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January 13, 2022

Fascinating Black and White Photos of Hops Picking in Kent

For its abundance of orchards and hop gardens, Kent is sometimes known as the “Garden of England”. Hops are the flowers of the hop plant Humulus lupulus, used primarily as a bittering, flavoring, and stability agent in beer, to which, in addition to bitterness, they impart floral, fruity, or citrus flavors and aromas. They are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine. The hops plants have separate female and male plants, and only female plants are used for commercial production.

Hop pickers move furniture into their summer quarters at Buston Manor near Maidstone, Kent, 1949.

“Tradition has it that the first English hop garden was created near Canterbury in 1520, as Kent was the earliest centre for hop culture due to its suitable soil, established enclosed field system and good supply of wood for the poles and charcoal for drying.  Furthermore, Kent farmers could afford the high initial capital outlay as they were among the most prosperous of the time.

One of the simplest and most economic methods of training hops was developed in Kent by Henry Butcher in about 1875.  A great deal of manpower was always required in all hop-growing regions of England to pick the hops in September, as the value of the crop depended on it being picked quickly and at the right moment.  Kentish records of the mid 17th century mention some ‘strangers who came a hopping’ indicating that there was not enough local labour. The majority of Kent’s manpower came from London and at the industry’s peak, more than 80,000 people poured into Kent every autumn…” — The British Hop Association.

Take a look at these families of hop pickers spending their time in Kent through 19 fascinating black and white pictures below:

Hopfield, circa 1900.

Hop picking, circa 1900.

Hoppers tally off after picking, circa 1906.

A family of hop pickers stand beside their packed cart, 1907.

Hopfield, circa 1910.

Hop pickers arrive at the Kentish hop fields, 1910.

A family of hop pickers, 1910.

Hop pickers in a camp in the Kentish hop fields, circa 1910.

A family of hop pickers at Victoria Station in London, 1919.

Hop pickers use stilts on a farm at Wateringbury in Kent, 1928.

Hoppers at work at Whitbreads Farm at Beltring, Kent, circa 1930.

Hop pickers at a camp in Faversham, Kent, 1932.

Hop pickers' children watch as a Franciscan friar puts up a notice of a church service, 1933.

A Franciscan friar and nun walk with hop pickers' children at Paddock Wood, Kent, 1934.

Salvation Army workers look after the children of hop pickers, 1936.

A woman prepares a meal for hop pickers at the Whitbread hop camp in Paddock Wood, Kent, 1937.

A group of young hop pickers enjoy glasses of milk from a milk bar near the fields in Kent, 1938.

A host serves lunch to a hop picking family in Kent, 1944.


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