Northern Beekeepers' Convention

History of the Convention

In April 1956 the first "Residential Spring Conference" was organised by John Ashton the County Beekeeping Officer at Kirkley Hall Farm Institute. The full course including accommodation and all meals for 2 days was around £1.37! The first programme declared that "comfortable residential accommodation is available at the Farm Institute for both ladies and gentlemen. Kirkley Hall was reconstructed in the 1930s and combines the characater of a final rural mansion with modern amenities. There are spacious lawns and attractive gardens, a fine conference hall and comfortable sitting rooms.  The conference provides an opportunity for northern beekeepers to have an enjoyable weekend at a reasonable charge with good opportunities for informal discussion"

Over the years the list of the visiting lecturers reads like the "Who's Who' of the beekeeping world.  Some of those who have spoken include Bob Couston, Beo Cooper, Karl Showler, Willie Robson, Clive de Bruyn and Harrison Ashforth.  Local speakers include John Thoebalds, Ray Hodgson, Ernie Pope, Bryan Hateley, Bill Gutherson and Amy Nicholson.It is interesting to recall the first  appearance of now familiar things.  In 1971 Harrison Ashforth talked about the "Gloucester Honey Improvement Group".  Varroa was first mentioned in 1980 by J Walker, the National Beekeeping Specialist of the Ministry of Agriculture and Jo Hopkinson spoke about Oil Seed Rape and its Benefits to British Beekeeping in 1983.

By 1989 the cost for the Full Course and Residence has crept upto £37 and the programme had risen to 4 pages with a coloured front.  In the late 1980s the convention in common with many other events was suffering from  diminishing interest.  About this time the late Dr Rachel Lowther became "Kirkley Conference Chairman" and her stron personality and willingness to work long and hard, plus the contacts she was able to make, helped to stem the decline.When Rachel sadly died, a new committee was formed, representing all the Northern Beekeeping Associations including Cleveland, to help maintain interest in the Convention. With new ideas and input from new members attendance began increasing again.

The convention is shorter now and isn't residential, however it is still convened annually by the beekeepers of Northumberland, Newcastle, Durham and Cleveland who are renowned for their friendliness and comradeship. The organisers always seek to engage speakers of national and international stature.  We hope to welcome you to a future convention and that you find it interesting, instructive and friendly.

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