Also called hop gardens, the growing areas of the South East and Hereford and Worcestershire were awash with hop fields during the heyday of hop picking.
Traditional hop bines stand 16 feet high, growing up hessian strings tied to a wire strung between wood poles. Before the strung system each hop bine was grown up a wooden pole.
Shorter bines are now grown in the Herefordshire area so that modern farm machinery can pick them. 70% of the hops grown in Kent were of the 'Fuggles' variety.
It is said that if the hop bines have reach the top of the string by the summer solstice (21st June), it should be a good harvest. The following images show hop growth during April, May and June.
Originally hops were picked by hand, each hop flower was taken off the bine and put into a 'bin', as re-created in the photograph below.
This dramatically changed with the introduction of hop picking machines, such as the 'Bruff' which did the work of ten's or hundred's of people.
The most dramatic change was after the war, however the last field to be picked by hand was in 1987.
Today tall hop bines are cut off by a workers are the top and bottom and sent in a trailer to the farm where the flowers are separated from the bine and dried.
Here the tractor pulls a trailer with a man on a ladder platform on the back cutting the tops of the bines and dropping them in the trailer.
Modern hops fields use shorter bines which can be picked with machinery on the back of the tractor.
There are now only around 60 growers in England, compared to the thousands that existed in the late 19th century. Hop growing is around 5% compared to the peak times, and most hop fields have been grubbed up for other farm uses.
A more modern invention since the introduction of the tractor to the hop field and the mechanisation of the farm. The hop bines were piled on the back of the trailer to be taken back at the farm for processing. They are still used today.
During the hop picking season in September, thousands of Londoner's came down to Kent and Sussex for the hop picking, for many it was a working holiday. Many stayed in tents but some farms provided 'Hoppers Huts'. They were primitive buildings, usually built of corrugated metal or brick. Due to their small size, their potential for reuse or conversion is very limited, and those that remain are often in poor condition, particularly if they are located away from the farm.
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