Hop Picking

Happy Days
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Re: Hop Picking

Postby kiwi » Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:44 pm

HOPPING, like someone has said unless you went it’s hard to understand. I was born in 42 and went hopping until 60/61, even packed up jobs to go. The best years being when I was a youngster. Getting up early pushing your old prams to walk to London bridge from the Old Kent Road, then getting on the packed train listening to the clickety click of the wheels on the rails, sticking your head out the window smelling the smoke, soot in your eyes great memories. We went to many farms, Goudhurst, Horsemonden, Cranbrook, Marden, East Peckham, and finally Hunton, but the people were the same skint, work hard, have a drink and laugh. The first thing when you found your hut, find the pile of faggots (wood), light the fire make a cup of tea, fill your Palais’s with straw then off to explore and find the friends you haven’t seen for a year. Other memories I have are when we went hopping by lorry, the lorry as far as I can remember belonging to Fox's fruit and veg shop in Tower Bridge Road I think we stopped at every pub on the way, we would get just past Blackheath and to us that was the country, what I do remember about the drive was all the adults seemed to be worried about going down Seven Mile Lane doe's anyone else remember that or did I dream that.? Another memory, is the smell of lime sulphur which came out the bottom of the Oast, sitting round the fire singing songs, especially when you go down hopping, but one thing that as stuck in my mind all these years was a little gipsy girl sitting on a bin singing Freight Train Freight Train by Nancy Whisky (1957, does that stir a memory if I hear that song.
Remember putting a penny on the Railway Lines to get flattened by the train but the memory that still lingers after all these years was lying in bed on that straw mattress and listening to the steam train blowing its whistle from miles away and getting closer and closer. Even to this day sixty odd years on we are lucky enough to have a steam train run quite often pass our house and when that whistle goes. Bang! I am back in Kent, listening to the whistle watching the smoke until it disappears.
Little did I know then, that when we got married (1968) we would move to Wateringbury in that same area of so many childhood memories. Though we are across the other side of the world now (NZ) I only have to look at the picture (above) of our hopping hut and family down hopping in Hunton and though the hut is no longer there my MUM, sisters KATH & JANET are, as this is where I scattered their ashes. RIP family you are surly missed, Love Ray. X
Lazy lot no wallpaper.
HAWKHURST c 1960.jpg
The rear of the station in background across the river Medway is where I plated football for Wateringbury..jpg
Just for me. The rear of the station in background and across the river Medway is where I played football for Wateringbury.

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Re: Hop Picking

Postby kiwi » Sun Nov 05, 2017 4:14 am

Mrs Ellen Gudgeon, from Bermondsey in London, bends low as she pushes her children Sandy and Billy in a wheeled cart or a child's toy pram past a pile of hops, in a field at Yalding in Kent
A young child, Patricia Molton from Old Kent Road, Bermondsey, sleeps inside a sack on a hop farm in Yalding,

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Re: Hop Picking

Postby kiwi » Mon Nov 13, 2017 4:07 am

The sacks are stamped with name 'James Day', the date (1944).I think this is Little Cheveney Farm, heading out of Yalding to-wards Hunton, down Vicarage Road. If my memory is right, in later years, it was run by Brian Day. No longer a big working farm, though they still grow strawberries there. (2017).
Hopping in East Peckham in the early 50s/60s my family would drink in the Addlestead Tavern in East Peckham. Which in 2008 had become an Indian or Chinese restaurant, one or the other. :(

Regarding being down Hopping, Do you remember this at the end of the day "Pull no more bines"
Can anyone remember the saying “To buy a pig in a Poke” (or anything else) unseen, tied up in a sack, which meant the seller’s honesty, was in doubt. This was due to the sacks which the hops went into being called a “POKE” an ancient name for a sack.
Another tradition that I remember is when a coach (charabanc) arrived at the Hopfield’s the Ladies would be expected to pay the traditional “footshoes’, or dues. In exchange they could step in, or have their shoes rubbed with hops before entering the fields, they would then be invited to that evening’s celebration.

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Re: Hop Picking

Postby rodebdon » Mon Feb 19, 2018 8:50 am

Hello Kiwi,
Just a quick note my Aunt Min who sadly passed away a few years ago was reminding me of the song they used to sing when going down Seven Mile Lane, lt would be something to try and remember the liricks. I mention this because wondered about fear of going down Seven Mile Lane so having a sing song may have been to ward of fears or just out of the joy of getting closer to hopping?

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Re: Hop Picking

Postby kiwi » Mon Feb 19, 2018 9:26 pm

Hi Rod.
This just might help you & me remember the those lyrics.?

Originally posted by delwhite1 2011.
Most of the hopping songs I heard were sung on the way back from the pub on Friday/Saturday nights. The pickers would stroll up Castle Hill to the Castle pub, and then roll down again at closing time with arms linked, singing their hopping songs.
"When you go down 'oppin' -'oppin' down in Kent, you try to earn a couple of bob to pay the bllomin' rent."

