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Agnes's Birds and Bees 1

Friends of Kensal Green

Newsletter No. 67
October 2012
ISSN: 1753-4402

Posted here with their kind permission,
but split & re-arranged.

In 1904, the American journalist Hayden Church described a visit to the Baden-Powell family home at 32 Princes Gate, Hyde Park. He found Robert Baden-Powell sculpting a bust of his putative ancestor, Captain John Smith, but was particularly taken with Agnes:-

But by all odds the most picturesque member of the Baden-Powell household after 'B.P.' himself is his sister, who is famous as the only woman who has ever kept bees in a London drawing room and induced them to make honey there.

Bees always have interested Miss Baden- Powell, and it was when, about fifteen years ago, Sir Benjamin Brodie offered a swarm of them to her that she determined to try to keep them at the family's London house. Having their hives in the drawing room was an afterthought worthy of a Baden-Powell. It must not be supposed, however, that the bees were loose in the drawing room. The past tense is used in this connection because at Princes Gate Miss Baden-Powell has these queer pets of hers in her own apartment. They occupied the drawing room of the family's other house. The wall of the house was pierced by a hollow metal tube which connected the hives with the outside world, and through this the insects passed out in quest of honey and in again with their loads.

They got, and still get, their honey in the many London parks, and perhaps on account of the lack of competition Miss Baden-Powell's bees have from the first produced a lot more of this delectable substance than insects belonging to friends of hers who live in the country. Last year the Baden-Powell bees garnered over sixty pounds of honey, which was used either in the household or given to friends. And so close a study has Miss Baden-Powell made of her bees and the kind of flowers they affect that as each bee returns she can tell whether it has been to Hyde park, the Green park, or across the river to Battersea park in quest of supplies.

The glass hives are arranged in such a way that the bees can be seen at work — at which 'B.P.' himself frequently watches them, and it was at his suggestion that they were provided with dwellings of various shapes in order that they might work their combs in different designs. In this way the bees have written 'God Save the King' and 'Baden-Powell' in honey, reproduced the Prince of Wales' feathers, and, quite recently, drawn the outline of a bicycle in the same substance.

No less striking than the Baden-Powell apiary, however, is its aviary. For if beehives in a bedroom make an uncommon sight, so does a tree with live birds on it in a hallway. One of the first things that strike the eye on entering the home of Gen. Baden- Powell is a small potted fir tree, about the branches of which hop seven or eight canary birds. They are absolutely free, and fly about the hall at will, sticking to the tree for the most part, however. These songsters also belong to Miss Baden- Powell, who got the first eggs, shooing off the mother bird for this purpose.



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