Hop picking in Hampshire

Hops were first introduced to English brewing in around the 15th century. First used to help purify the water, later used for flavour. To fuel the demand for hops, hop farms sprang up along the south of the country, from Alton through to Dover.

For around 200 years, hop farming was a key industry for East Hampshire and areas surrounding Alton such as in Buriton, Weston and Binsted. You can often still see the remains of this industry today with wild hops growing in hedgerows near old hop farms.

Hop picking would begin in very late August or early September. It was a highly labour-intensive task. So much so, that the local population couldn’t manage the workload over the few short weeks. Instead, they relied on seasonal migrant labour to rapidly swell the workforce. This labour came in two forms, Romani travellers and hop tourists.

Romani travellers made a sizable proportion of the workforce. They would travel often to the same hop farm each year for work.

The second form of seasonal labour came from the surrounding cities such as Southampton, Portsmouth, and London. These city dwellers would spend their lives working in the dusty and smoky industry of the city. In the late summer, whole families would travel to the countryside on a hop picking holiday. They had the chance to spend a short amount of time working in the countryside whilst still earning money making their holiday away from the city possible.

Here, we have a selection of photographs of families enjoying their hop picking holidays and Romani travellers working in the fields.

Hop pickers both young and old, at ‘the great wood', Alton, Hampshire, taken in 1870.
A group of hop pickers, Alton, Hampshire, take in 1895.
Hop pickers, Bramshott, Hampshire, taken between 1900 and 1910.
Hop pickers, Alton, Hampshire, taken in 1880.
A group of hop pickers, Alton, Hampshire, possibly taken in around 1900.
A group of hop pickers in Alton, Hampshire. The date is not known however, it was likely taken in around 1900.
Hop pickers, Weston Farm, Weston Lane, Weston, Petersfield, Hampshire, taken in 1907.
Hand tinted lantern slide, showing a young Romani traveller boy with his grandmother, Binsted, Hampshire, taken in 1898.
Hand tinted lantern slide showing a group of Romani travellers placing hops in hop basket, Binsted, Hampshire, taken in 1898.
Adults and children posing for a group photograph in hop fields in Alton, Hampshire, taken in 1886.
A mission tent with a member of the clergy talking to a family in the hop fields at Weston Farm on Weston Lane, Weston, near Petersfield, Hampshire, taken in 1907. Hop Picker Missions were set up in the late 19th century to provide for the spiritual welfare of the hop pickers. The London Missionary Society would travel around hop farms and erect tents for prayer.
Women taking a break in a hop garden during hop picking, Alton, Hampshire.
Mr W Chandler on stilts hop picking in Binsted, Hampshire, taken in 1951.
Hop pickers filling hop sacks, Weston Farm, Weston Lane, Weston, near Petersfield, Hampshire, taken in 1907.
The transferring of hops from bushel baskets into sacks in Alton, Hampshire, taken in around 1880.
Men skewering surplice hops in Alton, Hampshire, taken in the 1890s.
The loading of hops onto wagons in Will Hall Farm in Alton, Hampshire, taken between 1890 and 1900.
Men loading hop sacks onto a horse drawn wagon ready for the kiln in Alton.
A man scooping hops inside a hop kiln at Will Hall Farm, in Alton, Hampshire, taken in the 1890s. The freshly picked hops had to first be dried before they could be packaged up in hop pockets and sent to breweries.
Men pressing hops into hop pockets at Weston Farm in Weston near Petersfield. Taken in 1907.
Men with a horse drawn wagon taking hop pockets to the store at Weston Farm, in Petersfield, Hampshire. Taken in 1907.
Men taking a wagon, loaded with hops, to Alton railway station, to be delivered to breweries. Dated 1899.

To explore more of the history of Hampshire through the photographic collections managed by Hampshire Cultural Trust, visit Hampshire in Old Photographs.

Photographs | Hampshire Cultural Trust Online Collections
Photographs Our photographic collection contains topographical views of the county, its industries and inhabitants dating from the 1850’s to the present day, including representations of local photographers such as Terry Hunt of Basingstoke and William Savage of Winchester.

This article was written by:
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Sam Butcher

Curatorial Assistant who looks after objects and works to make them accessible to the public.
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