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William Charles Cotton and Robert Campbel – colonial beekeepers in Sydney 1842

Robert Campbell senior, and his eldest son John, were prominent and respected Sydney merchants for
many decades. They were also talented and advanced beekeepers as I shall demonstrate. Campbell senior
1
, a Scottish merchant, arrived in Sydney in June 1798. “Campbell & Co. was soon heavily involved in
the Australian trade, having £50,000 worth of goods in its Sydney warehouses in 1804.” 2 Through trading
at reasonable prices he challenged the monopoly of the New South Wales Corps. A canny businessman,
Campbell maximised the profitability of speculative voyages by the purchase of suitable land on which to
build berthing and warehouse facilities. This avoided downward pressure on prices when the colonial
market was swamped with freshly landed product. By 1803 he had built a storehouse, a large residence
and a wharf, known as Campbell’s Wharf. “By 1810 another wharf had been added, behind which in its
own garden stood Campbell’s house finished in an elegant manner with colonnades and two fronts.”
Nehemiah Bartley in Australian Pioneers and Reminiscences, 1849-1894 3, briefly mentions Campbell
and Co. as they were in the year of William Cotton’s Sydney visit “In 1842 R. Campbell, jun., and Co.
were general merchants in Bligh-street 4, Sydney … they sold tea, rice, pickles, spirits, iron, and
hemp goods.” Balancing Campbell’s astute business acumen “… the merchant’s name became
synonymous with fair trading, reduced prices and generous credit, and was publicly acknowledged
by small settlers, officers and governors alike … Governor Bligh was told ‘… the price of his
merchandise was the same in time of scarcity as in abundance … he protected the poor and
distressed settlers; and that in fact he was the only private pillar which supported the honest people
of the Colony.’ ” 5 Samuel Shumack recalled in An autobiography or tales and legends of Canberra
pioneers 6 “In the early days I constantly came in contact with ‘old hands’ who had worked under
Merchant Campbell. They spoke of him as a just and honourable man, and I never heard of one
unjust or harsh action during those early years when injustice and oppression were the rule.” (p.3)
Son Robert Jnr. was also held in high regard. Alexander Brodie Spark of Tempe on Cooks River, diarised
on 15 April 1843 “Wrought up my resolution to call on Mr R Campbell Jr. of Bligh Street, for my
heavy debt to whom he is but inadequately secured. He received me kindly, expressed his sorrow for
my situation, and told me that if I could not pay him the interest, he would never ask it. He directed
me to write him my proposal and he would answer me, and I came away not a little affected by his
generosity.”

1
My summary of the biographical entry in The Australian Encyclopaedia (Vol. II, p.246) is as follows “Pioneer
Sydney merchant (born 28 April 1769, died 15 April 1846), arrived June 1798 aboard the Hunter, received
permission to lease land on the western side of Sydney Cove, to erect buildings, and carry on trade. Returned to
India, arrived back in Sydney 1800, when he constructed buildings and a wharf, widely used, which became known
as Campbell’s wharf. In 1825 he was appointed a member of the first Legislative Council in NSW and he held a seat
on it until 1843. He was one of the first settlers in the district in which Canberra was later built. He received a grant
of 5000 acres of land, for which the deed was issued in October 1834, although it had been occupied some years
earlier. He named the property Duntroon (being himself related to the Campbells of Duntroon Castle, Argyleshire),
and it remained in the possession of his family until 1910, when the Commonwealth Government acquired it for a
military college.”
2
Steven, Margaret. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume I, pp.202-206
3
Bartley, Nehemiah (1896) Australian Pioneers and Reminiscences, 1849-1894, John Ferguson, Sydney, 1978.
4
Bligh-street was , location of their office of business.
5
Bartley, Nehemiah (1896) Australian Pioneers and Reminiscences, 1849-1894, John Ferguson, Sydney, 1978.
6
An autobiography or tales and legends of Canberra pioneers, (p.3)
Robert Campbell snr. (Mitchell Library, Sydney)
Campbell’s Cove snuggles on the north western shore of Circular Quay, just south of Dawes Point and the
southern footings of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Stone warehouses remain but the Campbell house is
long since demolished.

Robert Campbell
I see it as no coincidence that the barque Tomatin, carrying the first Bishop of New Zealand, his family
and entourage for Auckland, berthed at Campbell’s Wharf after it was damaged on entering Sydney
Harbour on 14 April 1842. Nor do I find it surprising that the Anglican Bishop Selwyn, his family and
chaplain, William Charles Cotton, were made guests of Robert Campbell. Robert became well connected
with the Church of England and its Bishop in Sydney. 7
“As the business of his firm progressed (c1837-38), and his three eldest sons became firmly established in
their various fields, Robert Campbell gave increased attention to charitable work and church affairs. …
his house and garden at the wharf were always available for fetes and functions to raise money for charity.
Bishop Broughton continued to be a frequent visitor.” In 1837 Campbell gave land and a donation for the
construction of St Peter’s Church, Cooks River. 8 Campbell’s worth to Cotton as host provided significant
7
Newman (1961) p.166
8
Newman (1961) The Spirit of Wharf House, p.166
benefit, for both Robert Campbell Snr and eldest son John were beekeepers, their apiary located in the
garden beside Wharf House which stood back from Campbell’s Wharf. Cotton’s beekeeping mania was
about to be fed.
I’m confident the missing second volume of Cotton’s journals would have documented the proceedings of
the valuable beekeeper introductions Campbell was sure to have provided. Unfortunately, this lost volume
covered the period of Cotton’s stopover in Sydney, between 15 April and 19 May 1842 9. Most likely
appraised by a letter from home of its non-arrival, and hence its implied disappearance, Cotton replied,
lamenting its loss in his letter of April 1843, a copy of which is pasted into his third volume “I fear Vol II
should have perished (obsit omen) I will endeavour to give a tabular abstract of these three months
...” What interesting reading it would have made as it progressed through his various beekeeper
appointments.

A Letter from ‘An Australian”, 1864


Some eight years ago I became aware of an antiquarian bee book authored by Dr. John Cumming, titled
Bee-Keeping, by “The Times” Bee-Master, first published London, 1864. The advertisement for
Cumming’s book stated it contained correspondence from Australian beekeepers. With that inviting
attraction to my some time bee book collecting obsession, I was tempted to part with US$150. Given the
Australian Dollar’s decidedly weaker position, however, that purchase had to wait. Eventually, possession
of a copy and access to the clues within this book and resulting research have enabled me here to
definitively declare that Robert Campbell Snr. and his eldest son John were beekeepers. The evidence
follows.
Moving forward to June 2001, I received from Joseph Bray of San Diego, California, another in his
series, Beekeeping and Related Subjects Occasional List, his periodical antiquarian bee book catalogue.
Listed within was another copy of the 1864 edition of Cumming’s book, again mine for US$150 (approx.
AUD$290). Joseph and I have corresponded previously on a friendly and productive basis so I contacted
him to see if the book was still available, outlining the reasons for my interest. Unfortunately, it had been
sold though not yet dispatched. 10
Joseph kindly wrote back “I spent some of my evening scanning the pages of the book for any other
Australian references but couldn’t find any others. However, Cumming does occasionally refer to My
Bee Book, and at one point he describes it as ‘ The first and most useful, as well as most beautiful modern
work on bees ... It is profusely illustrated, and is the most genial and instructive work on bees it has been
my lot to read. I have felt so great an interest in this good clergyman, that it often occurred to me to try to
ascertain where he was and what he was doing. ...’ ” Joseph then referred to correspondence within
containing reference to Cotton. It was simply signed “An Australian. London 12th August, 1864”.
Bray’s review of Cumming’s book states “Dr. Cumming was styled the ‘The Times Bee-Master’ after his
letters on beekeeping provoked a deluge of replies from an enthusiastic but sometimes critical readership
of that newspaper. Rather than respond to each inquiry individually, Cumming issued this marvelous bee
book, presenting his ideas of bee management. Luckily, Cumming also included many of the letters
addressed to him and his responses, providing a fascinating view of the controversies of the day.” Fraser
(1958) in Beekeeping in Antiquity wrote of Cumming “He seems to have been a good beekeeper, for he
entirely objected to sulphuring bees, and he was well read on the subject. He strongly believed that his
bees knew him.” Cotton championed such sentiments. The 1864 letter’s author held similar views.
This letter to The Times Bee-Master, in part, reads “Our chief guide in the management was a book
written by the Rev. Mr. Cotton, called ‘My Bee-Book’ and it may be interesting to mention, that
when in after years that gentleman accompanied the Bishop of New Zealand to that country, via

