HOP-PICKING in the early years of the 20th century in Sedlescombe

 

 

 

Ivy and Lottie

 

 

 

Two ladies, Ivy Cooper and Lottie Wilson lived in Sedlescombe in the early 20th century. Following are some of their memories of hop-picking in the Village.

 

First Ivy:

 

"There used to be a hop garden opposite Luffs on the flatter field. There were some round at New England when Winters were there. Then there was Jack Newble, he used to have two little gardens where the pumphouse is down at the bottom of East View Terrace, in one of those fields, and his brother Fred at Frymans, he had a garden. Then there was Bell's at Jacobs and, of course, where the Reservoir is that was Guinesses and they used to come down from London and sleep in huts. Mr Button the grocer, had a little temporary shop. Some of the staff had to go down late in the evenings when they were finished. Guinesses used to have a lot of hops down Bodiam and you could always tell when it had started because about 6 o'clock in the morning you would hear coach after coach of pickers from Hastings go along. Some of the horses had bells. At one time there were two coach loads go from here."

 

Hopping group at Luffs

Hopping group at Luffs Farm about 1928. We know the names of a lot of these people who were local

 

Then Lottie speaking of hop-picking in her childhood (probably about 1905):

 

"The pole-puller used to call out 'all to work'. They minute they called you had to start picking and you had a bin; if it was a big family, it was a whole bin but, if it was neighbours, you had half a bin. I had to pick in a brimstone tub because mother wouldn't have me near the bins. I believe that held 3 bushel. After mother's hops were measured out then my tub was put in. The measure man used to like my hops because they were so clean. You could have a few leaves in because it made the sample better. I couldn't bear picking my hops rubbishy. We used to sometimes pick in an umbrella or a box."

 

Measurer at Luffs 1899Hopping Luffs 1900

Hops being taken from a "bin" and measured at Luffs Farm in 1900

 

The October 1913 Sedlescombe Parish Magazine printed a letter from The Rev G E and Mrs Bell after their month's enjoyable stay at The Rectory.

 

"With the Hoppers at Spilstead Farm. Our holiday in beautiful Sussex is drawing to a close and we must shortly say good-bye to those who have given us so kindly a welcome. After visiting Battle Abbey, Rye, Winchelsea, Bodiam Castle surrounded by its moat, and many pretty villages and their sweet 'homesteads', there is one thing more we must do before leaving Sedlescombe (the prettiest village in Sussex!) we must see the hoppers at work and we must pick some hops ourselves. Our kind pioneer, the tenant of the farm, has recently migrated from Devon, and this is his first experience in 'hopping'. In his hop 'garden' the villagers are at work. The hop poles with their beautiful clusters of hops are cornered and placed over 'bins' composed of sacking. Busy fingers are soon employed in picking off the hops. At 6pm an expert measures out the hops into sacks; 2d per bushel is the payment. On an average 12 bushels can be picked by one person from 7am until 6pm. These sacks are at once carted to the oasthouse, the conical buildings seen dotting the country with cowls on the top of them. Here an old veteran of 50 years' experience lights the furnaces; the fuel is composed of charcoal and anthracite. The hops are spread above the furnaces on a perforated floor; our old friend tends and turns them all night. At 8am they are spread out to dry in a loft, then packed into huge bags called 'pockets' , pressed in a machine and put by for sale. The cost of cultivating and preparing the hops for sale is £40 per acre before any profit can be made." Mary S Bell.

 

Pockets at Luffs

Hop pockets at Luffs Farm in 1900

 

In 1929, a nasty accident involving hop-pickers in Sedlescombe was recorded in a local newspaper:

Hopping scald