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Kingswinford memories of hop picking holidays

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: January 28, 2014

By Dennis Turner

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AN article in the Black Country Bugle in December about hop picking triggered off a whole wealth of memories for me.

I recall lots of the people mentioned. I can also especially remember all the pretty girls whom we would be too shy to speak to.

My family lived in Netherton and each hopping season we would go with our mother Lily Turner to Bishop's Frome and Farmer Parker's Farm, which was known to us as The Five Bridges.

Our journey was by Midland Red bus and all our luggage would be taken by the farm owner's lorry and delivered to our quarters. When we were bigger we were allowed to travel on the lorry with the luggage. What larks, what utter delight.

I can only ever speak and think of those days we spent hop picking with joy and affection.

Our mother Lily supervised my brother Lawrence and I picking hops doing mostly a full working day. Play deservedly came later on. What strong individuals it helped to make us!

For four weeks we would have a grand time living in Farmer Parker's barns. On arrival our mother Lily would seek our designated space (our sleeping quarters) and would then open our hop picking box. Our box was very special as it was custom made by our favoured uncle Arthur Doake. Out of the box would come bed linen and blankets which would be laid on to straw.

My mother would then proceed to the cookhouse followed by my brother and I to a room set out with many tables. Ours was always set in a large corner at the top right hand side of the cookhouse (the same one every year).

This table and space was also shared with our Aunt Bertha Willetts and three of her children. At each end of the cookhouse were large fires for cooking, washing, ironing and everything required to keep us fed, watered and clean by our very particular, proud, good mother.

How simple and well organised everything was. A mobile butcher came along daily as did a mobile baker.

Attached to the Five Bridges pub at the end of the lane was a small general provisions shop and nearby the farm cottages which helped to keep us in vegetables. I think now of the boost to the economy in that area while we were there.

The children, who were old enough, would work all day under the supervision of their parents. The younger children would play happily in the furrows and near the cribs watched by their mothers and older children.

There was always help from the few men who came along during their saved holiday from industry. They would act as pole pullers who helped to keep everything moving and orderly.

Twice daily the farmer and his assistants would come along to bushel (measure) the hops. There would be eight bushels put into a huge sack. We were paid a shilling for each bushel. They would then be transported by horse and cart or lorry to the local kilns for drying. They were bagged into pockets, 64 bushels went into one pocket when dry, then it was off to market.

Although we went to the hop fields to work and earn, my brother and I never looked on it as anything like work. It was our annual working class holiday.

We had the time of our life. When work was done we ate well and went on to play football and other games until dark in the fields nearby. We would pick apples from the trees. The boys had their games and the girls and small children would remain in the spacious cookhouse with all the adults.

Weekends would bring the family visitors. Our dad Horace would come in another relative's car and our delight would be to see our clever Uncle Arthur arriving on his Royal Enfield motorbike.

We would then go back to school and our parents would be in trouble for our absence from the first week of term.

Dennis Turner,

20A Moss Grove,

Kingswinford.

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