9
volume two commenced 15 May, concluding 20 August 1842
10
Early in 2002 Joseph Bray procured another copy of Cumming’s book which I promptly acquired.
Australia, he was my father’s guest. Mr. Cotton’s delight at finding his favourites so appreciated
was only equaled by our pleasure in meeting the author of ‘My Bee-Book’ … ”
The title page of Cotton’s My Bee Book shows its publication year as 1842. Cotton sailed on the Tomatin
on 26 December 1841, arriving in Sydney in April 1842. Prior to departure could he have taken on board
some pre-publication copies of his book ? I think it possible though unlikely. Campbell’s wrote “Our
chief guide … was a book written by the Rev. Mr. Cotton … in after years that gentleman … was
my father’s guest” These words construe that My Bee Book had been in use for some time prior to
Cotton’s arrival, that his “fame” had preceded him.
However, John has confused the actual chronology of events. Cotton accompanied the Bishop of New
Zealand in the same year as the publication of My Bee Book, ie., 1842. It’s possible Campbell was
referring not to My Bee Book, but to its precursors, Cotton’s 1837 and 1838 “letters”, addressed
particularly to England’s cottage beekeepers. The 1837 publication of twenty-four pages was A short and
simple letter to cottagers from a conservative beekeeper. A further four editions subsequently appeared up
to 1842, as well as an American edition in 1841.
British Bee Books, A bibliography 1500-1976 states “There was a second letter to cottagers, apparently
published three years after the first (ie., 1840), but we have not seen a copy earlier than 1842, both letters
then being included in My bee book. Walker cites the two letters together, dated 1843 and 1844.” (p.121)
Given this evidence, its possible it was Cotton’s 1837, produced five years before My Bee Book that John
was referring to. Either way, some latitude should be allowed in John’s sequencing of events. Writing in
1864 at the age of sixty-two years 11, he was recounting Cotton’s visit of twenty-two years prior.
And finally, to confirm that John Campbell did write the 1864 letter, Cotton named his temporary Sydney
landlord. From my transcriptions of Cotton’s script during study of his journals at the Mitchell Library
between 1995 and 1997, I located a letter home 12 dated May 1842. Cotton clearly wrote “Mr. R.
Campbell lent the Bishop his house at Woolloommoolloo 13 (sic) for the first 3 weeks to follow when
the Tomatin has been hove down”. Therefore the Australian correspondent to The Times Beemaster was
one of Campbell’s sons. I had originally thought William Cotton was geographically confused when he
mentioned Woolloomooloo, for I’d assumed he was writing from Wharf House which overlooked
Campbell’s Cove, however
Cotton was specific on where he was to temporarily reside. Other than Wharf House over in Sydney
Cove, what property in Woolloomooloo had Campbell provided for his guests ? This question triggered
some further research into the early houses and residents of that locale. I’m unsure if “his house” is to be
taken literally. A possible candidate appears to have been Woolloomooloo House, owned by Robert
Campbell’s brother-in-law John Palmer. 14 A watercolour painting of it by Sophia (Palmer) Campbell is
held at the National Library of Australia.
To zero in on which son wrote the letter, Robert Campbell Snr., who died in 1846, was survived by four
sons: John (1802-1886), Robert (1804-1859), Charles and George (1818-1881). It’s unlikely to have been
George, who, even though he died in 1881 some years after the letter was written, was mostly involved
with the family property of Duntroon from 1839. On his father’s death in 1846 he became its owner.
Newman (1961) “Duntroon became the country house in which any member of the Wharf family could
rest if he wished. John was wedded to business, but the others used the house quite often.” It cannot have
been Robert Jnr who “joined his father in politics and public affairs”, but most definitely because he died

11
At the time of his death in 1886 John was aged 84. He was interred at St. John’s, Parramatta.
12
Mitchell Library, Cotton’s diary Vol. 3. Ref. CY664, MS35, 21st August 1842 to 25th February 1843, p.2
frame.247
13
Cotton’s spelling was “Woolloommoolloo”; today’s spelling is “Woolloomooloo”
14
last paragraph, p.25, from Sydney Cove to Duntroon …
in 1859, five years before the letter was written. Charles “joined his father on the land in 1835” (p.168) so
he appears to have had much less to do with Wharf House than his older brothers John and Robert.
“By 1822 Robert Campbell’s two eldest sons (aged 20 and 18) were at work with Campbell & Co., …”
(p.139) They “had joined their father in his business and were able to relieve him of some of his
responsibilities. They traveled about in ships dispatched to carry merchandise …” (p.130) and “had no
fixed routine in the office … They supervised work at the wharf, in the stores … and developed a
knowledge of the mercantile business. They traveled in ships, interviewed customers and suppliers, saw
timber cut and shipped, and meat salted and sold. They acted as extra eyes, ears and mouthpieces for their
father, though it was not long before they were giving orders on their own account.” (p.139) John became
de-facto head of Campbell & Co. in 1830. “By 1836 John was the head of the business and young Robert
the public relations representative.” (p.173)
“Wharf House was the home of a prosperous and happy family. Although the two eldest sons had built
their own houses, few days passed without both of them entering their old home, and Charles, who was
living at Duntroon, was a frequent visitor to Sydney. (p.163) … John had moved to Clunes, a house he
had built in Cambridge Street, Stanmore. It was a solid, two-storey building … the area was quiet, and
there John could entertain customers and others away from the noise of the wharf and overcrowded
Wharf House.” (p.174) But there’s no doubt bees were kept in the Wharf House garden - refer to the
chapter “Sophia Ives Campbell, swarm-catcher of Wharf House” on page 14. By process of elimination
it’s my deduction the letter’s author was John. On his father’s death in 1846 John moved from Clunes
back to Wharf House.
Cotton’s 1837 twenty-four page A Short and Simple Letter to Cottagers, from a Bee Preserver, which
realised a distribution of some twenty-four thousand copies, was followed by Part II, Natural Theology of
Bees in 1842. The first letter was “intended to be a manual of Bee-keeping, my second of Bee-
observing. The second cannot stand without the first; the first is needed for profit – but he who
neglects the second, loses all the pleasure and instruction which may be derived from this most
delightful of all country pursuits.” An updated version of his first letter forms the first part of My Bee
Book and the second letter is re-produced near its end. Cotton allowed that some copies might “go into
foreign parts”. 15 It’s possible that at least one copy of his Cotton’s Short and Simple Letter to Cottagers
found avid readers in Sydney between 1837 and 1842. These readers included the beekeeping Campbell’s
of Wharf House in Sydney.
John closed his dissertation to Cumming “P.S. I have never had an opportunity of keeping bees in
England. I shall look for your promised manual, as I hope some day I may be able to have some of
my favourites to care for. I may add, my father procured our original stock from Tasmania, in the
common straw hive, a bit of pierced tin fastened over the entrance. ...”

Early Childhood Memories, 1810-1814


John Campbell’s letter to The Times Bee-Master recounted “From early childhood 16 I shared my
father’s interest in his pets; and at one time I could have counted upwards of ninety hives in the two
apiaries which he kept for his own amusement, and for the encouragement of those who were
willing to keep bees. Everyone was welcome to a swarm who cared to ask for one.”

15
My Bee Book, Preface, p.xli
16
Campbell Snr obtained his first stock of bees from Tasmania, (see page 23) so swarms should have been available
some reasonable time after January 1831 when Thomas Braidwood Wilson successfully introduced bees there. John
would then have been aged around twenty-nine.
View to the east by Conrad Martens, 1842, overlooking the gable of Campbell’s Wharf House (leftmost), then across
Sydney Cove with Government House prominent at centre, itself overlooking Farm Cove to the east, behind which
lies Woolloomooloo.
The question arises in this instance whether John was describing a pair of apiaries in England or
Australia, despite the letter’s opening mention of “It may be interesting to you … to hear that my
experience in Australia of the habits … of your little favourites is identical to your own.” John, born
in 1802 in Sydney, would have been aged twenty when Captain Wallace introduced hives of bees into
Sydney in 1822. Assuming “early childhood” refers to an age approaching around ten years, was John
was recalling a time c1812 ? To answer the question I’ve constructed a chronology of events based on the
contents of C.E.T. Newman’s (1961) The Spirit of Wharf House:
• In January 1805 when John was aged around three years, his father, mother and younger brother
Robert sailed to England.
• Some eighteen months later in August 1806 the family had returned to Sydney.
• In May 1810, when John was aged eight years, the family returned to England where they
remained for approximately four years. It think it most likely that this was the period when
Robert Campbell entertained “upwards of ninety hives in the two apiaries”.
• The family, except for John, aged thirteen years, and his younger brother Robert, aged eleven
years, arrived back in Sydney in March 1815. 17 The two boys remained in England to continue
their schooling.
From close study of the bulk of John’s 1864 letter, there’s certainty that the remainder of his recollections
were sited in Australia. As well, the letter provides fascinating insights into colonial beekeeping methods
practiced from 1832, the earliest likely year when Robert Campbell sourced honeybees from Tasmania.

Beekeeping Introductions, 1842


In My Bee Book Cotton wrote “The Bee of England, if he be but good of his kind, is, I think,
surpassed by none in the world. I will not get Bees from India – nor Bees from South America – nor
bees from New Holland (ie., Australia), but carry them direct from England, sixteen thousand miles
over the sea.” It’s ironic, having suffered the loss of his meticulously prepared beehives at sea in early
1842, Cotton needed to view Sydney as a source for some bees. And doubly so, for the descendants of
bees he eventually acquired were brought from England to Australia via Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).
Fortune did, however, smile upon him for in the Campbells he found perfect bee-aware hosts. With their

17
Kerr, Joan (1982) from Sydney Cove to Duntroon, a Family Album of Early Life in Australia (p.37)
prominent position within commercial, political 18, religious 19 and social circles 20, the Campbells were
exceedingly well placed to provide Cotton with the beekeeper introductions he would have eagerly
accepted.
I propose that through the Campbell introductions Cotton was able to visit:
• Alexander Macleay, prominent Sydney citizen, most likely at his Elizabeth Bay residence, whose
garden, famous for its rare specimens of plants, was described as a “botanist’s paradise” 21;
Macleay was a member of the Legislative Council between 1826 to c1836. Campbell sat on the
Council between 1825 and 1843.
• Elizabeth Macarthur at Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta “who has a capital apiary” 22
• Elizabeth’s nephew, Hannibal Macarthur of Vineyard House, located on the north bank of the
Parramatta River “A large property 15 miles from Sydney bounded one side by a tidal river,
navigable for small steamers & on the other side extensive forests, chiefly composed of gum
trees, & a good sized farm house with cultivated fields, and outbuildings ¾ of a mile from
the house. Large gardens & in the heart of the forest, a semi-circular terraced vineyard,
with a stream at the foot, bordered with ferns & mimosa, a lovely spot.” 23
• Gregory Blaxland 24 25 at his property Brush Farm outside Parramatta;
• Revd. Dr. Thomas Steele, the Parson of St. Peter’s, Cook’s River 26;

