The Woolhope Club
Alfred Watkins (1855-
Brewery and Flour Mill Photography and Bee Meter Woolhope Club Public Service Ley Lines End Piece
Outline of life
Alfred Watkins was born at the Imperial Hotel in Widemarsh Street on 27 January 1855. He was the third of the ten children of Charles and Ann Watkins. Charles was a typical Victorian entrepreneur who expanded from the Imperial Hotel to own the Bewell Street Hereford Brewery and The Friar Street Flour Mill. Alfred was educated at a private school situated in what is now the Framers’ Club. He later told his son that he learnt ‘absolutely nothing’.
He married Marion Mendham Cross in 1886 and they had two children, Allen and Marion. They continued to live in Hereford, first at Broomy Hill, then at Vineyard Croft in Hampton Park and finally at 5 Harley Court, close by the cathedral.
His daughter described him as ‘a bit of a rough diamond to look at; broad-
Brewery and Flour Mill
As his father Charles took over various businesses in Hereford he added the tag ‘Imperial’ to them, ending up with an ‘Imperial Empire’ in Hereford to the extent that his daughters were known, behind his back as ‘their Imperial Highnesses’. Alfred started work in the brewery, learning all aspects of the trade from the construction of wooden barrels to brewing and bottling. He then became an ‘out-
The Imperial Brewery was sold in 1898 for £64,000 making Alfred totally independent. However, he continued to have an interest in the flour mills for the rest of his life.
Photography & the Bee Meter
Alfred Watkins lifelong interest in photography started in his late ’teens with little more than a pinhole camera, developing his wet glass-
Watkins became a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in 1910 and was awarded the society’s 11th Progress Medal for his research work. The following year he completed his all-
His Photographic Record
Alfred Watkins spent over sixty years photographing events throughout Herefordshire and the neighbouring counties. First by horse and trap, then by one or other of his favourite steam cars and later by his Wolseley Stellite, he travelled to the most remote parts of the county taking photographs of items which caught his interest with his massive plate camera,. As a result he published his Survey of Pigeon Houses in Herefordshire and in Gower with line drawings made from his photographs in 1891, and The Old Standing Crosses of Herefordshire, full of his own photographs, in 1930.
He was perhaps more of an antiquarian than an archaeologist, but ensured that fine photographic records exist of many archaeological sites that have since been lost including sections of Hereford’s City Walls, Craswall Priory, St Giles Chapel and many others.
The Woolhope Club
The Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club was formed in 1851; Alfred Watkins became a member on 24 May 1888, Queen Victoria’s 69th birthday. From then on, he regularly attended the Club’s meetings, in Hereford during the winter months and out and about in the County and further afield in the summer. For many years the Club Transactions were illustrated almost entirely by Watkins’ photographs. Rare shots include buildings long since demolished, historic trees and diverse countryside activities.
Alfred Watkins was president of the Club in 1919, when he tried, unsuccessfully, to allow women to become members of the club. Ladies were not admitted as full members until after his death. After his presidential year his retiring address to the members was an illustrated talk on The History of the Honey Bee, another of his many and varied interests.
In politics, Alfred Watkins was a traditional Liberal, against the intrusion of party politics in local elections and strongly in favour Free Trade and of Votes for Women. He became a County Magistrate in 1907 and served on the Bench for many years. In 1914 he became County Councillor for Tupsley and was eventually made a County Alderman. His efforts were responsible for the riverside path below the old General Hospital and, as committee chairman, the design of the War Memorial in St. Peter’s Square.
He was captain of the Hereford Rowing Club for many years and was a founder member of the Hereford Debating Society and of the Hereford Bee-
Decimal currency was proposed as early as 1919, when Watkins, then supported by no less a figure than George Bernard Shaw, produced a booklet called Must We Trade in Tenths? This booklet, selling for 3d., proposed an octaval currency based on the old half-
It was in 1921 that Alfred Watkins read a paper to the Woolhope Club members on Early British Trackways, Moats, Mounds, Camps and Sites. In his talk he introduced members to a new concept — the old straight track; the ley line — prehistoric trading routes based on straight lines between a variety of sighting points. Of great significance, these original markers were subsequently re-
Illustrations from the Old Straight Track
Track sighted on notch Llanthony
Sighting Staves used in different cultures
Mark stones in the landscape
Snail; the inspiration for the 'dod' man and places on ley lines in Herefordshire
Alfred Watkins died at the age of 80 in April 1935. in his obituary in the Hereford Times the writes asked ‘who in the city can be unfamiliar with that slightly bent figure: intense, abrupt, hurrying to some business or engaged in animated conversation, oblivious to anything save the object in hand?. He concluded that ‘First and foremost he was a Herefordshire Man, as native to the county as the hop and the apple’.