Hopping down in Kent

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Wednesday 10 September 2008 11.49am
Wotch ya all
im starting a new page on my website all about
hop picking. and i need photos and stories
from your days when you went hopping down in kent
i have got quite a lot from our family who worked on reeves farm in hadlow nr Tunbridge wells kent
hopping was part of our cockney history
and i would just like to keep it going

all the best of cockney luck
from pearlykingjim
the genuine pearly king of camberwell
you can cotact me bt E-mail pearlykingjim@yahoo.co.uk
Wednesday 10 September 2008 12.34pm
Our loverly 'ops, our loverly 'ops,

when the measurer 'e comes round

pick 'em up - pick 'em off the ground

when 'e see's you measuring you never know

when to stop...Oi Oi Oi you've picked the

blooming lot! can you remember that one?
Wednesday 10 September 2008 1.06pm
Have you seen the Thames TV programme "We was all one" c1972? Being shown by the Community Film Club somewhere at the Elephant sometime soon, and features interviews with 'oppers 'oppin'.
Thursday 11 September 2008 8.40am
its nice to know that there are still some
lousey hoppers out there
Jan the old one i know that song well
and a few more!have you any photos or stories Jan

i have got a copy of we were all one
two of my sister and their children were in it
life a funny thing
i live in Bermondsey now, and on my estate i got chatting to a neighbour of mine abot the old days
any we got around to this film
and it turne out after a long chat that her husband Mick,was the kid sitting on the toilet with the rats
down blenden row just of east street
i knew mick years ago but never knew he was only living in the next block of flats to me
Thursday 11 September 2008 8.42am

Friday 12 September 2008 8.28am
We only stayed a few days, and we were so poor jim no one had a camera! it was not until i was about 11 and a savings bond matured from my god mother and i spent all the money on a Brownie 127....always had this thing about cameras..

I can always remember taking the money out from the post office in bermondsey street, but cant remember where i bought the camera. I can remember some of the 'opping songs though! i spy a copper on the corrrrner dressed in navy navy blue, wiv a belly full o' fat and a pimple on 'is 'at..
Tuesday 16 September 2008 5.32am
i dont have any Eastend roots.. so no personal memories

but i remember reading a detailed description of hop picking in
The Clergymans Daughter by George Orwell
(1984, Animal Farm, Down and Out in Paris and London)


also he picked hops himself and kept a diary
he mentions a song about the bushel measurer
squashing down the hops so hed be able to pay the pickers less..

When he comes to measure,
He never knows where to stop;
Ay, ay, get in the bin,
And take the bloody lot!


FYI hops are closely related to hemp
and they both (unusually i think) have separate male and female plants
Thursday 18 September 2008 11.14am
Don't know if this is any good for you Pearly. It's a bit out of my memoirs that I'm jotting down for my grandkids.