18
“He was one of the three private members appointed to the newly constituted Legislative Council in 1825, where
he remained a member until it was replaced by the reformed Council in 1843”. Aust. Dict. Biography, Vol. I
19
Campbell was an active and financially contributive member of the Presbyterian Scott’s Church in Sydney. “… a
growing connection with the Church of England, strengthened by the affiliation of his wife and intimates (eg.,
Rowland Hassall 1768-1820, Samuel Marsden 1764-1838, Bishop Broughton) was emphasised by generous
endowments.” Aust Dict. Biography, Vol. I
20
amongst the pallbearers at Robert Campbell’s funeral were Alexander Macleay and Alexander Berry
21
Fletcher, J. J. “The Society’s Heritage from the Macleays”, Proc. Linn. Soc. NSW., vol. 45 (1920)
22
from a Cotton letter dated April 1843
23
Emmeline Macarthur, Hannibal’s daughter, recounted from the time when she was thirteen years old, in The
Recollections of Emmeline Maria Macarthur (1828-1911)
24
I assume Cotton was referring to Gregory rather than his brother John, for Cotton simply wrote “I paid a visit to
… Mr Blaxland.” From a Cotton letter dated April 1843
25
The online version of the Australian Dictionary of Biography provides “Gregory sailed in the William Pitt on 1
September 1805 with his wife, three children, two servants, an overseer, a few sheep, seed, bees, tools, groceries and
clothing.” In my Volume I theorized the substance of Blaxland’s dispute with the ship’s captain, both before and after
his arrival in Sydney, was the captain’s refusal to allow Blaxland’s bees aboard. Whatever the reason, a lengthy
dispute was not out of character: the online version of the Australian Dictionary of Biography states Blaxland was
“Always a man of moody and mercurial character …”. Accidents with bees on ships were not unknown. From The
Quarterly Review, Dec. 1842 “The inhabitants of the Isles of Greece transport their hives by sea, in order to procure
change of pasturage for their bees. Huish relates (p.287) that ‘Not long ago a hive on one of these vessels was
overturned, and the bees spread themselves over the whole vessel. They attacked the sailors with great fury,
who, to save themselves, swam ashore. They could not return to their boat until the bees were in a state of
tranquility, having previously provided themselves with proper ingredients for creating a smoke, to suffocate
the bees in case of a renewal of their hostility’ ” (Huish, Robert. 1817, A treatise on the nature, economy, and
practical management of bees; p.15) .
26
“In 1837 Campbell Snr. gave land and money towards the cost of building St. Peter’s Church, Cook’s River, and
contributed funds towards an Anglican Cathedral for Sydney”. Aust. Dict. Biography, Vol. I; The Spirit of Wharf
House, p.166
• and the merchant gentleman, Alexander Spark 27 and his wife Frances at “Tempe”, close by the
banks of Cook’s River, up stream from Botany Bay.
Cotton’s acclaimed mastery over his bees was temporarily thwarted when handling Campbell’s bees for in
John’s letter he humorously recounted “… but sad to say, our bees conceived a dislike to their visitor;
and upon his exhibiting his fearlessness in handling bees, he was stung (much to the amusement of
some small bystanders) by two wicked bees ... ”. I doubt Cotton documented this embarrassing episode.
The month of May in Sydney concludes the season of Autumn, a time when he should have been safe
inspecting the bees. Cotton’s exuberance and joy at working a hive for the first time in Australia likely
tested the bees patience.

Gregory Blaxland (1778 - 1853), by unknown artist, 1813, State Library of NSW. GPO 1 – 14069

Colonial Beekeeping, Sydney, 1832 to 1842


Reminiscent of the free-standing bee-house designed by Marianne Campbell at Duntroon, 28 John
Campbell described his form of bee-house. As well he painted a clear picture of the advanced methods of
keeping bees in Sydney to The Times Bee-master in 1864. There’s no doubt these events partook in
Australia for John mentions “gum-trees hollowed out by the action of fires through the bush”, an
unmistakable Australian occurrence. John opened with “It may be interesting to you, whose letters in
The Times have so delighted me, to hear that my experience in Australia of the habits, instincts, and
affections (if I may so apply the word) of your little favourites is identical with your own.

27
From Spark’s diary entry for 6 April 1837 “A deputation, consisting of Messrs R. Jones, Willm. Macarthur, Jas.
Bowman, Robert Scott, Robert Campbell Jr. and myself, waited on Mr McLeay at his house to present the Address
which had been prepared, and very numerously signed, on the occasion of his involuntary retirement from the office
of Colonial Secretary. In reading his reply the fine old septuagenarian was much moved, his voice quavered and his
eyes filled with tears …”Abbott, Graham & Little, Geoffrey (1976) The Respectable Sydney Merchant, A. B. Spark
of Tempe, Sydney University Press (p.76)

28
Refer page 12
Campbell’s Wharf, Wharf House and attached garden (centre right)
I may give some curious facts as to the sagacity and gratitude of these insects. During the
prevalence of the hot winds, 29 it sometimes happens that the delicate comb melts, and the first
indication is a stream of melted honey and smothering bees. I have been called to the rescue, and
have taken up honey and bees in my hands, placed them in a basin of tepid water, and spread my
fingers as landing-stages until all capable of restoration have plumed their wings and buzzed
gratefully away, and so on until order and comfort was restored to the disturbed hive. I never was
stung on any occasion whilst working amongst the bees, and only twice that I remember, and then
by meeting an angry bee accidentally in the garden. The buzz of an angry bee is quite well known to
their lovers.
Of course we could not house all our swarms, so they went off to the woods and found habitations
in gum-trees hollowed out by the action of fires through the bush. I recollect one swarm, however,
belonging to a neighbour, which preferred its old quarters, and actually built the combs and filled
them with honey suspended from beneath the shelf upon which the hives were ranged in the open
air. Its ultimate fate I do not remember.
Bees have many enemies in Australia; the greatest is probably the sugar-ant. To protect them from
these intruders, we had the hives ranged on shelves, the supports of which stood in wide vessels of
water, alike a protection against other foes. The apiaries were built open in front and ends, against a
wall, with thatched roof and overhanging eaves; and there was a space between the shelf on which
the hives stood and the wall, where one could sit or stand and watch them; for most of our hives
were square, made of wood, with glass slides and wooden shutters; and the bees were so accustomed
to be looked at, that they kept their side of the glass quite clean, and generally built a smooth
surface of comb next to the glass, leaving space to move between the comb and the glass; and I have
often seen the queen, surrounded by her admiring subjects (exactly as you describe) making her
progress across the comb, each attendant bee with its head next her majesty, fanning with its wings,
and one could hear a purr of satisfaction.

29
The intensity of Sydney’s hot Summers heightens in January and February. The Argus, a Melbourne newspaper,
mentions hives that melted in sun. (5 October 1867, p.5c)
John Campbell in later years
The antipathies of the bee are very curious. I have known one individual who was chased
perpetually round the garden, and I have seen him obliged to rush through a hedge to escape his
little tormentors. Their feuds were sometimes most violent, and I have had to remove a hive from
one apiary to the other, 30 a distance of half a mile, to preserve the bees.
Your plan of super-hives is excellent. Most of our hives were square, and all of wood. The straw
hives proved a harbour for insects, and deprived us of the pleasure of watching the bees at work.
We used large confectioners glasses as supers, 31 turned upside down. They were speedily filled, and
we could ensure honey flavoured with the different blossoms, by placing the glass during the season
of orange-blossom, or heliotrope &c., &c. …
A relation of my own kept her bees in the verandah of her drawing-room; and she has frequently
cut out of the hive a large piece of comb, taking care not to break it, and merely cutting through the
little connecting links of wax which support the layers of comb; and this she could do with impunity
from the super of a busy hive, simply because she lived amongst her bees.
I have never had an opportunity of keeping bees in England. I shall look for your promised manual,
as I hope some day I may be able to have some of my favourites to care for.
One system I do not see alluded to, which we found answer very well, when we wished, for any
cause, to take the old comb and start the bees afresh. We used in the early dawn to place the full
hive over an empty one, covering all with a large cloth, and then beat the top hive steadily, not
roughly, with a stick. Very soon the queen would take refuge in the lower box, when a board was
slipped between, and the upper old hive removed. The bees (the few that loitered behind the queen)
soon left the honey to join their friends: at night the new hive was carried to the site of the old one,
and turned up upon its own board. We always had cross bars of wood on the hives, upon which the
swarm at first clung.”
Given Campbell’s explicit reference to Cottons My Bee Book as “Our chief guide in the management
(of bees)”, I wondered if John Campbell’s method of beekeeping bore relation to either of Cotton’s two
“Letters to Cottagers” or to My Bee Book itself. Though I found some parallels to Cotton’s 1837 letter, the
Campbells used relatively advanced methods. Cotton acknowledges the use of straw skeps and acclaims
methods of taking honey without killing all the bees.

30
This apiary may well have been located at Woolloomooloo House.
31
See The Argus, 18 June 1861, p.7c, it mentions “honey taken in glasses and boxes from the tops of the hives”
“In France, Germany, Switzerland, indeed everywhere, except in England, they never kill their
bees.” (p.62) “Some of them make their straw hives with the top to take off, and fasten it down with
wooden pegs: in July, they pull out the pegs, and with a large knife cut away the top of the hive
from the combs which are fixed to it, like the top of a pumpkin: they then cut out what honey the
Bees can spare, never caring for those which are flying about their heads: for they will not touch
them if they have a pipe in their mouth. When they have helped themselves, they peg the top down
again, and leave the Bees to make all straight, and gather honey enough for the winter in August
and September …

A close up view of the garden adjacent Wharf House.


