Remembering Hop Farm Holidays

In the Second World War, thousands of families were fleeing their homes to go hop picking.

At its height, from the Twenties to the Fifties, about 200,000 people from the east end of London, mostly women and children, made the annual pilgrimage down to the hop gardens of Kent, filling the ‘hopper specials’ trains which left from London Bridge station in the early hours of the morning.

Those who couldn’t afford the train ticket would walk the 36 miles to the hop gardens at Paddock Wood, Maidstone and Faversham, sleeping by the road when they got tired. So popular was this annual affair, that it was known as the ‘Londoner’s holiday’, and for many from the east end of London, it was the nearest to a holiday they ever got. This was a time of poverty in Britain, therefore families would travel to farms to pick hops for farmers. It was considered a holiday for many as it meant being able to get away from their homes, but essentially, they were moving away for a short space of time to do more work.

However, “the pickers and their families enjoyed themselves with music, dancing and communal singing. At the end of the season a king and queen of the hop pickers were elected and processions held.”

A far cry from the holidays we are used to these days. Yet, the community spirit present really must’ve felt very special, especially during war time when everyone needed to pull together.