Spread out atop building rooftops across Manchester city centre are a number of hidden beehives. This is the beginning of a series profiling them, with the first found just above the entranceway to Manchester Cathedral, accessed via a small spiral staircase. Home to four beehives containing around ¼ million bees, they are cared for by Adrian Rhodes, the “Canon Apiarist”, as he’s unofficially known.
Adrian started bee-keeping at his home in 2011. Looking for a quiet spot in case one of his hives became “angry” due to the proximity of people, he thought about the roof of the Cathedral would by the ideal location. The Dean of the Cathedral agreed, and within five weeks two beehives were up there, with the project launched in June 2012 as part of the Dig the City festival. It’s the only Cathedral in the country with such an arrangement.
Helping Adrian are two volunteers, recruited via the Volition scheme to get long-term unemployed back into work. Adrian is also responsible for looking after the Printworks beehives, which I’ll be writing about in the near future. For the upcoming season they’ll have six hives to look after, with the additional two currently being built in the Cathedral’s workspace.
The honey generated by the bees is sold as Heavenly Honey, the first jar of which was presented to the Queen during a visit to the Cathedral in 2013. If you’d like to try it yourself, it can be bought in the Cathedral’s bookshop.
You’ll note in the photographs above that the beehives in the photographs are wrapped up. This is to help keep the bees warm while they are clustered over the winter months.
The Hives aren’t the only place where you’ll find bees in the Cathedral. Within the stained glass of the Hope window a bee can be found in flight. The window was designed by Alan Davies and installed in 2016.
Harder to find are the bees hidden behind the red choir stalls (there’s twenty two in total, in remembrance of the victims of the Manchester bombing) and also a hive hidden beneath an altar.