Note the dovecote at centre. Unfortunately there’s no obvious sign of beehives.
Others put another large Hive on the top of a strong stock in May, as in done in some parts of
England, which prevents their swarming. This Hive they take off when full. Others turn up their
Hives in July or August, and cut out some of the combs. Others, who know more about it, place
square wooden boxes one on another, putting empty boxes below, and taking away full ones from
the top. … Some who know more about it, put an empty wooden box in front, and take it when full.
These ways are clumsy, much worse than those I am going to teach you, but all better than burning
the Bees.” (pp.65-66)
For the taking of honey Campbell used a method compatible to that of Cotton’s, although stackable
wooden boxes were the medium. Again from Cotton’s first Letter “Make your hives with a hole at the
top, an inch and a half over, with a bung to fit into it. This is needed for the plan of capping, which I
am now going to teach you. In May, when your Hives get full of Bees, and they begin to hang out,
put a small straw Hive, which will hold about 10 lbs., on the top of a strong stock, after you have
pulled out the bung from the hole at the top. It should have a bit of glass worked into the back, that
you may see when it is full. In good places … the Bees will fill it sometimes in a week or ten days.
Directly it is full, take it off …” (p.74)
Cotton’s prime rule matches the care and concern practiced by Campbell to ensure the welfare of his bees.
Cotton in 1837 “Well then, let this be your first rule, Never kill one.” (pp.65-66) Cotton proceeded to
describe the use of ventilated side box hives which “were first brought into general use by Mr. Nutt.
Side boxes were, however, made one hundred years ago by Mr. White, but without ventilators,
which is the grand thing. … You will see directly how much easier it is for the Bees to store their
honey in a side box, than in one Hive put on the top of another … it is much easier to keep a side
box cool, than one Hive when put upon another. The fanning which Bees make on a hot day at the
door shows how they like coolness. You often see hundreds hanging out when it is too hot to work;
and cases have even been known, where the combs, made soft by heat, have fallen down, and
smothered the Bees. All this is prevented by that hard word - VENTILATION.” (pp.83-84) Cotton,
however, would have accepted the hives in use by Campbell: “most of our hives were square, made of
wood, with glass slides and wooden shutters ...Your plan (ie., Cumming’s) of super-hives is excellent.
Most of our hives were square, and all of wood. The straw hives proved a harbour for insects, and
deprived us of the pleasure of watching the bees at work.”
Marianne Campbell, Beekeeper of “Duntroon”
At a collectors’ meet at Nambour Showground in June 2002 over 150 stallholders were present together
with several thousand eager collectors looking for that special find. I was one of the hopefuls and there I
found and bought a book most useful to my research. Published in 1982 and titled from Sydney Cove to
Duntroon, A family Album of Early Life in Australia, this beautifully illustrated book portrays the artwork
of two remarkable women, the first, Marianne Campbell, mistress of Duntroon and wife to George
Campbell; and Sophia Campbell, mistress of Wharf House and wife of Robert Campbell Snr.
Of Charles Campbell’s wife, Catherine Irene (Palmer) Campbell, Newman wrote (1961) “At Duntroon in
the early 1840s Mrs Charles Campbell kept a very good house, and her father-in-law (Robert snr.)
enjoyed planning in the garden and elsewhere …” 32 Kerr (1982) Of George’s wife Marianne “Like her
father, moral and spiritual values derived from England, as did her cultural ones. She continued to paint
English flowers and she furnished Duntroon House and garden largely with English imports. … At first,
Marianne’s anglophile attitudes were most clearly expressed in architecture. This apparently surprising
preoccupation for a woman was by no means uncommon in the nineteenth century. … One of her great-
grandsons still owns her small household book which initially was almost entirely given over to designs
and sketches for domestic buildings. It contains designs and plans for the enlargement and improvement
of Duntroon House itself; for garden buildings such as a ‘Bees’ House’ and fencing for the estate. A
separate later watercolour displays a practical plan for improving the drainage on the estate, so
Marianne’s interests extended well beyond architectural embellishment. However, most of the plans in the
book are of ground plans and elevations for cottages on the estate …” 33
It seems the Bees’ House, if built, would have been constructed c1862. “The dense exotic plantings of the
garden and the multi-gabled house and cottages suggest an English estate transported to the bare
Limestone Plains. … Marianne’s garden was another important part of her life. It was said she planted a
tree in it from every country she had visited. That, too, was typically Victorian and reflected the English
and colonial taste for gardens containing the greatest possible variety of plants.” (p.57)

32
p.167
33
pp.55-56
By permission of the National Library of Australia
Bees’ House design from Mrs Campbell’s household sketchbook (catalogued manuscript MS840)

The design of a Bees’ House within Marianne Campbell’s small household sketchbook is twice mentioned
34
in from Sydney Cove to Duntroon … “Like the Duntroon extensions and the bees’ house, all the staff
cottages were in a domestic Victorian Gothic style, with gables, barge-boards, small porches or verandahs
and diamond lead-light windows.” This sketchbook was stated to be in the possession of one of Marianne
Campbell’s great-grandsons. Her c1875 addition to Duntroon House of “a large new conservatory with a
conical glass roof” is suggestive of the Victorian period Berkshire bee house illustrated below. I therefore
suspected Marianne’s bees’ house would have been of a similar design.
It seemed natural to me to conclude that bees would have been kept at Duntroon but I’d not come across
any evidence of this, apart from Robert Senr’s residence there from 1846. Newman (1961) wrote of
Duntroon “The house and grounds had been fashioned as the country residence of a city man on the
model of types in the Old Country. The garden, enclosed by a hedge, was typically British.” Armed with
the new knowledge that Marianne had c1862 designed a bees’ house while at Duntroon, it appears certain
that honey, meade and beeswax were as common as garden vegetables and flowers about their Limestone
Plains home.

34
page 56
A Victorian bee house at the Berkshire College of Agriculture,
Hall Place, Burchett’s Green, Berkshire
I wrote to the National Library of Australia and received prompt reply from the Reference Services
Librarian. Ms. Frei performed a search and graciously supplied a photocopy of the relevant page from the
household sketchbook, illustrated above. The three hives drawn within the bees’ house appear to be box
hives topped by glass bell jars. Accommodation for at least nine hives is available.
Sophia Ives Campbell, swarm-catcher of Wharf House
Newman (1961) “The two daughters had been in charge of Wharf House since their mother (Sophia
Campbell) died in 1833.” It’s my assumption it was the daughter, Sophia Ives 35 Campbell, who was
mentioned in her uncle John’s 1864 letter to The Times Bee-Master. Sophia Ives Campbell was
inadvertently part of the beekeeping scene, having fearlessly survived a settling swarm of bees upon her
hand and arm. John wrote “On one occasion a swarm met my sister, and actually began to settle on
her hand and arm. She knew their ways, and walked very slowly on (of course surrounded by bees)
until she found what she considered a comfortable bough, under which she held her hand. The
queen adopted the suggestion, and after a few minutes patiently standing amidst the confusion, she
quietly retired, and, as you will believe, unharmed.” Assuming Campbell obtained his hive from
Tasmania around 1835 when Clayton’s apiary at O’Brien’s Bridge near Hobart Town was freely
producing swarms, Sophia Ives would have been aged around twenty-three years.

Unfulfilled Promises
Almost twelve months after Cotton’s Sydney visit he wrote home 36 on 21 April 1843 “My Dear Arthur,
my brother and my Godson. … I hope to have some bees sent over to me from friends in Sydney,
where they prosper, as I wrote to you before, most wonderfully.” Despite promises Cotton received
during his stay in Sydney, no bees were forthcoming from Elizabeth Macarthur at Parramatta. Some nine
weeks after his April 1843 letter, the day before Cotton recorded the Shamrock was to sail for Sydney, he
noted in his journal on Friday, 7 July 1843 “I also sent a note to Mrs McArthur of Parramatta begging
her to fulfil her promise of sending me some Bees.”
Which Shamrock was Cotton referring to? From Newman (1961) The Spirit of Wharf House “The sons
John and Robert (Campbell) visited their father frequently (at Duntroon), and in 1844 they spoke of their

35
Sophia Ives Campbell, born in England, 1812, sailed for Australia in 1815 with her parents, Robert and Sophia.
It’s my guess she was the swarm-catcher, however it could equally have been her younger sister Sarah born c1816 in
Sydney.
36
letter located by Bruce Stevenson in 1997 at the Auckland Institute & Museum, New Zealand.
trips in the Shamrock, which was the crack steamer of her time.” 37 The steamer Shamrock 38 was at one
time owned by Campbell & Co. Again from Newman (1961): In 1844 “Another Shamrock, a schooner,
was about to sail for New Zealand …” It would appear it was the schooner which delivered Cotton’s bees.
39

Other New South Wales beekeeping friends had also defaulted on their best intentions, probably due to
their own agricultural priorities, the difficulties of organizing shipping and covering expenses, and the
absence of a suitable chaperone, one with both opportunity and time for a minimum fourteen day return
voyage to the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.
Such an opportunity arose when Cotton’s friend, James Busby, acted as his beehive collection emissary
during the latter’s July 1843 Sydney visit. Cotton’s friends thus need only provide a hive. Busby would
see to arrangements and accompany their carriage. 40 Among those Cotton visited in Sydney during April
and/or May 1842 were:
Hannibal Macarthur
As covered in my book The Immigrant Bees (Volume II), Hannibal Macarthur’s daughter Emmeline, then
some thirteen years old, recounted, as published in My Dear Miss Macarthur, The Recollections of
Emmeline Maria Macarthur (1828-1911) 41 “In 1841 42 Bishop Selwyn, the first Bishop of New
Zealand, arrived with his chaplain Mr. Cotton, who was delighted to find my Father as enthusiastic
about bees as he was. He wrote ‘My Bee Book’. I remember his putting a small star of tin foil on the
Queen Bee’s back, so that he could watch her at work through the glass sides of the hive.” I wonder
if Hannibal Macarthur, like Robert Campbell, was subsequently in possession of a copy of My Bee Book?
Revd. Steele, St. Peter’s, Cook’s River
Cotton’s April 1843 letter home tells of his visit to the Cook’s River apiary of Revd Steele “I send you
herewith, that is by the same ship, a bottle of Australian honey, which is so very nice, to my taste at
least. It was made at Cooks River, near Botany Bay, by the bees belonging to Mr Steele the Parson
of the place. The bees are English bees, but came last from Van Diemen’s Land, whither they were
taken, I believe, some time ago. They do exceptionally here. I met Mr MacClay (sic.) ... Bees were
first brought for his daughter. ... I paid a visit to Mrs McArthur at Parramatta who has a capital
apiary, and to Mr Blaxland.”
Assuming Steele did not procure his bees from the bush, two possible sources were Alexander Macleay
and Robert Campbell, both of whom obtained their bees from Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). Campbell,
I believe, is the leading candidate because of his close links with the Church of England which included
the Cook’s River church of St Peter’s. “In 1837 Robert Campbell gave the land and a donation for the
37
p.167.
38
I’ve found no evidence the steamer Shamrock ever visited New Zealand. From web site
http://www.jenwilletts.com/Steamships.htm “The Shamrock was owned by the Hunter River Steam Navigation
Company. She was rigged as a three masted schooner, with a raised quarter deck and had been built in Bristol. In
1843 she replaced the 'Seahorse' plying between Launceston, Melbourne and Sydney. In February 1846 she was the
vessel of choice for Rev. Dr. Lang on his voyage to Port Phillip and Moreton Bay …” An excellent hand coloured
lithograph the Shamrock c1841 may be viewed on web site http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an9579370
39
From web site http://members.ozemail.com.au/~captbaz/1874_S.htm I located a schooner Shamrock of 85 tons,
built Nova Scotia in 1839 and registered in Wellington 1865, owned by WM Jewell. This is a candidate for Cotton’s
expectations.

