Hopping Down in Kent
Hops are flowers that are picked and added to beer during the brewing process to give it its bitter flavour. It is thought they were brought to England in approximately 1520 and the first hop garden was established near Canterbury. The hops begin to flower in July, growing petals and leaving a cone in which the yellow lupulin glands that are responsible for the bitter taste are formed. By September the cones are ready to be picked. Hopping was big work for the families of South East London as well as Gypsies, who dominated the workforce (including the contributor of this song, Louie Fuller).
Having spent the summer travelling the country picking fruit and vegetables – such as cherries, strawberries, beans and peas – the pickers would gather in September to collect Kent’s most famous crop. To the working-class communities of South East London, hop picking was considered a working holiday and whole families would travel into the ‘garden of England’.
This song was part of Singing Histories, a national project led by Sing London to create booklets and resources containing traditional folk songs and history from eight areas across England.
The Singing Histories - London illustrated song book (which includes this song) can be downloaded from the document tab at the top of this panel. Audio recording(s) of this song are also available from the audio tab.
Note that these links take you to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website which holds the full archival details of the material. Material on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website is not censored or expurgated and may contain material considered offensive by modern standards.