Every summer many people, including Gypsies, came to the Alton area in Hampshire to pick hops.
The unique hand coloured magic lantern slides c1884 taken by Rev Augustus Wright, give a glimpse of the hop pickers and their surroundings . Of course Hop Picking took place all over England in many Counties and we must allso remember some of our Ancestors continued the tradition in the USA . As well as Travellers many city folk enjoyed a break in the Country in the Summers time and earned valuable extra income from it ,but it was hard graft so not much of a holiday!
"Hops grow on flexible branches called bines, in fields traditionally called 'hop gardens'. The bines are grown along strings and wires attached to poles up to 12 feet (3.65 metres) high. Workers using stilts attached the strings to the highest wires. During spring, the vines had to be 'twiddled' to encourage them to grow on the strings. Mature hop gardens had rows of 'alleys'; tunnels formed as the bines grew together on the wires overhead.
Hops were harvested in late August and September. Picking began at dawn. The picked hops were put into large bins or baskets. First, the bine would be pulled down from the strings. It was then laid on the bin and the hops - which are the flowers of the plant - were stripped (picked) off. Pickers had to be careful not to drop leaves into the bins. The hops were weighed by the 'tally man' and calculated by the 'bushel' - a unit just over 35 litres in modern terms. Pickers could be paid anything from eight old pence to a shilling per bushel. The bins were moved down the alleys during the course of the day. After lunch, children were often allowed to play in the fields while their parents continued working. Work usually finished around 4pm.
The hop-picking heyday was in the 1920s and 30s. Improved work conditions in general - including more holidays - meant that a hop-picking 'holiday' was an option for working-class families. As well as the money, a few weeks in the fresh country air was recognised as beneficial particularly to children. In August and September, the train companies even operated 'Hoppers Specials' to carry people from London into Kent. The family atmosphere and the fun of sitting chatting around the cooking fires in the evenings was a big attraction for Londoners.
After the Second World War, machines took over much of the work previously done by hand. With many jobs also beginning to offer paid holidays, the popularity of hop-picking holidays declined. By the 1960s, the annual migration from London for the hop-picking was all but over."(Extract from Museum of London)
In Hampshire, Alton & Binstead parish records ,show the many baptism's that took place in September while the family were Hopping ,whilst we have families from hampshire that went to Kent for the Hopping we also have Kent and Sussex and other Counties who came to Hampshire ,thus resulting in many families who became related by marriage ,many a romance must have taken place at hopping time!. Often people I speak to remember these times as happy although hard work !.