The Hop Bin: Recollections, Songs and Stories from the Kentish Hop Fields

The Hop Bin: Recollections, Songs and Stories from the Kentish Hop Fields

by Fran Doel, Geoff Doel

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For 400 years Kent was vividly associated with the cultivation of hops. The harvesting of the hop was done by an itinerant workforce drawn mainly from London’s east end, and gypsies coming from as far away as Ireland. Whole families were involved for women and children were allowed to pick on the fields, the little ones picking into umbrellas or boxes; men who had jobs came down at weekends. For the east enders it was an annual working holiday in the countryside. This book evokes the bygone world of hopping through a fascinating illustrated selection of tales, songs, anecdotes and social records covering 400 years of local history, featuring both the ‘rose-tinted’ image and the harsher reality of a distinctive aspect of Kentish life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780752497310
Publisher: The History Press
Publication date: 05/01/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 128
File size: 7 MB
Age Range: 7 - 9 Years

About the Author

Fran Doel and Geoff Doel are the authors of 14 books, mostly about folklore, many about Kent. They have been researching Kent traditions for nearly40 years. They lecture on hop-picking, and collect and sing traditional hopping songs. Fran and Geoff run summer schools for the University of Durham, and live in Tonbridge, Kent.

Read an Excerpt

The Hop Bin

An Anthology of Hop Picking in Kent and East Sussex

By Fran Doel, Geoff Doel

The History Press

Copyright © 2014 Fran & Geoff Doel
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7524-9731-0


The Tudor Hoppe

Andrew Boorde (Borde)(1490–1549)

A Dyetry of Health (1542)

Andrew Boorde (also known as Borde) was a Tudor physician and his dislike of the newly introduced 'beer' which was flooding into England from the Low Countries seems to have been purely on health grounds. Before the advent of hop-flavoured beer, all men drank ale. It appears from Boorde's comments that the new beer's manufactory was in the hands of foreigners such as the Dutch. Traditional English ale (which Boorde considers much more wholesome than hopped beer) was 'a sweet, malty drink flavoured with herbs such as ale-hoof, wormwood and ground ivy'. This new drink, beer, he warned, will give you a big belly and may even kill you if you have certain medical conditions such as colic. Had he lived today, he would probably have recommended that a Government Health Warning accompany each pint sold.

Boorde's own life was quite extraordinary. At a young age he became a Carthusian, a hermit monk, whose lifestyle involved continual prayer, fasting and wearing a hair shirt. Finding this too rigorous, he managed, through the good offices of Thomas Cromwell, to get permission to leave his charterhouse and to engage in medical studies in Europe and later in Glasgow. Thomas Cromwell, Secretary of State for Henry VIII, appears to have subsequently employed Boorde as an 'intelligencer' (spy), possibly financing his numerous trips in Europe and even to Jerusalem, as a means of gauging opinion abroad on the king's recent divorce. While living in France, Boorde wrote a number of works, notable 'for their good sense and wit', including a continental guidebook and treatises on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. After Cromwell was put to death for treason and heresy Boorde, having presumably lost his funding as well as his protector and benefactor, returned to England and made his home in Winchester but was later arrested and imprisoned in the Fleet, being accused of 'keeping in his house three loose women'. Whether these charges were fabricated or not, one of his detractors caustically mentioned that he had continued to fast as part of his chosen lifestyle in what was now Protestant England and to wear a hair shirt.

The following are Boorde's descriptions of ale and of the new drink, beer, along with his affirmation that 'I do drinke no manner of beere made with hopes'.

* * *

of Ale

Ale is made of malte and water and they the which do put any other thynge to ale than is rehersed, except yest, barme, or godesgood, doth sofystical theyre ale. Ale for an Englysshe man is a natural drynke. Ale must have three propertyes: it must be fresshe and cleare. It must not be ropy nor smoky, nor must it have no weft nor tayle. Ale should not be dronke under v. dayes olde. New ale is vnwholesome for all men. And sowre ale, and dead ale the which doth stand a tylt, is good for no man. Barly malte maketh better ale than oten malte or any other come doth; it doth ingendre grose humoures; but yette it maketh a man strong.

of Bere

Bere is made of malte, of hoppes and water; it is a naturall drynke for a Dutche man. And now, of late dayes it is moche used in Englande, to the detriment of many Englysshe men; specially it killeth them the which be troubled with the colycke and the stone and the strangulio; for the drynke is a cold drynke; yet it doth make a man fat, and doth inflate the bely, as it doth appeare by the Dutche mens faces and belyes. If the bere be well served and be fyned and not new it doth qualify the heat of the lyver.