40
for more complete coverage, refer to William Charles Cotton, Grand Bee Master of New Zealand, 1842 to 1847.
Peter Barrett, Springwood, 1997.
41
de Falbe, Jean (1988) My dear Miss Macarthur, The Recollections of Emmeline Maria Macarthur (1828-1911),
Kangaroo Press
42
It was actually in 1842
building of St Peter’s Church, Cook’s River.” 43 “The family of Robert Campbell had been brought up not
only as traditionally religious people, but as devout believers in their faith. … Their knowledge of the
Church of England was profound and they helped it freely. … By 1846 the family had been responsible
for much of the work at St Phillip’s in Sydney, St Peter’s at Cook’s River, St John’s at Canberra … and St
John’s at Parramatta. …” 44
Cotton’s apiary visits and resulting promises finally bore results following Busby’s presence in Sydney in
July 1843. As recounted in my 1997 book William Charles Cotton, Grand Bee Master of New Zealand,
Cotton recorded in his journal for Thursday 3 August, under the page heading Bees Arrive “During the
morning I had a letter from Mr Busby dated of this Day at sea, and bringing the joyful intelligence
that he had his hives of Bees for me, one from D Steele’s, the other from Mrs Sparke.” The following
day “Many thanks to them.”
Cotton’s journal entry 45 for 3 August 1843 names the donors of the two hives James Busby sourced for
him while in Sydney. In interpreting Cotton’s handwriting, one name clearly reads as “D Steele”,
identified by Cotton as the Parson of St. Peter’s, Cook’s River. Rev. Dr. Thomas Steele’s hive was “a very
heavy one, the combs had all broken down & the Bees were drowned in honey” 46. This also appears
to have been a large straw hive. “My Sydney friends made the mistake of picking out for me some of
their heaviest hives, whereas the lightest wd have been best. The storified Hives too, like that which
Mr Busby brought down for himself are best suited for the voyage - in them the combs are more
broken up into smaller portions, & have more support. But to return to this lot of mine. …” 47 It
appears the “storified hive”, most likely a more advanced design utilising spaced top-bars, came neither
from Thomas Steele or Mrs Sparke. Busby may have had contacts of his own.
Some fifteen months previously, either in April or May 1842, Cotton had visited Revd Steele at Cook’s
River. An unplanned delay in Sydney 48 supplemented by Campbell’s introductions gave Cotton the
opportunity to visit beekeepers who might replace his lost bee hives. For whatever reason, Cotton’s well
planned grand experiment to bring hives of bees packed in an elaborate icebox from England to New
Zealand had failed before reaching Sydney. Who then was this Mrs Sparke ?
Frances and Alexander Spark, “Tempe”, Cook’s River
The best I could make of Cotton’s script was “Mrs Sparke” who had supplied “a very large straw one” 49
… a great deal too large more than three times the size of those we have in England.” 50 Subsequent
to publication of my Volume II, I located a book titled The Respectable Sydney Merchant, A. B. Spark of
Tempe. 51 Tempe is a town upstream of Botany Bay on the shores of Cook’s River. Alexander Brodie
Spark, a prominent Sydney banker and merchant, and his wife, Frances Maria Spark, were well known to
Steele, the minister of the parish to which they actively belonged. From Spark’s diary 52 for 2 January
1848 “Listened with very great interest to the farewell sermon delivered by Dr Steele previous to his
proceeding to England with Mrs Steele by the Agincourt. Many tears told the esteem in which they
were generally held …” The “Mrs Sparke” of Cotton’s journal must refer to A. B. Spark’s wife.

43
Newman (1961) p.166
44
Newman (1961) p.186
45
Barrett, Peter (1997) William Charles Cotton, Grand Bee Master of New Zealand, 1842 to 1847
46
ibid., 10 August 1843
47
ibid.
48
Thurs 14 April “At sunrise off Sidney Heads. It had fallen a dead calm during the night.” Cotton was in Sydney
until 19 May.
49
Cotton’s diary entry for 10 August 1843
50
ibid., 29 September 1843
51
Abbott, Graham & Little, Geoffrey (1976) The Respectable Sydney Merchant, A. B. Spark of Tempe, Sydney
University Press.
52
ibid., p.184
Alexander and Frances Spark resided at their home “Tempe” sited beside Cook’s River. Spark’s diary
entry for 5 March 1837 “Was called from my morning studies to see a swarm of Bees that had just
emigrated from the parent Hive. I found them hanging from the branch of a Loquat tree, a large
black cluster. A new hive was in readiness, and after due protection against their sting, the
Gardener and Harry shook them from the branch into the hive, which was then placed in its proper
position & a white cloth thrown over it.”53
Spark continued his interest in matters both agricultural and manufacture for he wrote 54 on 12 March
1850 “Presided at a Committee meeting of the Botanic Society, at which the important Report from
the Sub Committee was passed, relative to receiving all articles of colonial growth or manufacture
for transmission to the grand Exhibition in London 55 next year under the auspices of H.R.H. Prince
Albert.” He was also an active exhibitor at horticultural shows, often winning prizes. On 13 February
1839 “the second show of the Floral and Horticultural Society. To this show I had sent in my
gardener with fine specimens of Pomegranates, Olives and Flowers, and some prizes have been
awarded to me.”
Spark’s “estate on the Cook’s River, Tempe, boasted one of the best houses and most admired settings of
the time. … The garden, landscaped by convict labour, boasted many imported shrubs and vines.” 56 12
January 1838 “Abundance of fruit this season at Tempe. Apricots, Mulberries, Figs, Peaches,
nectarines and Plums adorn the table.” On 16 September 1848 “My spouse and I gardening nearly
all day. The total number of fruit trees pruned by us was 154.”
In October 1843, as a result of financial setbacks, Spark was declared insolvent. Fears of such an event
entered his diary on 7 December 1842. “A bill … for £500 returned from London on me. Very
miserable and full of horrible forebodings.” His financial wellbeing was never to return. He chased
business opportunities, many of which did not pay. Some income was derived by selling fruit he and his
wife picked in their orchard at Tempe. Honey sales too may have generated some income.

Alexander Brodie Spark at age 44, 1836


For 15 August 1843 “More rain, still remained at home, if such it may be called. Walked with my
Maria in the garden, now teeming with the promise of spring, from which we are soon to be
53
Isaac Hopkins (1886) recommended that for a freshly captured swarm “a sheet thrown around it will usually
prevent the bees absconding”. p.199
54
Abbott, Graham & Little, Geoffrey (1976) The Respectable Sydney Merchant, A. B. Spark of Tempe, Sydney
University Press. p.194
55
held 1851
56
Abbott, Graham & Little, Geoffrey (1976) The Respectable Sydney Merchant, A. B. Spark of Tempe, Sydney
University Press. p.1
driven.” Two days later “Still kept in the horror of suspence (sic.) respecting my fate.” On 20 August
he knew “It was appointed that I should be driven from the sunshine of liberal affluence, into the
obscurity of lean poverty, but thou hast brought me low so gradually as to prepare my mind in one
degree of humiliation to meet another, without inflicting that awfully sudden wrench which might
have unseated reason from her throne.”
The gift of a valuable hive of bees to Cotton around three weeks previously, then a time of impending
financial ruin, made this donation all the more significant. For gift it must have been: Cotton wrote in his
1848 A Manual for New Zealand Bee Keepers “Get a swarm from a friend early in the season … in
order that your stock may be well established before the swarming season is over, by which time
you ought to have several hives in your bee house. ... he must be a stingy bee master indeed who will
not freely give out of this his abundance … In many parts of England no man would think of doing
such a thing as paying money for a hive. He would hold it unlucky, and say that bought bees never
come to good;”

“Tempe”, Cook’s River


Regarding Spark, from Freda MacDonnell’s Before Kings Cross (1967) “Both as a man and as one of the
leaders of his time in commerce he set an example of moderate living; and when the tide turned against
him, he faced his difficulties with courage and stability.” His financial decline eventually reversed around
January 1846. “He might be gathering apricots and other fruit for the markets; he would never again be
really wealthy, or lead a social life, but he had retained the respect of the city and he was beginning to
build again.”

A Promise Fulfilled
I couldn’t locate any mention of a visit by Cotton in Spark’s diary during April or May 1842.
Unfortunately, Spark’s entries between May 6th and 17th are missing, this twelve-day gap concluding but
two days before Cotton departed Sydney for Auckland. However, Cotton’s New Zealand journal entry for
“Thursday August 10th 1843 … took boat to the Busby’s (Buzz Bee) found his hive alive and doing
well whilst I was sadly off. In one of mine, a very heavy one, the combs had all broken down & the
Bees were drowned in the honey. The other, a very large straw one from Mrs Sparke, had still a few
bees in it alive, not above a cupful, but the combs had all fallen, and the navvies had made free with
the honey. Did not think they had a chance of living, as they flew about in a tumultuous way - sorry
for it.”
Frances Maria Spark
Mournfully, Cotton believed both his hives had failed. “Friday August 11th 1843. About 1 oclock Mr
Burrows put me across to Mr Busby’s with a Maori whom I had hired to pick up the poor remains
of my Bees, found they had all flown away, a poverty swarm, soon after I left them yesterday, sorry
for it.” One month later Cotton still had hopes of bees arriving from his Sydney friends. “Saturday
September 9th 1843. ... off to Keri keri after dinner, as I heard a ship had arrived from Sydney, and
I hoped she might have brought me a hive or two - no Bees.” More disappointment !
Near the end of the month on “Friday September 29th 1843. ... over to Mr Busby’s. Took a comb out
of their hive ... I am to have the first swarm. My Bees to my astonishment alive. The Bees, and their
little combs which they had made, occupied about the space of a tea cup. There was honey in the
cells, and brood. Had I turned them down at once, and fastened them to their stand they might have
done well, but I yielded to my wish to see the Queen, so I tipped-tap tap on the inverted hive.”
Cotton’s exuberance again came into play. With, I suspect, the same overactive eagerness that earned him
two bee stings in John Campbell’s apiary. Bee hives which could have been left to prosper if undisturbed
offered too great a temptation. He could have added “If I had but left them alone”. James Robinson wrote
in his 1889 (2nd ed.) British Bee-Farming, its Profits and Pleasures “An apiary in which experiments
are being constantly performed will never prove successful. The late Rev. W. C. Cotton at one time
purchased fourteen good stocks the same year, and lost them all by experiments.” 57
Cotton, a man of many temperaments, had a different impact in 1864 on John Cumming, The Times
Beemaster, who wrote in praise of Cotton’s view on the positive contribution drones make to a hive
during the Queen’s egg laying season as “no mean authority” (p.101); Cumming wrote in admiration of
“The Reverend Charles Cotton, while he lived the prince of bee-masters …” (p.91); and “Mr. Cotton, the
most affectionate of bee-masters while he lived …” (p.71)
Cotton diarized on 29 September 1843 “The Bees, about a pint - marched all up the sides of the hive
in a few minutes, and I had the pleasure of showing Mrs Busby, and handling myself for the first
time a Queen in N.Z. After some time I put her back, and great was the buzz of gratulation. (sic.)

