Throwback Thursday: hop workers in Ewhurst, East Sussex

PUBLISHED: 11:10 22 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:35 29 October 2020

Hop workers in Ewhurst, East Sussex in 1937. Photo: Newsquest Sussex Ltd/courtesy of The Keep

Hop workers in Ewhurst, East Sussex in 1937. Photo: Newsquest Sussex Ltd/courtesy of The Keep

©2012 Newsquest Sussex Ltd. All rights reserved

This wonderful photograph from 1937 shows workers at the start of the hop season

The photographer wants to show us the sheer size of this hop estate near Ewhurst, where, soon after planting, each hop plant would have to be trained around its hop pole. Above them the strings are already in place in a complex mesh to support the rapid growth of the vine-like hop plant. September would see thousands of itinerant workers from London’s East End arriving by rail in Ewhurst and Bodiam to pick the hops over the three-week harvest period.

The people shown here are probably locals working at the start of the season, possibly employed by Guinness Hop Farms Ltd. It’s impossible to guess whether they have just started the job or just finished – hopefully it’s the latter. The members of Bodiam Women’s Institute made a scrapbook in 1965 which features a photographic survey of the production of hops. Mrs Jones is balling string, Mrs Elsie Simmons is banding, Mrs Audrey Knapp is hop training and John Hook is doing continuous stringing. The final pictures are of the hops being delivered to Park Royal Brewery in London, and being put into the brewery copper to flavour the beer.

This image and the text are reproduced by kind permission of The Keep, the East Sussex archive centre. Their image reference is ARG/3/1817

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