Wednesday, 1 October 2014
HOP,SKIP AND JUMP
The stool shown in the last Post, all about the slickenstones, is another relic of past labour, as it is a hop-pickers perch! Up until quite recently, now machinery does most of the work, whole families from the East End of London, would take a working holiday in Kent to pick the hops that grew there in very large quantities. When the bines, the long fronds loaded with the hop flowers, were picked from the tall stakes that they grew on, and were taken down, the workers then had to strip them and they did this sitting on old crates and boxes, and I guess the more elderly (grandma came too) sat on a high stool surrounded by the long trails. This one has the initial E on the underside and the seat is well polished from years of wear. It's the sort of thing that brings back memories for a lot of people and you don't find much detail about the habits of the poor and working class before the war - it was all considered quite normal and not worth recording. The hops were gathered into enormous hessian sacks which were then carted to the oast houses where they were treated for the first stages of brewing beer. Some of the sacks were a lovely bright yellow and I don't know why - was it a traditional saffron dye (probably much too rare and expensive) or was it to mark them for easy loading ?- they were quite light as hop flowers are papery and flimsy and you would get an enormous amount into just one sack. You can now buy in Sept. each year, beautiful twists of hop flowers on the bine in large cardboard boxes and they make a lovely decoration over a doorway or in a party barn and last for years! See www.essentiallyhops.