Thursday, 18 January 2018

Farnham hops in the 1850's

Something really about hops this time. Taken again from the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee into the hop duty.

I've learnt a few things from this excerpt of an interview with a Franham hop grower.

"Mr. James Harris, called in ; and Examined.

3399. Chairman.] YOU are a Hop Grower, in Hampshire ?— I am, to a small extent.

3400. To what extent ? — I farm about a dozen acres.

3401. Have you been long a hop grower ? —I have been a grower 21 years; I have always been upon the same land.

3402. In what part of Hampshire is your farm ?—At Sutton ; it is about six miles from Farnham.

3403. Are there any larger hop growers in the neighbourhood ? —Yes ; in Alton, and Farnham, and Binstead, and that district.

3404. How many acres do the farms consist of? —From 15 to 100 acres ; Sir Thomas Miller's is from 50 to 60 acres.

3405. Are the hop growers owners of large farms? —A good many of them are ; some are very large.

3406. You farm yourself about a dozen acres of hops ?— Yes.

3407. How much other land do you farm ? — I farm about 520 acres altogether.

3408. What proportion of hop land to other land do any of those other, farms possess ?— It is different ; near Binstead and Alton there is a larger proportion of hop land to the other farms ; that is in the immediate neighbour hood of Alton.

3409. Have any of them as much as a quarter of their farms in hops ?—No, I do not think so, where they farm to any extent ; but some of them have nearly that.

3410. What sort of hops do you grow ? —White bines principally; I have one acre of green bines, but mine are principally white bines.

3411. What kind of soil is it that you grow your hops upon ? —The soil that I grow my hops on is principally clay, with a chalk sub-soil ; as you get to Binstead you get a marl land, and all that side of Alton.

3412. What depth do you go before you get to the chalk ? —We vary from two to four feet.

3413. Is not the white bine a fine quality of hop ? —Yes.

3414. Is not that what is known as the Farnham hop ? —Yes, principally. There is not quite so much white bine as there used to be, but there is a great deal.

3415. Mr. Brand.] Is it grown in any other district but the one in which you reside ? —I am not acquainted with any other hop district besides my own.

3416. Are there any other kinds of hops besides the white bine grown there ? —The green bines and other hops. I have heard of some few Colegates and Goldings.

3417. Sir John Shelley.] Is the white bine of the same quality as the Golding ? —No; it is a different quality from the Golding.

3418. Mr. Bass.] Is it like the Canterbury white bine? — I do not know; it is, perhaps, the same I have seen, the Kent hops and the Sussex hops.

3419. Are you in the Farnham branch, or in the country branch? —I am in the Farnham country branch."
Report from the Select Committee on Hop Duties, 1857, page 179.
What did I learn from that? For a start, that much of the Farnham hop district wasn't in Surrey, but in neighbouring Hampshire, as was Mr. Harris's farm. Looking on a map, I see that Farnham is right in the southeast corner of  Surrey. In fact it looks like the county boundary bulges so that it includes the town.

I'm surprised that there were so many hop farms in this region. Especially in Binstead, which is on the Isle of Wight. Quite a way from Farnham. I assume by Sutton, Mr. Harris actually means Long Sutton, which is about six miles due East of Farnham.

Though the quantities of hops grown in Surrey and Hampshire were tiny compared to Sussex and Kent:

Hop duty by district 1819
district duty lbs hops % of total
£ s d
Canterbury 90,153 1 4 10,818,368 21.19%
Essex 4,088 13 4 490,640 0.96%
Hants 1,083 9 11 130,020 0.25%
Hereford 34,943 14 6 4,193,247 8.21%
Lincoln 8,647 15 8 1,037,734 2.03%
Rochester 127,668 2 2 15,320,173 30.01%
Surrey 107 6 2 12,877 0.03%
Sussex 136,563 13 2 16,387,639 32.10%
Worcester 7,897 17 8 947,746 1.86%
(Source: "The Spirit, Wine Dealer's and Publican's Guide", by Edward Palmer, London, 1824 page 247-249.)
Weight of hops calculated assuming duty of 2d per pound

The numbers are a few years earlier, but demonstrate how concentrated hop growing was. I've left out most of the districts where very few hops were grown before you start telling me my numbers don't add up. Lincoln, not exactly a renowned hop-growing district, produced more than 8 times as many hops as Surrey and Hampshire combined.

Note how small a percentage of the land was used for hops in the Farnham district. In Mr. Harris's case, just 12 out of 520 acres. The largest hop farm in the area was only around 100 acres, according to Mr. Harris. Compare this to the endless vista of hop poles you see in parts of Bavaria.

Finally something I already knew: that Farnham hops were a type of white bine.  Well, most of them were.

Lots more hops-related stuff to come.


Anonymous said...

I think Mr Harris probably means the village of Binstead that is about 4 miles north east of Alton rather than the one on the Island. I remember hops growing in the Alton area when I were a lad in Hampshire in the early 1970s but I don't know how commercial that was by then.

Ron Pattinson said...


it's hard to be sure because later on Mr. Harris talks about the Isle of Wight, which was in the Farnham district, bizarrely.

qq said...

I know it's widely assumed (certainly across the Channel) that the old "Witte Ranke" of Flanders is the same whitebine that came to Suffolk, then Farnham and evolved into Goldings, is there any hard evidence of that?

It's intriguing to speculate that Witte Ranke was the original high-alpha hop that enabled Liege to make Luyksbier, the first beer with high enough alpha to survive long distances and be widely traded (and still be drinkable).

Edd Mather said...

I look forward to more posts on hops Ron , all grist to my mill (Sorry'bout the awfull pun there),

petalia paul said...

yes there is a Binstead about 4 miles from Alton in Hampshire,this must be the village being referred to.I have ridden many motorcycle scrambles there

Ed said...

There's a map of the Farnham hop growing area in Hubert Parker's book if I remember rightly.

Richard said...

It's called Binsted and located between Farnham and Alton. Nothing to do with the Isle of Wight. My mum was a Hop Picker when she was young. We used to go for family walks around the hop fields when visiting my Grandad who lived next door to the Cedars pub.