Thursday, 4 February 2016

How we used to live ........ hop picking and stories from the 19th century researched by Barny

There will be those that can remember spending part of the year hop picking in the Kent fields and  for those who can’t here are some stories collected by Barny.

Hopper's huts, Downs Farm, Yalding,  Kent, 2006
They are a fascinating insight into a world which was still a commonplace activity just half a century ago.

“Picking in the Farnham district will become general during the week, many of the planters having already commenced. 

In the best grounds as much as 7 cwt. to the acre will be produced, but these grounds are exceptional. 

Most of the gardens comprised in what is known as the town district will yield not more than 2 cwt. or 3 cwt. to the acre. 

Indeed, some grounds will produce hardly any that will be marketable. Some hops that have reached fair size are being picked in an unripe state owing to the rapid spread of mould.”*


"There was a disgraceful scene at Faversham on Saturday, when about 2,000 hop-pickers received their earnings. Those from Selling were conveyed direct to London by special trains immediately upon being paid off, and thus had no opportunity of getting drunk, but a considerable number from other parishes had to travel by ordinary trains from Faversham. 

These went into the town, and, getting intoxicated, became very quarrelsome and disorderly. Men knocked one another down like ninepins, and women engaged in brutal encounters, scratching one another and clutching each other’s hair unmercifully.

Hopper's huts, Grange Farm, Tonbridge, Kent, 2007
As many as a score of fights were going on at one time; blood was streaming from the heads and faces of many men and women, some of whom had been severely kicked while lying on the ground at the mercy of their antagonists. 

Eventually the police succeeded in quelling the disturbances, and arrested some of the ring-leaders. 

Upwards of 5,000 “foreign” pickers have this year been employed in the Faversham district, and their conduct has certainly been much worse than usual. 

Another year it will be necessary to have a much larger force of police stationed in the district during the “hopping.” It is only by great tact that the little body of constables who have been charged with the duty of looking after the pickers, have been able to preserve order so well as they have done.

At Selling, on one occasion this season, a publican found it necessary to close his house entirely. The departure of the “foreign” hop-pickers has given great satisfaction to the inhabitants of Faversham.”

Of course by "foreign" the journalist means Londoners.

Research by Barny

Location; Kent

Picture; Hopper huts at Downs Farm, Yalding, Kent, Penny Mayes, July10,  2006, and Hoppers' huts, Grange Farm, near Tonbridge, Kent, Dr Neil Clifton, March 2 2007, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license from Hopper hut,

*Evening News, London, September 12 1888,

**The Times September 15 1884

*** Hoppers' huts, Grange Farm, near Tonbridge, Kent, England. These derelict iron structures are the remains of hoppers' huts, which were used, many years ago, as living accommodation by hop pickers from London who had travelled down to Kent to earn a little money picking the hop harvest. Apparently there are very few similar survivors of these huts.

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