The Surrey Beekeepers Association (SBKA) is made up of eight divisions; Croydon, Epsom, Farnham, Guildford, Kingston, Reigate, Weybridge and Wimbledon. Central Sussex BKA is affiliated to the SBKA. Members of a division are automatically members of the Surrey Beekeepers Association and the British Beekeepers Association.
Surrey Beekeepers’ Association was founded in 1879, five years after the British Beekeepers’ Association. It was affiliated to the BBKA in 1880. Initially there were 67 members, a third of whom were from Croydon and another third from West Surrey. Wimbledon District was opened in 1882. In 1883 four districts were listed: Camberley, Croydon, Guildford and Wimbledon. By 1885 Chobham, Cranleigh, Godstone, Haslemere, Leatherhead and Cobham, Sutton and Wooton/Dorking had been added. 1886 saw the further addition of East Molesey/Kingston, and Sutton. Godalming joined Guildford. In 1895 the inaugural meeting of a ‘New Beekeepers Association’ was held. A provisional committee was formed and in 1896 a new affiliation with the BBKA was sought. So it would appear there was a ‘falling out’ with the previous administration. SBKA bought a Bee Van ‘for a sum not exceeding £35’ in 1898! It was sold for £25 in 1906. In 1910 there is a record of visiting experts on Isle of Wight Disease and IOW Disease was blamed the following year for a small drop in membership. The first record of an Annual Show at Guildford dates from 1911. There was little activity during World War I.
Reigate District was founded in 1917. In 1920 the SBKA Council was formed. The President was Sir Jeremiah Coleman (of mustard fame). In 1921 it was decided that the Districts should be known as Divisions. BeeCraft had been launched by Kent BKA in 1919 as a county beekeeping journal.
In 1921 a committee was formed to run BeeCraft jointly by Kent and Surrey BKAs. Kingston Division was formed in this year. In 1923 SBKA Council resolved to run an annual show at Crystal Palace in conjunction with Kent BKA. This was to be called the National Show of Bees and Honey. This is the origin of the National Honey Show. The 1925 Annual Report shows the first entry for Epsom Division and there is mention of a Chertsey Division. A South East Federation of BKAs was formed in 1932 and dissolved in 1951. In 1950 Dorking was amalgamated with Reigate Division. A prominent member, W.E. Hamlin, had been presented with a gold medal by SBKA in 1929. In 1962 Mrs Hamlyn presented the medal to SBKA in memory of her husband and suggested it should be used as a badge of office for the present and successive secretaries. Where is that medal now? By 1971 we had the eight Divisions that exist today. In 1976 a proposed period of office of 5 years for the President was discussed. In 1984 our records show a question was raised about the charitable status of the Association. The treasurer responded that HM Inspector of Taxes was happy that SBKA subscriptions could be regarded as a charity payment. At the AGM in 1991 the Hon. Secretary was asked to write to the Charity Commission to confirm our status. In 1992 it was reported at the AGM that a reply had been received from the Charity Commission and progress was being made towards charitable status. Rule changes were needed to comply with charitable status and these were made in 1993. A new Constitution bringing SBKA in line with current Charity Commission rules was agreed in 2008.
Membership levels are interesting. A note from the 1990 AGM shows that a membership decline had been halted and stood at 676 members. However, by 2006 it was 394, rising to 804 in 2010 and almost 1,000 in 2011 making Surrey BKA the 5th largest member of BBKA.