57
Robinson, James (1889) p.132. Cotton was sympathetic with and committed to observation and experimentation
in his search for knowledge of bees. At the end of Robert Sydserff’s 1792 Treatise on Bees, part of which Cotton
reproduced in his 1842 My Bee Book “Hoping I have satisfied my readers, for which I have exerted the utmost of my
slender abilities, and communicated every observation and experiment worth mentioning, I have only to request
their candour and indulgence; and if this Treatise shall be instrumental, in any respect, to benefit and profit my
fellow-creatures, I shall be amply rewarded for the labour and pains I have taken for that purpose.” (p.232)
Terrible bad weather came on soon after and this parcel of Bees soon dwindled away, or flew away
as a poverty swarm. Their hive was a great deal too large more than three times the size of those we
have in England. I should have been very glad had this hive done better as its ups & downs in life
wd have been unprecedented in Bee annals.
My Sydney friends made the mistake of picking out for me some of their heaviest hives, whereas the
lightest wd have been best. The storified Hives too, like that which Mr Busby brought down for
himself are best suited for the voyage - in them the combs are more broken up into smaller portions,
& have more support. But to return to this lot of mine. The day I first saw them, they swarmed
away, so that when I returned August the 11th the hive was empty. In the even Mr Busby’s man ...
found them all clustering together on the ground, near the hive, the greater part of them having got
into an old glass bottle. He put the hive over them. For several days following wet & cold they
swarmed out, and went crawling about the walls, in a half torpid state. ... and at last got them to
stop in the hive where they began to work - but as I have said did not ultimately come to anything.
...”

“Waspish” criticism
Here is an entertaining diversion - the vitriolic reaction of Rev. T. Clark in his Prefaces and particularly
the footnotes to the 1845 Sixth Edition of Thomas Nutt’s Humanity to Bees. Clark vilified both the person
of William Cotton and My Bee Book. He also disparagingly inverted the accolade of this “elegant
volume” by the anonymous reviewer in The Quarterly Review (Dec. 1842) into an italicized insult.
(p.195) Clark disparagingly footnotes “one of the many specimens of the ridiculous to be met with in
the elegant volume.”
More offence is taken and ridicule piled upon Cotton for his legitimate generic use of the term “he” when
referring to an instance of bees or any fauna of either sex. When Cotton describes his fortune in not being
stung after swallowing a bee “I prepared myself for a run to the Doctor’s, had I felt its sting in my
throat … but the Bee passed so rapidly down, that he had not time to sting; when he got to his
journey’s end, no doubt not a little surprised at the path he had traveled, he resigned himself to his
fate, like a good Bee, and did not avenge himself by stinging me.” Clark retorted “He Bees have no
stings: and from the hes in the tale it is evident that he (Cotton) swallowed a drone Bee. I was
expecting, observed a person in whose hearing this passage was lately read, the conclusion would
have been, that he passed so rapidly on as soon to make his exit through Cotton’s postern, 58 and
that ‘he then flew away like a good Bee’ ” (p.197)
More bile is directed at part of Cotton’s work as “incomprehensible” and “a rigmarole enunciation”; scorn
is again directed at the The Quarterly Review for “the elegant volume, audaciously extolled … Fie,
Cotton ! Fie Quarterly !” (p.224) Another footnote all but accuses Cotton or “some friend” of “the
getting up of the article in the Quarterly - a supposition neither impossible nor improbable.” (p.172)
Of this same footnote British Bee Books, A Bibliography 1500-1976 observes “Nutt complains in the 6th
ed. that Cotton had ‘silently and surreptitiously’ taken the sketch (of the apiary at Delabere Park … the
seat of one of Nutt’s patrons” and reproduced it as his own in My Bee Book. In fact, the accusation was
not made by Nutt but by Clark, as editor, who clearly states in the Preface “For the Notes now
introduced, he (the editor) begs to state, that he alone is responsible: Mr. Nutt has had no hand in
them.” Yet more castigation follows. Was there ever or since so much fury exhibited by one upon another
bee book author ?
And yet, one with a kinder heart resided within this book’s pages: following the original Preface, dated
1832, penned by Nutt, there is repeated his Preface to the Second Edition. Herein he glowingly
acknowledges the contribution wherein “… whole pages of new matter have been introduced
interspersedly by my most respected friend – the Rev. T. Clark of Gedney-Hill, who has revised,
58
A crude reference to Cotton’s backside
corrected, and re-arranged the whole; and who has not only bestowed much time and pains upon
the improvement of my work, but in the kindest and most disinterested manner has, in
superintending this and the former edition through the press, actually traveled upwards of eight
hundred miles. The friendly performer of services so generous, so laborious, and so perseveringly
attended to, without any stipulation for fee or reward, merits from me, and has from me, every
expression of my gratitude, and, were it in my power, should have one expression more.” (pp.xviii-
xix)
The Quarterly Review’s appraisal of Nutt’s work is not one sided, although when on the receiving end of
criticism it can seem more negative than intended. A selection “To enter into all the advantages and
disadvantages of these plans (supering/storifying, nadiring and collateral / side boxes) would be to
write a volume; we must therefore content ourselves with Dr. Bevan’s general rule, which we think
experience fully bears out, that old stocks should be supered and swarms be nadired. Side-boxes are
the leading feature of Mr. Nutt’s plan, about which so much has been written and lectured but that
there is nothing new in this … The object of Mr. Nutt’s system is to prevent swarming, which he
seems to consider an unnatural process, and forced upon the bees by the narrowness and heat of the
hive, caused by an overgrown population. To this we altogether demur … Moreover, with all his
contrivances, Mr. Nutt, or at least his followers, cannot wholly prevent swarming … But great
praise is due to him for the attention which he has called to the ventilation of the hive. … Mr. Nutt’s
book is worth reading for this part of the subject alone:- but our experience, backed by
innumerable other instances within our knowledge, is unfavourable to the use of his boxes; and
even those beekeepers who continue them, as partially successful, have not yet got over the
disappointment caused by his exaggerated statements of the produce.” (p.13)
I suspect Clark’s indignation was due to his belief that he was more the author of Humanity to Bees that
was Nutt. Cotton, however, was positive in his comments upon Nutt’s 1835 third edition., wherein he
described Nutt’s improvement of ventilation upon collateral boxes as “the grand thing”. Did Cotton,
during the latter part of his 1842-47 New Zealand residency, become aware of Clark’s heated sentiments
of 1845? Or was that shock waiting for him on his return ?
The anonymous reviewer in The Quarterly Review was aware of vitriolic reaction towards Cotton’s
views. In a discussion on the relocation of hives to take advantage of near or distant bee pasturage areas:
“a late writer, who has shown rather a waspish disposition in his attacks on Mr. Cotton’s system,
seems to question not only the advantage, but the practicability of the transportation of hives
altogether. But the fact is, that in the north of England and in Scotland, where there are large tracts
of heather-land apart from any habitation, nothing is more common than for the bee-masters of the
towns and villages to submit their hives during the honey season to the care of the shepherd of the
district. …” The reviewer frequently referred to Cotton’s book, mostly on favourable terms. Some
extracts:
“One of the most dangerous services, as may well be imagined, is that of taking their honey, when this is
attempted without suffocating or stupefying, or any of those other methods which leave the hive free. …
The common barbarous plan is to suffocate the whole stock with sulphur, and then, as dead men tell no
tales, and dead bees do not use theirs, it is very easy to cut out the comb at your leisure. But is any case
Mr. Cotton’s plan is far preferable. Instead of suffocating, he stupefies them. … This plan of fumigation
… we consider as the most valuable of the practical part of Mr. Cotton’s book. … The rest of his system,
with which we own ourselves to have been a little puzzled, is too near an approximation to Nutt’s to
require further explanation or trial. … ” (p.16, col.a)
“… the present form of his book … is now sent forth in one of the most elegant volumes that ever graced
a library table.” (p.16, col.b)
“… Mr. Cotton’s book, though not quite as successful as we could wish, is very far indeed from partaking
of the worst defects of this class. Indeed he has so nearly reached the point at which he has aimed, that we
feel continually annoyed that he just falls short of it.”
“... taking the work as it comes to us in its present form, with its exquisite woodcuts, perfection of dress,
prelude of mottoes, … list of bee books (which, though imperfect, particularly as to foreign works, is the
first of the kind) - appendices - reprints - extracts &c ., we hardly know of a book of the kind that has
pleased us more. ... professing no sort of arrangement, it is the perfection of a scrapbook for the
gentleman or lady bee-keeper.”
Clark’s “Advertisement” (Preface) to the 6th ed. is difficult to read with a straight face. It’s pretentiousness
and lack of generosity bestows no credit on the scribe “Were the author, alias the proprietor of the
following work, to attempt to write another preface (there being no fewer than three already,
understood to be author’s Prefaces) the substance of it would probably be to express in glowing
language his gratitude to his patrons particularly, and to the public generally, for the
encouragement he has met with, and for having purchased every copy of all the preceding editions;
and modestly to announce the superiority of the sixth to all former editions. But, to spare the
ostensible author the disagreeable task of puffing, the editor in propria persona takes the
opportunity here afforded him of informing the reader that the materials for the following work
were originally put into his hands in an unconnected and well-nigh unintelligible state, - they were
literally a ‘rudis indigestaque moles,’ which required considerable labour and persevering industry
in order to their being gradually moulded into the form in which they now appear; - and that he
has again been prevailed upon to bestow more than a little labour upon the revision, enlargement,
and, he thinks, improvement of the work. …” Such an astounding diatribe upon the “ostensible author”
is, at the very least, an embarrassment to all who have, and will in future, come across these ill-humoured
comments

