The Chain Bridge Honey Farm is a flourishing family business, started by beekeeping advisor William Selby Robson in 1948.
In 1962, his son, also William but known as Willie, took up beekeeping with the aim of expanding his father’s enterprise, not only by increasing the number of hives, but also the diversity of products.
Bees were purchased from retiring beekeepers while Smith hives were made from local timber (predominantly Thuja, which is light and resists decay). In those days, large quantities of comb honey were produced as well as liquid honey mainly from wild white clover. In 1971 William Robson Snr retired and helped Willie establish a viable honey farm.
His knowledge and experience was crucial at this time. Mr Robson Snr continued to work with bees until he was 82 years old. In 1973 Daphne Robson joined the business, preparing honey for sale and delivering it to the shops. The business grew year by year and in 1982 a new honey house was built.
Much of the machinery installed came from ship-breakers and is still in use today.
The honey house was gradually extended to include workshops and, in 1991, a very comprehensive visitor centre. It was around this time that many new products were introduced using the vast amounts of beeswax produced. Hive numbers rose gradually as the seasons allowed from 500 to nearly 2,000 at present (with 2,500 the future target).
These are located within a 40-mile radius of Berwick-upon-Tweed. 2007 should see the business move into a new, third honey house, with hopes to increase the average production of honey to above 80 tonnes. Most people who telephone the honey farm will speak to Daphne, who is now responsible for organising honey deliveries to about 350 shops.
The enterprise at Chain Bridge Honey Farm is ‘vertically integrated’, in so far as all relevant jobs are carried out by the existing staff and this includes constructing the buildings, making the beehives (plus all the relevant parts), modifying and installing machinery, beekeeping and preparation of honey and by-products, wholesaling the products to retailers and retailing the product at Chain Bridge Honey Farm and online.
The farm currently employs 15 people including Willie and Daphne and their three children, Stephen, Heather and Frances.