Thomas Tusser (1524–1580)

Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie (1557)

After the influx of religious refugees from Flanders in 1525 there is evidence of hop growing in England as Edward VI's Privy Council in 1549 made payments for charges in bringing over hop setters 'for planting and setting of hops'.

Thomas Tusser's work written in 1557 gives us written evidence of hops being cultivated specifically for brewing in Tudor England. Tusser advised farmers to earth the hops in mounds which had been treated with fertiliser and as the young hops grew, they were to be tied to small hop poles and the bines twisted onto strings. The running of the bine stalks took place in the early spring and from May to August was the growing season, the hops requiring plenty of sun and water. After harvesting the hops were to be quickly dried and packed.

The need for such a manual on hop husbandry in the mid part of the sixteenth century tells us that hop farming was being introduced and proving lucrative. It was certainly crucial in transforming many acres in Kent into hop-gardens.

Thomas Tusser was born in the reign of Henry VIII and died in the reign of Elizabeth I. As a boy he was a gifted chorister in St Paul's Cathedral. Later he was sent to Eton, and after this Cambridge – studying both at King's College and Trinity Hall. Tusser wrote this informative and highly enjoyable farming manual in verse while living as a gentleman farmer in Suffolk, and this is just some of his advice on the cultivation of the hop.

    A Lesson Where and When to Plant Good Hop Yard

    Whom fancy perswadeth, among other crops,
    To have for his spending sufficient of hops;
    Must willingly follow, of choices to chuse,
    Such lessons approved as skilful do use.

    Ground gravelly, sandy, and mixed with clay,
    Is naughty for hops, any manner of way;
    Or if be mingled with rubbish and stone,
    For dryness and barrenness, let it alone.

    Chuse soil for the hop, of the rottenest mould,
    Well dunged and wrought, as a garden plot should:
    Not far from the water (but not overflown)
    This lesson well noted, is meet to be known.

    The sun in the south, or else southly and west,
    Is joy to the hop, as a welcomed guest;
    But wind to the north, or else northly east,
    To hop is as ill, as a fray in a feast.

    Meet plot for a hop-yard, once found as is told,
    Make thereof account, as of jewell of gold:
    Now dig it, and leave it the sun for to burn,
    And afterwards fence it, to serve for that turn.

    The hop for his profit, I thus do exalt,
    It strengtheneth drink, and it favoureth malt;
    And being well brewed, long kept it will last,
    And drawing abide, if ye draw not too fast.

    August's Abstract

    If hops look brown
    Go, gather them down;
    But not in the dew,
    For piddling with few.

    Of hops this knack,
    A many doth lack:
    Once had thy will,
    Go cover his hill.
    Take hop to thy dole,
    But break not his pole.

    Learn here, thou stranger,
    To frame hop manger.

    Hop poles preserve
    Again to serve.
    Hop-poles, by and by,
    Lay safe up to dry.
    Lest poles wax scant,
    New poles go plant.

    The hop, kiln dri'd,
    Will best abide.
    Hops dri'd in loft,
    Want tendance oft;
    And shed their seed,
    Much more than needs.

    Hops dri'd, small cost,
    Ill kept, half lost.
    Hops quickly be spilt
    Take heed if thou wilt.

    Some come, some go,
    This life is so.

    August's Husbandry

    If hop do look brownish, then are ye too slow,
    If longer ye suffer these hops for to grow:
    Now sooner ye gather, more profit is found,
    If weather be fair, and dew off a ground.

    Not break off, but cut off, from hop the hop-string,
    Leave growing a little, again for to spring;
    Whose hill about pared, and therewith new clad,
    Shall nourish more sets, against March to be had.