"Here we are, here we are, p****d and broke again,
the money we earn it goes to burn, it all goes down the drain.
Here we are, here we are, p****d and broke again, it's my delight on Saturday night to get p****d and broke again."


Oh me lousy 'ops, oh me lousy 'ops,
when the measurer comes around, pick 'em up, pick'em up off the ground,
when he starts a'measurin' he never knows when to stop,
aye, aye, get in the bin and squash the bloomin' lot!

I certainly do remember the 'When you go down 'oppin, knock at number one," etc.

The pickers also used to give their finest renditions of the popular songs of the year as well.
As I went hopping back in the 1950's, some I remember the pickers singing most were:
'Just walking in the rain.' (Johnny Ray.)
'Little things mean a lot.' (Kitty Kallen.)
'Gonna sit right down and write myself a letter.' (Frank Sinatra.)
'Walking my baby back home.' (Johhny Ray.)
'The story of my life.' (Michael Holliday.)

To name but a few.

There was always one picker who fancied themselves as a bit of a crooner and would hog centre stage. Amazing how a few pints of 'Brewmaster' could turn a talentless picker in to a singing star of international quality.

As someone said, "Oh to do it all, just one more time."

Took a gamble on this but living down that way for many years, I am almost certain this is the pub delwhite1 is talking about.
Castle Inn. Crook Road, Castle Hill, Tonbridge. In between Tonbridge and Brenchley
Castle Inn..jpg
A red brick free house serving the locals of the hamlet of Castle Hill. Internally it has pictures of the pub in earlier times one of which shows it was part of the Flowers Brewery Estate. 2015.
Last edited by kiwi on Wed Feb 21, 2018 2:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Hop Picking

Postby kiwi » Mon Feb 19, 2018 9:46 pm

Back again Rod, hope you don’t mind me re-posting these, memories too good to lose.

Posts & Pictures by rodebdon 2009.
Down-Oppin', the Bermondsey boys in the Garden of England. We would get the train from London Bridge Station to Paddock Wood, Some of our relatives and friends would have gone down before on the back of a lorry with a few sticks of furniture, a chair or two a bit of a cupboard an upturned tea chest or old wooden crate would do as a table and some big old pots.
We stayed on Tent Common in tin huts, the farmer would supply some straw which we stuffed into ticking covers laid on a rough plank structure, these were our beds. Quite comfortable really. There were cooking huts opposite with open fires. The farmer would provide faggots (bundles of twigs- I think they were pruning’s from the orchards). No food ever tasted or smelt as good as food cooked on these fires.
In the middle of the field they would dig a big hole, a hop sacking screen would give a bit of privacy. There was a stand pipe in the corner of the field where we would get the water for drinking, washing and cooking. Getting buckets of water from here was the only chore I can remember having to do.
The grownups and older children would pick the Hops into bins made from sacking and held up with crossed wooden posts at each end. The farmer's men would come around and measure the Hops in big wickers baskets, I think they paid about five pennies a bushel, this was the volume of the baskets.
Ladies from the W.R.V.S. or was it the Salvation Army would come around with tea urns and fruit cake. (I thought it was nice when the Queen Mum was lying in State' the same(?) Ladies were there serving tea and fruit cake from inside marques in the garden by Westminster Hall.- somethings never change).
We played and explored all those long summer days, and had the best time any child could have didn't we Bermondsey Boys, and it cost nothing ( except for many hours Hop-Picking by the grownups).

This picture is of my nan Sarah Denyer in front of a cooking hut, taken in 1937 judging by the shield's with King George and Queen Mary.I think the others are the Lowry's, but not very sure.
Hopping, rodebdon 1937..jpg
down hopping.jpg

This picture is of Charlie, behind my brother Ant, and me in the front. The picture was taken on Tent Common.

It’s a real Peasouper of a mystery, apart from my brother Anthony and Charly Lowry I seem to be the only Bermondsey boy who went Hop Picking. Did none of you put half pennies on the railway line (just at the back of Tent Common) to turn them into penny's, or go scrumping or climb trees, or just love being there.

I have posted here as this is possibly the same lady. :?:
74-year-old Sarah Anne Denyer of Rotherhithe hop picking at Beltring Farm in Kent 3rd September 1954.  X.png
74-year-old Sarah Anne Denyer of Rotherhithe hop picking at Beltring Farm in Kent 3rd September 1954.
Last edited by kiwi on Tue Apr 20, 2021 4:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Hop Picking

Postby kiwi » Mon Feb 19, 2018 11:20 pm

Original posts by delwhite1.