Thomas Birkby: gardener, beekeeper


Spark’s some time gardener, also likely doubling as beekeeper during his service of three years to 1838, was
identified in his diary for 3 March that year. “My gardener, Thomas Birkby, with his wife and family took
his departure from Tempe, where they have lived for three years …” Birkby had previously sailed from
London with his wife and children mid July 1834 and after an eventful voyage arrived in Sydney on 24
October 1834. In his letter 59 dated 31 May 1836 to his family in England, Birkby gave details of his voyage
out, subsequent employment and observations of life in the colony. Amongst descriptions of convicts and
their treatment, his opinions on aborigines and their situation, he gave details of native animal and bird life,
prices for stock, wages, and in sympathy with his vocation, the varieties and availability of fruit and
vegetables. He was not impressed by the large flies whose maggots quickly turned even cooked meat
inedible.
Birkby so noticed the predominance of yellow in the native flora he avidly requested as many flower seeds of
certain kinds be sent as could be obtained. I was also pleased to find this passing observation “The native
honey bee is a small insect no bigger than a black ant, but very productive in honey.”
Soon after arrival he worked for the Surveyor General for nine weeks, then as Overseer for five weeks on
the Surveyor General’s property on the “Catarack” 60 and Nepean Rivers. Then followed a longer term
position as Overseer for Spark. “I came down to Sydney and engaged with my present master … to be
Overseer at his farm at Tempe Cooks River, at which place I have been about 14 months and I
believe he is one of the Gentlemen of the Colony. He … makes gardening his Hobby. Our farm
consists of 250 acres most of it pretty good, but we have none of it under cultivation excepting (the)

59
Dixson Collection, State Library of New South Wales
60
ie., Cataract River
new garden that I am making about ten acres, for working which I have thirteen convict
labourers.”

Who supplied Campbell’s hive ?


John Campbell’s letter to John Cumming advised “my father procured our original stock from
Tasmania, in the common straw hive, a bit of pierced tin fastened over the entrance”. Who then
supplied this hive? It could not have been Alexander Macleay, a co-member of the Legislative Council
with the elder Campbell, whose hive was personally delivered by Thomas Braidwood Wilson in August
1832. It’s a mystery why swarms from Macleay’s daughter’s Elizabeth Bay hive were not supplied to
Campbell. Swarms should have been available in Tasmania some reasonable time after January 1831
when Thomas Braidwood Wilson successfully introduced bees there. Robinson (1889) states regarding
Wilson’s hive “It arrived in safety, and the bees swarmed several times the first year;” (p.140)
There is a clue. Wilson documented the care of his hive during its October 1830 - January 1831 voyage
from England to Hobart-town 61 in his circa 1834 correspondence with John Lawrence. In part “Shortly
after we passed the torrid zone, I thought it advisable to confine the bees to their hive; I therefore
placed a piece of perforated sheet-lead against the aperture;” 62 Note the use of perforated metal over
the entrance to confine the bees. The use of a punctured metal (either lead, tin or zinc) entrance cover
appears to have been a common technique.
A prime candidate is Mr. Davidson, Superintendent of the public garden at the time of Wilson’s arrival in
Hobart on 27 January 1831. Davidson subsequently acted on behalf of the Governor in the distribution of
swarms. Wilson recounted the presentation of his hive to the Governor “His Excellency Lieutenant
Governor Arthur was pleased to accept them, on the part of the Government; and promised, should
they succeed, to distribute the swarm to any of the colonists, who might apply for them. The hive
was placed in the public garden, under the special care of Mr. Davidson the superintendent (sic),
and as his Excellency had commanded that the greatest attention should be bestowed on them, they
soon began to thrive and increase. In the space of one year there were seventeen swarms. On my
revisiting Van Dieman’s (sic) Land, in August, 1832, I carried the original hive I had brought from
England to Sydney, and presented it to Alexander Maclean, (sic) Esq. colonial secretary.”
Davidson, first superintendent of the Botanic Garden, given responsibility for the well-being of Wilson’s
original hive of bees, proved more than capable in his duty “In 1832 tribute was paid to Davidson for
his successful management of a hive of bees introduced by Dr T. B. Wilson R. N., … These bees …
multiplied sufficiently in the Gardens for Governor Arthur to send a hive to Governor Bourke 63 in
Sydney.” 64 Robert Campbell too was a most likely recipient of one of Davidson’s swarms.
An equally plausible candidate is a Mr Clayton, whose apiary at O’Brien’s Bridge, Glenorchy, produced
eighteen swarms 65 from one hive alone in February 1835. Robinson’s 1889 British Bee-farming (p.140) does
not specifically name Clayton, however the reference is obvious “… in the True Colonist (a Hobart Town
newspaper) of Feb. 14th, 1835, it is stated that a hive descended from Dr. Wilson’s, belonging to a
gentleman in the neighbourhood of Hobart Town, had already swarmed eighteen times.”

61
Correspondence contained in: Moubray, Bonington. pseudo (Lawrence, John) (1834) A Practical Treatise on
breeding, rearing, and fattening all kinds of domestic poultry, pheasants, pigeons, and rabbits; also the management of
swine, milch cows, and bees; with instructions for the private brewery, on cider, … and british wine making. Sherwood,
Gilbert, and Piper, London.
62
For a first person account of the travails of this hive, see The Immigrant Bees, 1788 to 1898, Volume II, Peter
Barrett, Springwood, 1999.
63
Bourke, eighth Governor of New South Wales, 1831 to 1837
64
Hurburgh, Marcus (1986) The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, 1818-1986, a History in Stone, Sail &
Superintendents, Sandy Bay, 1986. p.13
65
True Colonist, 14 February 1835
The Sydney Morning Herald 66 for 25 May 1837 reported “A gentleman, named Clayton, has just
imported from Hobart Town, about fifty or sixty Hives of healthy Bees, which are well worth
inspection. Some of the Hives contain, at least, five thousand of these little industrious tenants. The
importer has already established the rearing of bees in Van Diemen’s Land and wishes to introduce
them here, without regard to profiting by the speculation. The Bees may be seen as per
advertisement.” Had merchant Campbell acquired one of these hives, located but a short walk from his
own wharf on the same Sydney Cove ? Alexander Berry may also have obtained his bees from Clayton’s
stock for it was in 1837 that Berry had “got some”. 67

The Sydney Morning Herald of 25 May 1837

A Spark – Berry Link


Given Alexander Berry’s extensive business, political and social contacts, he could have obtained his hives of
bees from many prominent apiarian sources, such as Alexander Macleay or John Campbell. Another
possibility is that Berry acquired his bees from Alexander Spark some little time prior to October 1837. 68 As
previously evidenced, the latter’s diary depicts active beekeeping at his Tempe apiary in March 1837 “Was
called from my morning studies to see a swarm of Bees that had just emigrated from the parent Hive
…”
Spark maintained an ongoing commercial relationship with Berry and social contact with both Berry and his
wife at their home at Crows Nest, Sydney eg., on Saturday 4 February 1837, Spark “Crossed over with Mr
McLaren in his boat to his residence on the North Shore …” The next day “… In the forenoon we
crossed the bay in front of Mr McLaren’s house, and climbing up the opposite rock, took a straight
direction … to Mr Miller’s. There we found him and Mr Berry, and remained for some time enjoying
the panoramic view from his house. … Mr Berry had brought his gig, and he and I proceeded onward
to the Crow’s Nest, the others walking. Found Mrs Berry as usual all kindness. Lunched on the fine
fruit she set before us and afterwards walked in the Garden. Many of the fruit trees were burned black
from the great fire which had lately raged in that district, apples and peaches hanging half roasted on
the trees. ...”
After hunting for links between Spark and Berry, all became clear when I found John Manning Ward’s book
titled James Macarthur, 69 Colonial Conservative 1798 – 1867. Although this book is a political study
covering seventy years of the colonial period, it clearly shows the political, family and social links between
many of the beekeepers I‘ve concentrated on, and hence opportunities for beekeeping relationships:
• c1842, Hannibal Macarthur and Robert Campbell were political allies (p.121)

66
p.2e
67
Refer the chapter “Alexander and David Berry, 1837” on page 25.
68
See the story on Frances and Alexander Spark on page 16
69
Campbell, Keith (2002) “In 1821, John MacArthur wrote to his brother James from London, that he understood
that he had acquired English bees, and wanted to know how they were doing. The MacArthurs were first to do with
livestock in Australia: perhaps this was another.”
• James Bowman (I believe the brother of William Bowman of Richmond) was James Macarthur’s
brother-in-law (p.123)
• Thomas Icely, then of Bathurst, was a friend of James (p.126)
• Alexander Macleay, another James Macarthur family friend (p.126)
• James Macarthur, it appears, may have had English bees in 1821. Refer footnote 69 on page. 24 (This
predates Wallace’s 1822 introduction !)
• Hannibal Macarthur was cousin to James Macarthur (p.126)

Alexander and David Berry, 1837


Another parallel – the Sparks, like Berry, used straw skeps: In August 1843, Mrs Spark provided a populated
skep “a very large straw one” 70 to James Busby for William Cotton during Busby’s visit to Sydney from the
Bay of Islands. In late 1837 Berry requested “sheaves of the threshed rye to make bee hives as I have got
some” from his brother John 71 at Coolangatta, their Shoalhaven River property. 72
Keith Campbell, a New South Wales South Coast historian, observed in his 2002 73 ABC radio “Ockham’s
Razor” interview “Berry was experimenting in the construction of bee hives from wheat sheaves at least
as early as 1837.” More than just “experimenting” Berry was exercising his skill in the basic construction
method for making straw beehives known as skeps. Robinson (1889) wrote “… skeps are not difficult to
make, and are very simple in their construction. … The annexed illustration will, at a glance,
explain how to make them; only two articles are necessary, straw, and either a few long bramble
stems, or, what is far better, a few long canes, which may easily be procured … The straw should be
wheat straw, and as long as possible. We have always found hand-threshed straw superior for this
purpose to machine-threshed, because the latter is bruised and broken, so as frequently to be
worthless. The cane should be split up carefully into thin strips.
Many makers use a cow’s horn to work the straw through in plaiting the hive, but a circular bit of
tin soldered so as to keep the straw of an even thickness in the plaits is more convenient and useful;
the tin should be a little wider at one end than the other. At first great care must be taken in
preparing the first round or plait to make it very firm and strong, because on this depends in a
great degree the quality of the hive, and all the weight rests upon this. If this is performed
satisfactorily the greatest difficulty is overcome, and the remainder is comparatively easy work.
Much may be learned by first taking in pieces an old hive, and observing the fastenings of the cane
as well as the mode of its working. The hive entrance is cut out after the hive is completed.” (pp.43-
44)