    Hop hillock discharged of every let,
    See, then, without breaking, each pole ye get out get;
    Which being untangled, above in the tops,
    Go carry to such as are plucking of hops.

    Take soutage, or hair, that covers the kell,
    Set like to a manger, and fastened well;
    With pole upon crotches, as high as thy breast,
    For saving and riddance, is husbandry best.

    Some skilfully drieth their hops in a kell,
    And some on a soller, oft turning them well.
    Kell dried will abide, foul weather or fair,
    Where drying and lying, in loft do despair.

    Some close them up dry in a hogshead or fat,
    Yet canvas or soutage is better than that:
    By drying and lying, they quickly be spilt,
    Thus much have I shewed; now do as thou wilt.

William Harrison (1534–1593)

Description of England (1577)

William Harrison was a distinguished scholar and Anglican clergyman who as an adult lived through the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth. He was household chaplain to Lord Cobham and rector of Radwinter in Essex, and later became canon at St George's Chapel, Windsor. In this last capacity he would have become well known to Queen Elizabeth and the court. When the queen's printer engaged various scholars to contribute to a vast tome (never completed in its entirety) which he prematurely and ambitiously entitled 'A Universal Cosmography of the Whole World', Harrison was invited to submit information on Britain and England. Harrison accordingly researched the great libraries of the day, drawing on books, letters, John Leland's notes, contemporary and antique maps, as well as from interviews with the most eminent antiquaries and local historians of the day such as John Stow and William Camden. To this he added his own observations and insights and produced a collection of scholarly notes which are not only admired today, but are recognised as giving us unparalleled insights into life in Elizabeth's day. These are some of his observations on 'Tudor' hops.

* * *

From Of Gardens and Orchards

Hops in past time were plentiful in this land. Afterwards also their maintenance did cease. And now, being revived, where are any better to be found? Where any greater commodity to be raised by them? Only poles are accounted to be their greatest charge. But sith men have learned of late to sow ashen kexes in ashyards by themselves, that inconvenience in short time will be redressed.

From Of the Food and Diet of the English

The beer that is used at noblemen's tables in their fixed and standing house is commonly a year old, or peradventure of two year's tunning or more; but this is not general. It is also brewed in March, and therefore called March beer; but for the household, it is usually not under a month's age, each one coveting to have the same stale as he may, so that it might not be sour, and his bread as new as possible, so that it be not hot.

From Of the Air and Soil and Commodities of the Island

Of late years also we have found and taken up a great trade in planting of hops whereof our moory hitherto and unprofitable grounds do yield such plenty and increase that there are few farmers or occupiers in the country which have not gardens and hops growing of their own, and those far better than do come from Flanders unto us. Certes the corruptions used by Flemings, and forgery daily practised in this kind of ware, gave us occasion to plant them here at home; so that now we may spare and send many over unto them. And this I know by experience, that some one man by conversion of his moory grounds into hopyards, whereof before he had no commodity, doth raise yearly by so little as twelve acres in compass two hundred marks – all charges borne towards the maintenance of his family. Which industry God continue! Though some secret friends of Flemings let not to exclaim against this commodity, as a spoil of wood, by reason of the poles, which nevertheless after three years do also come to the fire, and spare their other fuel.

Reynolde Scot (1538–1599)

A Perfite Platforme of a Hoppe Garden (1574)

This English work devoted specifically to the cultivation of hops was by an author who had in 1582 produced a very different though equally influential book – though it was rejected by fanatics and famously angered James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) who ordered it to be burnt – an impressive review of fashionable contemporary beliefs about witches and witchcraft called The Discoverie of Witchcraft. In this Scot suggested that the fascination with the persecution of witches should be rejected by all right-thinking men on the grounds of common sense and religion.

Reginald (or Reynolde) Scot was a Kentish squire, the second son of Sir John Scot of Scots Hall in Smeeth. He lived during the reign of Elizabeth I and was himself a hop farmer. He had been schooled at Oxford but left without taking his degree. As a young adult he inherited and farmed lands in Smeeth as well as Brabourne in East Kent and later became MP for New Romney as well as a JP. In his farming manual A Perfite Platforme of a Hoppe Garden which is illustrated with woodcuts, he deals with all the technical aspects of the business – the time to cut and set the roots and space out the hop-hills, the size and manner in which to erect the poles, what farm implements are needed, how to pick the hops, how to dry and pack the dried hops etc. It was a great success in its day mainly due to the simplicity of its style and helpful clarity of the illustrations, for he wished to 'write plainly to plain men of the country' in order that they should 'plant hops with effect'.

