By 1949, he had become a member of the influential general purposes committee.

He also became involved with issues such as the apparent excessive costs of wax foundation but, after investigation with EG Burtt, concluded that as margins were so small, nothing could be done.

On another issue, he was asked to meet the Federation of Irish BKAs at the National Honey Show in 1967 to discuss the development of a single strain of bee throughout the Uk and Ireland. After some debate, this suggestion was found not to be practicable.


By 1960, the work of the BBKA had grown so much that it needed to reconstitute itself. Instead of delegates from all association attending four Council meetings a year, an annual delegate meeting, held in January, was put in its place and an elected Executive Council met four times a year. Jim Wadey represented Bee Craft and Arthur Dines was the representative for Kent BKA. Both these beekeepers were also elected to the BBKA Executive Committee. It meant the meetings became more manageable and would be completed in about four hours, hopefully!


As has always occurred through the ongoing changing membership of the BBKA Executive Committee, queries about the relationship and actions of Bee Craft arose every few years.

When he was BBKA General Secretary, Geoffrey Dixon, had received letters criticising the appearance of the Journal; the paper quality and front cover were not thought worthy of an Official Journal and it was suggested that a price increase would be worthwhile. Other matters that came under discussions included bulk discount prices, share allocation and ownership, advertisement policy, etc.

Jim was elected BBKA Vice-president in 1952 and, on a more joyful note, in the September Council meeting that year, Mr Williams, then BBKA President, reported that Jim was recently married to Jenny and ‘arrangements were made to express their felicitations in a concrete form. Dr Gooding (Surrey) agreed to arrange the purchase and presentation’.


A particular distinction was given to Jim Wadey in 1976 when he was presented with a silver goblet by Arthur Dines, then BBKA President, to mark 60 years as a Sussex beekeeper. It was accepted on his behalf by Jenny, his wife, as Jim was not well enough to be present.

Jim died on 30 March 1979, aged 78, after a long period of ill health. He was well known and well liked as a lecturer where his brevity, skill, quickness of banter and humour were always appreciated. He was, in fact, the guest lecturer for the first Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Associations’ summer course held in 1947 and invited again in 1948 and 1953. Although not directly or closely involved with the National Honey Show, he was invited to present the cups and trophies in 1971. He was a good friend to the British Isles Bee Breeders’ Association (then known as the Village Bee Breeders’ Association and now the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders’ Association, BIBBA) and often commended it when giving lectures.


My thanks to David Charles, John Hendrie, Colin Weightman and Karl Showier for their helpful comments.

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