I could chat for hours about 'opping down in Kent,' they were the happiest days of my life. To escape from the grey and grimey back streets of south-east London for three weeks every year was sheer magic. I was a bird let out of a cage.
Scrumping apples, blackberrying, knocking conkers out of the trees, etc. etc. I would spend hours up a tree, just looking out over the beautiful, unchanging Kent countryside. I certainly remember putting coins on the railway line and retrieving the wafer thin strips of copper, which was all that was left after the steam train had ran over them,. And stones, which left just a smear of white powder after being crushed by those trains. We spent hours playing on the level crossing, climbing over the gates and listening for the trains so that we could run on to the track and place those coins and stones on the lines, seconds before the train arrived.
We would make mud pies out of the wet clay in the hop fields and decorate them with acorns and hawthorn berries and pretend to sell them to the pickers for a penny a time. We collected reedmace, which we incorrectly referred to as 'bullrushes,’ from the semi-stagnant pond in a corner of one of the hop fields and pretended they were swords, which we would tuck down our belts and then strutt around the hop fields like Robin Hood and his merry men. The hop fields themselves had a character of their own. No two were alike and they each had a name: 'Tar pots,' 'Twelve acre,' 'Over the lines,' 'Whisky hops, ' etc. (Never knew how that last one got its name.)
The hop picking tradition in my family started in 1867, when my great grandfather walked from Walworth down in to Kent looking for work. He stumbled upon May's farm at Pearson's Green near Paddock Wood quite by accident, on the very day the hop picking season of that year began. It was serendipity. He never missed another season. His last hopping was in September 1951. He died in the spring of 1952 at the age of eighty-five. He passed the hopping tradtion down through the generations. My nan, (born in 1896,) first went hopping as a child and then, throughout her adult life, she occupied the same hut on the same farm right up to 1960. I was first taken hopping in September 1947, when I was just six months old. I never missed another season until hopping finished at our particular farm in 1960. My great grandfather was farm foreman in the latter years of his life, and my grandfather was a 'pole puller,' who went arond the hop fileds with a long pole with a hook on the end, pulling down the hops that had snagged on the overhead wires. The stories us kids listened to around the camp fires kept us transfixed for hours. One was about the year when the Battle of Brittain raged overhead as the pickers in the fields watched it all going on. According to legend, two german Messeschmitts were brought down right over the farm and the dead pilots were burried in Brenchley Cemetary. In adult life I began to doubt the authenticity of this story, but after some research I discovered it was true. After the war the German War Graves Commission applied to the Foreign Office for the return of the dead airman and in the spirit of concilliation that abounded at that time the request was granted. The bodies were then exhumed and returned to the Fatherland. If I'm boring you please let me know, otherwise there are more stories where that one came from. (All copyright, of course.)

On Saturday nights the pickers would go, 'up the hill,' to the pub and me and the other kids would be happy just to be outside with our lemonades and packets of crisps. At closing time the pickers would roll back down the hill, arm-in-arm, singing their hopping songs. I've never seen so many shooting stars as I did in my childhood days down hopping, because the hopping nights were pitch black, with no light pollution.
When we got back to the huts we would sit around the camp fire and listen to the old men's stories and sing hopping songs.

"When you go down 'oping, 'opping down in Kent,
you try to earn a couple of bob to pay the bloomin' rent!'


"Oh me lousy 'ops, oh me lousy 'ops,
when the measuere comes around,
pick 'em up, pick 'em up off the ground,
When 'e starts a-measurin' 'e never knows when to stop.
Aye, aye get in the bin and take the bloomin' lot!

I never wanted to go to bed and I would struggle to keep my eyes open, until I could fight it no more. My nan would then tuck me in and I would snuggle down into my straw bed and watch the flicker of the parrafin lamp, as it cast its dancing shadows on the wall of the hut. The subtle hint of woodsmoke from the dying faggot fires would be the last thing I sensed before drifting off into a deep, restful sleep. I've never slept so well in my life as I did 'down 'oppin, ' possibly because my nan used to make me a 'hop pillow,' a pillow case stuffed with hops. Many years later I discovered that the hop is a member of the Canabis family. Yes, unknowingly, I was stoned!

My hopping days ended in 1960, when the hop harvesting machine took over and hand pickers were no longer required. Fifty years ago this September (2010) to be precise, but it all seems like yesterday. If there's one thing in this life that makes me over-sentimental, its 'oppin' down in Kent.'
You can only understand if you've been there and done it!
Sadly, my generation is the last of those who would have had first-hand experience of that wonderful way, of life that was 'Opping down in Kent.'
We must make sure our memories are passed on. I hope I've done my bit.
You certainly have delwhite, thanks for the memories, KIWI (Ray) :D

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Re: Hop Picking

Postby kiwi » Mon Feb 19, 2018 11:53 pm

Post by delwhite1 2011.
Great reading your postings, Kiwi, and of course all the others.
Yes, "Pull no more bines," was the cry that went up just before the measurer came in to the field. Followed by, "Get your hops ready,"
I can remember us kids following the measurer and his team around the hop field as they went from bin to bin. We would throw ourselves on to the wagon and roll around on the pokes full of hops until the measurer hollered at us to "get off!" because we were crushing the hops.
I read a book many years ago entitled, 'Pull no more bines.' It was written by a woman author whose name I cannot recall. As the title suggests, it's about a young girl's memories of hopping, right up to the time when they pulled the final bine. I don't know whether or not it's still in print, but if it is, it's worth a read.
The author was Gilda O’Neill, she sadly died at a very young age, 1951-2010. (Kiwi 2017).