70
Cotton’s diary entry for 10 August 1843
71
“… after years of persistent invitation Berry in 1836 brought from Scotland his three brothers John, William and
David and two of his three sisters, Janet and Nancy, all of whom settled at Coolangatta …” (Bayley, 1965, p.31)
72
For more on Alexander and David Berry, see also the chapters “Large Scale Beekeeping, 1849” on page and “A
Settler at Illawarra, c1861” on page
73
Broadcast 29 Dec. 2002
Skep Making, from British Bee Farming, Robinson (1889)
Meg Swords (1978) in Alexander Berry and Elizabeth Wollstonecraft provides some fascinating
background to Alexander’s seemingly straightforward request for this raw material to make bee hives. As
well, reference to meade at Coolangatta provides additional evidence of the presence of bee hives and
productive use of by-products of the honey harvest: “Directions of all kinds went to his brothers and
sisters, who were certainly not youngsters. During a period of severe floods he wrote, “For God’s sake,
don’t sit around in your wet clothes.” … He gave instructions, with a diagram, as to how to purify
water for drinking and suggested cures for their ills. His criticism and advice were hard to counter, for at
times his knowledge seemed all-embracing. He obviously did not worry his sisters, who were very fond
of him and loved him to visit Coolangatta, where he was pressed to drink their home-made mead and
wine and where, as he said, he was sadly over-fed.” (p.25)
“David took over ‘management’ of the Shoalhaven estate, but had to suffer a constant stream of directions
from Alexander, who found fault with him, saying he was too soft, indecisive and easily taken in. He
wrote scornfully of William’s laziness and once demanded that William bestir himself from his quarter-
century sleep and go out and measure Hume’s farm, which had been added to the property. … Alexander
never seemed to praise anything his family did, yet each one of them answered his letters respectfully,
even affectionately. … A few brief quotations from letters to his brothers may give some idea of
Alexander’s dominance over his family: “The butter you sent was rancid. Not enough milk was beat
out. … No reputable butcher would buy the meat you sent up. … The horses from Coolangatta
were the worst broken-in to reach the market. … Shoalhaven maize was too full of weevils to send
to New Zealand. … The wheat is infested with rust, because the slovenly tenants’ ploughing is too
shallow. Even if they are poor agriculturalists they should be Christians and know the parable of
the sower. … You are spending too much of the rents on improvements. I am in debt to the Bank.”
(p.24)
Keith Campbell (2000) has located a similarly fascinating stream of Alexander Berry’s directives targeted
at bees, beekeeping and honey on the Shoalhaven estate: “For a few years at the beginning of the 1850s,
Berry put much time and effort into the export of honey and its use in other ways. He sent books on
beekeeping to his brother and farm manager, David, to improve beekeeping practices. He instructed
David to put all honey to be sent to California or New Zealand in good kegs. He advocated the use of
bottles in place of jars, to overcome the problem of leakage and fermentation. He adopted the principle of
only exporting the best produce. He told David to experiment with honey in the manufacture of beer and
wine, but he always seemed to find that the wine had a burnt smell, and tasted too sweet, like a liqueur.” 74
Also discovered by Keith Campbell “A small amount of honey was sold to a doctor in Sydney for
medicinal purposes for 6d a pound, but not enough to make an impression on the supply. For there were
74
Keith’s research continues so he has decided to reserve the original sources at this time.
logistic and marketing problems. His warehouse in Sydney became overstocked with honey, and he
couldn’t make sales locally. Consignments had to be returned to the Shoalhaven. Late in 1851, his bees
failed to swarm properly, and he lost many as they drowned trying to fly across the Shoalhaven River. 75
And there were other worries, too. David was most concerned that bees were impoverishing the pasturage
by taking honey from the clover and flowers of the field, that the European bees were bleeding both
introduced and indigenous plants to death.”
What a fascinating wealth of detail Campbell has presented on the beekeeping Berry brothers, including
the export of honey to California and New Zealand. Again from Campbell “… in 1850, Berry supplied 2
tons of the 12 tons exported from New South Wales. The returns were financially rewarding. Townsend
(1849) said that settlers could produce a ton of honey from 100 hives. One south coast producer, perhaps
Berry, exported 7 hundredweight of honey for 21-pounds. After all expenses, received over 16-pounds, a
terrific return.”
From Shoalhaven, History of the Shire of Shoalhaven 76 “Products were shipped from Ulladulla, being
taken from the beach by small boats to sailing ships and steamers waiting in the bay harbour. In 1858
people organized an appeal for the building of a jetty, exports being wheat, maize, potatoes, onions, kegs
of butter, bacon, cheese, fowls, honey and pigs.” (p.58) It’s possible that honey from Coolangatta was
consigned through Ulladulla further south, though it’s more likely Berry’s cargoes were shipped from
Greenwell Point on the Crookhaven River. “From early times, Greenwell Point became a shipping point
for Shoalhaven produce because the canal 77 and Shoalhaven were too shallow to permit navigation by
larger seagoing ships.” (Bayley, p.58) “… the S.S. Coolangatta plied many years to Broughton Creek
(now named Berry) … taking freight to Greenwell Point to deeper draught steamers unable to reach” 78
that far up the Shoalhaven.
Again from Alexander Berry and Elizabeth Wollstonecraft “His correspondence with Mr Busby extended
over the years from 1835 to 1870. This friendship began when he stood by Busby, whose completed
project (1827-35) of bringing water to Sydney from the high swampy land near Botany Bay had been so

75
I could find no official reference to great floods on the Shoalhaven prior to 1860, however Bayley (1965) provides
“As settlement grew along the Shoalhaven the farmers to the end of the fifties saw a number of rises in the river and
letters written by Alexander Berry mention crop losses due to heavy rains and flooded fields. A flood was recorded
on April 26, 1842. There was a small flood in 1852 but little damage. However at Numba and Terrara in the opening
sixties the February flood, forerunner of things to come, swept much of the pioneers’ work away. Houses on the
river banks were carried away whilst the potato and wheat crop became a total loss and livestock, cattle, poultry and
pigs were swept away and drowned. … In the opening days of 1860 … river navigation was partly destroyed. All
bridges on the road from Shoalhaven to Ulladulla were washed away.” (p.87) “… Another flood struck in May when
Terrara residents took refuge in Nowra. … August brought the third flood in six months … Exasperation reigned
when the fourth flood for the year washed away the wheat crop. … Again in June 1864 great floods swept down …
although the river height was five feet lower than in the highest 1860 flood. … April and June the following year
saw floods again when Pyree, Numba and Brundee reported more water than the flood of 1860.” (p.88) Bayley
(1965) also mentions a “big flood” in 1862 which caused closure of the Commercial Bank of Sydney branch at
Terrara which reopened in 1859, (p.66) and yet more floods in 1867 (p.88). “Again in March 1870 floods swept
down the river … The flood of April 1870 proved the greatest of all …” (p.88). Bayley (1965) provided a report
from that time “The spot where once stood the post office, the telegraph office, the steam company’s store and
wharf, where all was life, business and activity, is now one vast and vacant blank, and forms part of the Shoalhaven
River. The streets are turned into innumerable gullies, sand banks and creeks, fences are washed away, and the
formation of the town completely destroyed.”
76
Bayley, William A. (1965) Shoalhaven, History of the Shire of Shoalhaven (1965
77
The canal was man made, it linked the Shoalhaven and Crookhaven rivers
78
Bayley (1965) p.59
cruelly criticised. 79 He had also aided Busby in his early work in Vine Culture, editing his book 80 on the
subject.” (p.33) This close and lengthy relationship between Berry and Busby opens the possibility that
the former was a possible donor of the straw hive that Busby subsequently supplied to William Cotton in
July 1843. 81

Illawarra region, c 1850


The 1851 observations of P.V.M. Filleul, using the pseudonym “A Country Curate” 82 in his book The
Cottage Bee Keeper, provides comment on the Illawarra region, most likely describing the apiary of
David Berry at Coolangatta, Shoalhaven River, c1849 “… in America or Australia, it is almost
incredible of how large an apiary one hive may become the parent in a very few years; in England,
a similar hive may stand year after year, without change, apparently strong, yet unproductive in
either swarms or honey. … In a late work 83 on New South Wales, I read the following astonishing
account of the produce of a single stock of bees:- “In the district Illawarra, near Sydney, one hive
has been known to multiply itself to 300 (!!) in the course of three years ! ” (p.5)
Keith Campbell (2000) reported “J.P. Townsend, an observant traveler, who wrote in 1849 ‘The English
bee has been introduced into Illawarra within the last few years, and with much success’ He
believed their increase was due to the soft winters.”

79
Swords made an error here, and confused the doings of father and son(s). It was not James Busby (1801-71,
second son of John Busby), but his father, John Busby (1765 – 1857), a civil engineer, who, subsequently assisted
by his sixth child, William Busby (1813-87), in 1837 completed a tunnel 12,000 feet long and five feet high, known
as “Busby’s Bore”, which supplied water sourced from the swamp at Waterloo to a standpipe in Hyde Park. This
bore provided for Sydney’s needs up to 1849. The Australian Encyclopaedia (Volume II), pp.192-194
80
“Treatise on the Culture of the Vine by James Busby (1825), published by Robert Howe, Government Printer. See
The Australian Encyclopaedia (Volume II), Angus & Robertson (1958), p.192a,b. “In 1830 Busby had published a
second book on vine-culture. A Manual of Plain Directions for Planting and Cultivating Vineyards”
81
Refer William Charles Cotton, Grand Bee Master of New Zealand, 1842 to 1847, p.46
82
“A Country Curate” pseudonym of P.V.M. Filleul. First published as The English bee-keeper …London,
Rivington, 1851; re-published same year as The Cottage Bee Keeper, New York, C.M. Saxton
83
Townsend, Joseph Phipps (1849) Rambles & Observations in New South Wales; most likely the original source of
the 1851 Cottage Bee Keeper reference to 300 swarms.