On Tuesday 3rd July, thirty-three enquiring minds arrived at the head office of EH Thorne (Beehives) Ltd in Rand near Wragby for a conducted tour of the enterprise. Once ushered in to the restaurant area which doubled up as our lecture room, Rebecca, a fourth-generation descendant of the owner, filled us in on the background of the business. Her great grandfather Edgar Henry Thorne started up the company back in the early 20th century more or less by chance after being asked to make a beehive for the headteacher of Wragby School. From then on, he developed a keen interest in bee keeping himself and, also realised there was a ready market for manufacturing bee hives.
We watched intently as Rebecca dismantled a ‘National’ style hive and explained all the parts as she reassembled it piece by piece in front of us. We then split into two groups for our tour. Thorne’s manufacture a variety of different styles of ready assembled and flat packed beehives, the majority of which are made from Canadian redwood cedar, so our group were taken first to the timber store. From here we were escorted into a building where we were shown how the wood is cut to size and shape according to each frame type, then assembled by experienced joiners.
When you see the finished article, you really do not appreciate what skilled workmanship is involved in the making of a beehive. Not only does it require proficient woodworkers but also metal workers who manufacture all the different metal components as well as a variety of other operatives who specialise in making the interior constituents.
The company moved into its current premises some ten or eleven years ago having out grown its original building in Wragby. At Rand there is plenty of room to expand and develop; they even have an extensive ‘supermarket’ where not only beekeepers and candlemakers but also the public can browse their range of equipment and associated ‘bee’ accessories.
Thorne’s employ around 90 people and, in addition to those involved in the actual production of the beehives themselves, there are also staff who manufacture ancillary products including beeswax foundation sheets, protective clothing for beekeepers, honey extractors, smokers and many other apiary accessories; in fact they seem to make nearly every piece of equipment essential to the keeping of bees or that of the candle maker which includes hundreds of designs of silicone moulds and a spectrum of coloured candle sheets for making rolled candles. They even actually sell bees!!!
Our tour guide Rebecca was knowledgeable, passionate and justly proud of her heritage. It was fascinating to see how a beehive is created from start to finish and to know that this relatively small company situated in the back of nowhere is at the top of its profession and exporting its products around the world. We ended our visit back in the restaurant where we started and were served a delicious selection of sandwiches and cakes. Many thanks to Sharon for organising the visit and she and Steve for their photos.