Posted by Linnie 2011
Oh to go hop picking again! - just one more time! - I have tried to tell my children about it (they are in their 40's now) but they look at me as if I am demented - yes we did live rough, yes we did have to go to the disgusting smelly hut for you know what - yes we did cook over open fires - sleep in tin huts - scrump and get soaking wet when pulling a bine full of the morning dew - we were almost ragamuffins running after the tractor to get the daily faggott of twigs to start our fires and then sent to pick the biggest logs to keep it going for the evening meal - which after the day on the fields picking hops gave us a massive appetite! Friends and relatives at home thought we were 'common' that we would even contemplate 5 weeks working for a pittance down on a farm in kent - but at the end of the day - us kids would run around free and happy - almost living like gypsies - people would gather in the evening around someone;s fire bringing tea - apples for baking on the fire - potatoes pushed into the ashes - people just talking into the night, my face burning from the heat of the fire - hoping that the boy I liked was looking at me - everybody singing along to someone playing a harmonica or acordian - and my Mum even took her old piano down on the back of an old lorry! I do remember bad wet days - but there were a million hot sunny days too - with a millions wasps to buzz at you. Picking hops was a pain and I ended up with scratches and stained hands - the Dads and big brothers came down on the weekend and life was happy back then - when it came for time to go back home you knew you had to catch up the time at school - it was frowned upon - but we went home healthy and happy waiting for the next hopping season. Holidays abroad are nice - but give me just one more chance to go 'dahn 'oppin' again - or am I reminiscing through rose tinted glasses? Lol

Hi Kiwi
You mentioning the little gypsy girl reminded me of the last hopping farm we stayed at namely Goose Green Farm at Hadlow - I was about 13 and there were quite a few gypsy families staying there too - but there were two young girls about 12 or 13 both had beautiful long hair - one blonde and one very dark - their complexions were to die for and both could play the guitar and would sit around the fires singing mostly Country and Folk - they were lovely girls and I made friends. When they packed up they went back to their places near the coast and I was so sorry that I couldn't go with them - the year after the farm gave over to machines so that was the end of that - but one of the songs stuck in my mind and it went something like this:
A blonde, a brunette or redhead I could wed - but which one is it to be? Oh gee my heart is broken in three - I had my fortune told - the Gypsy said you have three loves but which one is it to be - the blonde, the brunette etc......... can't remember the rest - maybe someone will come up with it? Lovely memories - makes me pine a bit - I get quite nostalgic wishing those days back again.

Hi Linnie, Slim Whitman--My Heart is broken in three. You can find it on Youtube but have the hanky ready, : :( (Kiwi Ray).

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Re: Hop Picking

Postby Patricia » Tue Mar 06, 2018 7:13 am

My Nan and Grandad used t get the train from London Bridge to Paddock Wood. They went to an Hop Field in Brenchey. The Dowdeswells, My mum Louie Dowdeswell talks about gong on strike

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Re: Hop Picking

Postby kiwi » Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:07 am

Post by rstupple2 2010
Hi fellow hop pickers, what a great time we had as Kids there.In the fiftes my Nan used to go to Chartham near Canterbury. We used to go down there in a small lorry that was owned by the Local greengrocer in Abbey Street on the Saturday Morning they would load the lorry up with bits & pieces then off we would go the men in front us kids & Nan in the back. Did not no why the first stop was New Cross, then Swanley & Maidstone, but it was always outside a Pub (no drink Drive laws in them days).
My Nan being a real Bermondsey Girl her speech was a little bit colourful to say the least, She used to say to my cousin & me you little ********are going to pick some hops this time, After ten minutes of more leaves than hops in the basket we were told by Nan to go away in some certain terms but always with a smile on her face. I remember the huts surrounded by cabbage fields, at night around the fire we were told stories by the older kids of the ghosts that used to live in the cabbage fields, the only light being cast by the fire the fields were pitch black so our imaginations were running wild. So we would not want to go to the loo outside the ring of firelight, when we did the older kids would throw an handful of stones against the corrigated iron sides causing us to have accidents. Our kids would throw a fit if they had to live that live.
Found this postcard in Mums possessions after she passed away earlier this year.

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