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Stewarton Octagonal Bee Hive

A pretty looking octagonal bee hive, with sliding bars to allow admission of bees to individual inter comb spaces, that was invented by Robert Kerr in 1819, they enjoyed considerable popularity during the rest of the nineteenth century as they did not suffer from dampness.

Designed in 1819, Robert Kerr's Stewarton hive was octagonal, thus there were no corners for stagnant damp air to accumulate. He was a cabinetmaker by trade and lived in Stewarton, Ayrshire, where was born in 1755, he died in America in 1840. The hive name is derived from the place itself which was famous for making bonnets.

Octagonal hives were not a new idea... The octagon is not far different from a circle and both circular skeps and wicker basket style hives had been in use for many centuries. Notable among those were William Mewe, John Gedde, Christopher Wren and Robert Hook.

The boxes that were used to make up this type of hive were in two basic depths:-

Although the terms 'brood box' and 'super' were not used at the time, for simplicity I use them here.

The boxes used for brood were nominally 7" (178 mm) or 8" (203 mm) in height. Whilst shallow boxes of nominally 4" (100 mm) were used for honey storage.

Slide bars These were rebated to allow permanent retention, its is also probable that in the original equipment the slides would not be interchangeable. The modern production of these is accurate enough for complete interchangeability... If that was ever necessary.

Observation windows... We may think it quaint to have shuttered windows in hive boxes, but it was common in the 19th century and Kerr's Stewarton had two (sometimes four) windows in each honey box, that could be covered by sliding shutters.

Stewarton boxes were commonly sold with the comb honey crop intact, I presume some sort of rebate having been negotiated on the return of the empty box.

Will Messenger has been researching the Stewarton and other early designs of hive. He will actually manufacture one to order, but be prepared for a long lead time and a high purchase price.

There was also a square version which was known as the Carr-Stewarton, I presume the Carr being William Broughton Carr or one of his family.

 Originated... 13 August 2002, Upgraded... 07 September 2006,
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