His work of course is not without its bias and shows, as Harrison's does, great antipathy towards the Flemings who, in introducing their 'bier' into England, were trying:

to cram us with the wares and fruits of their country ... dazzling us with the discommendation of our soil, obscuring and falsifying the order of this mystery, sending us to Flanders as far as Poppering for that which we may find at home in our own back sides.

Unlike Boorde, Scot is in favour of beer as a drink for the following reasons:

In the favour of the Hoppe thus much more I say; that whereas you cannot make aboute above eight or nine gallons of indifferent Ale, out of one bushel of Malt, you may draw xviii or xx gallons of very good Beer, neither is the Hoppe more profitable to enlarge the quantity of your drinke, than necessary, to prolong the continuance thereof. For if your Ale may endure fortnight, your Beere through the benefite of the Hoppe shall continuye a Month, and what grace it yieldeth is the Taste, all men may judge that have sense in their mouths, and if the controuerse be betwixt Beere and Ale, which of them two shall have place of preheminence: it sufficeth for the glorie and commendation of Beere that here in our own Country, Ale giveth place unto it, that most part of our Countrymen doe abhore and abandon Ales as a lothsome drincke, whereas in other nations Beere is of great estimation and of straungers entertained as ther most choice and delicate drinke. Finally that Ale which is more delicate and of best account, boroweth the Hoppe, as without the which it wanteth his chief grace and best verdure.

Scot advised farmers to carefully select the 'platforme' (site) for the garden, and to choose heavy soil which they knew to be rich. They should avoid exposed southerly-facing slopes, as storms from that direction were frequent in late summer, and the hop needed protection from 'violence and contagion of the wind' as well as plenty of sunshine. Scot saw a danger in over-production: 'Grow as much as and no more than you can dispose of and do not be lured by the desire for profit to cultivate hops to excess.'


The Seventeenth-century Hop

[Gervase Markham(1568–1637)

The English Husbandman (1613)

Gervase Markham was the third son of Sir Robert Markham of Cotham in Northamptonshire but he was born just as the family fortunes were failing disastrously. As a young man Markham decided to pursue a military career, serving as a soldier in the Low Countries. This was followed by service in Ireland under the Earl of Essex in which he greatly distinguished himself and was made commander. After the Essex rebellion Markham was called to the Elizabethan court but here his relationship with Essex was a bar to his advancement, despite his entertaining and brilliant feats of horsemanship in the much enjoyed tournaments and tilts before the queen and court where he passed 'a lance with much success'. As debts became pressing he decided, albeit reluctantly, to leave the court and to write for a living. When he retired from court he wrote extensively on practical husbandry, forestry and horsemanship (he was a famed horse-breeder and ran smallholdings). Because he excelled at Latin and had a good command of European languages he also produced a number of good Latin translations, translations from French and books of poems. Despite his prolific output and success with the reading public he did not make the hoped-for fortune. His most famous book is arguably The English Housewife in which he instructs the seventeenth-century housewife how to cook, bake, brew, grow hemp and flax for spinning and, because the housewife had to care 'for the health and soundness of the body' of her family, supplies her with remedies to cure all ills including bad breath, the prevention of baldness, consumption and the plague.

The following is from The English Husbandman.


Excerpted from The Hop Bin by Fran Doel, Geoff Doel. Copyright © 2014 Fran & Geoff Doel. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Anne Hughes: 'The Early Years of Hop Growing in Kent' (2002),
Chapter One The Tudor Hoppe,
Chapter Two The Seventeenth-century Hop,
Chapter Three The Georgian Hop,
Chapter Four The Victorian Hop,
Chapter Five The Twentieth-century Hop,
Chapter Six The Continuing Hop,
Colored Plates,
Mono Plates,

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