Not to be confused with our Chorlton friends the Bee Gees, we have been lucky this month to get to know some of our local real life bees.
As many of you will know, the bee is a symbol of Manchester. Back in the 19th century, Manchester was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, and the city quickly became a hive of activity, populated by hard-working citizens working away in mills and factories to produce the goods which created the city’s wealth. Some mill owners took the metaphor to its logical conclusion, adding appropriately-named “beehive mills” to the skyline. Whilst the machinery which powers them has long since fallen silent, there is still a Beehive Mill in Ancoats, where Manchester’s industrial age started (built in 1824, the mill has been reinvented as, among other things, a rehearsal spaces for bands).
Manchester’s coat of arms, swarming with bees, adorns many buildings. Unsurprisingly, it most often appears on those built during the industrial age, an architectural period ripe with ostentatious decoration. Manchester’s grandest monument to civic pride, Alfred Waterhouse’s magnificent neo-Gothic Manchester Town Hall, which was completed in 1877, is abuzz with bees, most notably larger-than-life versions laid into the intricate floor mosaics. Often, though, a bee appears alone. When The Gardens in St Ann’s Square (originally built for an insurance company in 1959; now housing a Links of London store) was reclad in 1986, single oversize bees mounted on medallions were added to exterior, looking down on busy shoppers to playful effect.
But What About Actual Bees?
The Baytrees Bee Project, located at the Cypress Street allotments, aims to create a green paradise in an inner-city area of north Manchester. Based in Harpurhey, six volunteers work on the project full time, but the whole community take part in the project and help produce jars of honey created entirely in Harpurhey.
The project aims to challenge the way Harpurhey is portrayed in the media as a deprived area, such as in the TV documentary People Like Us.
From Spring time until early October visitors can spend a day learning to be a bee keeper, with school trips organised to teach youngsters about urban bee keepers.
Surrounding neighbours have also been planting particular flowers and plants to help create a habitat for the bees to produce pollen.
Volunteers record updates and make short films for a YouTube channel helping people keep up to date with the latest news from the bees.
Anybody who visits the project can purchase jars of honey created by the bees and entirely in Harpurhey.
Volunteer Richard Searle said 20,000 miles of travel between Harpurhey, Moston and Crumpsall goes into making the honey.
He said: “It is a quirky thing for Harpurhey and bee keeping has got a long and rich history in this country.
“I think we should be thinking about training our next generation of bee keepers.
“It is engaging the community, people end up talking to each other about it. It is one of those things that help people see the world differently.”