I don't know how long the tradition had gone on but certain families packed up their chattels each year and went to Kent to pick hops. Hops were used in brewing ale and grew on supported vines and these families arrived for several weeks to strip them. My fathers family had been going since the year dot and my Dad had loved the Kent countryside and the chance to earn some pocket money as a youngster. The families that went were mainly from central London and picked hops on their particular farm. They met up with people they had known since childhood and the atmosphere was friendly. Down hopping they lived in rows of little wooden huts without any amenities, getting their water from a communal tap, cooking over an open fire for which wood had to be collected and using a little smelly wooden lavatories which were placed some way from the huts. The lavatory was just a hole dug into the ground with a little raised bench to sit on to do your business. There were no beds unless you bought them from home on the back of a lorry. The huts were provided with clean hay and most people just fashioned this into beds and covered them with bedding. If they wanted a table or a couple of chairs they had to bring them with them as well as any cooking utensils. It was the only way that poor Londoners would get a chance of a change of scene and at the same time earn a few shillings to pay for food while they did.
My mother thought the whole business was diabolical. Dads whole family migrated there as was the custom, the very elderly and the tiny infants included, she compromised by letting us have the occasional day visit or on one or two occasions taking lodgings in a cheap pub or boarding house in the area for an overnight stay Some relatives stayed the whole six weeks, other relatives for a week or two, but they all went hopping. To be fair, it wouldn't be everyones cup of tea and Mum was always very particular about standards of cleanliness and hated insects. She appreciated that the hop picking area was very beautiful but was a reluctant visitor at the best of times.
Naturally, to me, it was a complete paradise. As a child I couldn't imagine anything nicer than sleeping on sweet smelling hay with my family all around me and waking to the sound of sky larks in a bright blue sky. I loved the smell of wood smoke, everything tasted better cooked in Nan's big pot over the fire. The ham, cheese, chops and bacon from the village shop was unlike the tired produce we had at home. The bread was up to our baker's standard and the butter, eggs and milk were fresh from the farm which made it all the more delightful. Whenever we visited it seemed always to be fair weather, hot sunny days and mild evening with good light and everything green and sweet. There were horses in the undulating fields and recent traces of sheep on the extensive meadow where the huts were located. The farm was some way off and there was a reasonable walk to the tiny village and the all important little pub called the Gudgeon. One of the most wonderful things about hopping was that the many of the paddocks around had large apple trees in them. I could never get enough of hopping apples. They were and still are the most juicy, sweet apples that I ever ate. These wonderful apples never appeared in our shops at home which was always a sadness. Where they went I haven't a clue because the whole area was chock full of this wonderful fruit and they must have been harvested for sale.
I once went with my grandmother and aunts for a mornings picking. We stripped the strange leafy flowers from the vines and put them into a sack suspended from vine poles. Every so often a farm worker would travel down the line of each family group of pickers and empty the sack into large baskets, the contents were calculated by bushels and pecks but I've forgotten which was the larger. A tally was made of each full basket (bushel?) at the end of the day and the head of family was given the wages. It was hot work but everyone was cheerful and working our way through the vines was fun. Sometimes the old granny or elderly aunt would be left to watch the smallest children while slightly older kids had exploring do to. Each day a woman from the family would leave at midday to begin the evening meal and on returning everyone tucked in with a good appetite. After a rest, games were played with adults and children alike before the childrens bedtime. Someone would stay behind to watch the children and keep the fire in while the rest of the family retired to the Gudgeon for a pint. Occasionally, the slightly older childen would go to the pub too. I remember playing shove ha'penny. table skittles and an ancient penny machine on the wall in the bar room. Then we would make our way to our lodgings while the families walked to their huts for a well earned rest.
On one visit wood was needed for the fire, my Uncle Charlie and I volunteered to get it and we clambered over gates and fences to find a really big log for the night fire. We found a beauty but Uncle Charlie doubted that we'd manage it. He had string in his pocket to tie up our bundles to make them easier to carry. He tied this securely to the log instead leaving enough for us both to tie a piece around our waists. We dragged it across a paddock and managed to get it over a gate. We were huffing and puffing but knew we could call for assistance if we could only get it across another large paddock and then down a long bank which led to our meadow. We slogged on avoiding stands of trees and keeping to the low ground when suddenly we heard an almighty huff. We both stopped and looked around. Up under the shade of the trees we saw the most beautiful horse looking down at us. Uncle Charlie said 'Oh Gawd! We've come into the paddock with the stallion!'. I hadn't been scared and asked why it mattered. Uncle Charlie started to explain that stallions can be unpredictable and we had better go as fast as we could to get to the gate. The gate seemed a long way off and Uncle Charlie kept his eye on the stallion all the time. I looked at him too and saw he was pawing the ground and snorting. Uncle Charlie suddenly shouted 'Start running!' I don't know where we got the strength from, it must have been the adrenaline because we went for that gate like a pair of trojans. We could hear the pounding hooves and that was all the encouragement we needed to run the last few yards. We managed to get over the gate with the string so tight around our waists that I thought it might have cut into our bodies. The stallion slid to a halt, snorted again and threw his hind legs up before racing off. We were both too knackered to speak for a few minutes, our breath was making noises I'd never heard before. Uncle Charlie climbed back over the fence and we managed to get the log over the gate so that the terrible pressure was off our middles. We sat down on the grass to recover and thank our lucky stars that we'd made it to the gate in time. Uncle Charlie said that he should never have tied us to the log and we decided we had better not say anything about the matter when we got back to the meadow. By the time we reached it, we were both laughing about our adventure and congratulating ourselves on bringing home such bounty. I didn't tell my parents about it for years.
Thursday 25 September 2008 4.11pm
you dont have to be or have roots in the Eastend to be a cockney, people seem to think that every Pearly King & Queen come from the east end thats far from the truth the first Pearly king came from North of the River Thames Summers town near Kings cross station
and it is said that to be a true Cockney you have to be born with in the sound of Bow Bells
and over the years its surprise's me how many East Londoners dont even know where Bow Bells is
and for those of you that dont its in Cheapside in the City, so if you lived sarf of the river ie Bermondsey you would hear the bells ring
there for you would be a true Cockney

Thank you lori & the old one
with you permission i would like to post your letter on my website
Thursday 25 September 2008 6.37pm
and Lori, I loved your description of 'opping! reading it again makes me long for the fields of Kent. My friend has a piece of land near paddock wood, and where the little wood is we were always tripping over the ruddy vine supports from long ago!

lovely lovely story..:-)
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