Scratch of the Hop, The SIGNED COPY: Hop Picking in Herefordshire, Worcestershire & Shropshire

(1 customer review)


Marsha O’Mahony


In Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, the clay soil is deep and rich, offering unmatched conditions for the growing of the key ingredient in beer – hops.

Like cider apples, hops were once a major part of the farming landscape and rural economy of this part of the Midlands, but today just 27 hop-growers are left here. At one time, the distinctive wirework of the beautifully-strung hopyards stretched as far as the eye could see, but now most of the old hopyards have disappeared.

Harvest-time attracted thousands of hand-pickers from the Midlands, Liverpool, Bath, Bristol, Manchester, South Wales and even London. Some were Gypsies and itinerant labourers; others were whole families, including grandparents and children, and service men and women, evacuees and prisoners of war. For many, hops were a way of life, for others a seasonal event akin to a family holiday.

Tracing the story of hop-farming – through local archives, interviews and a wealth of unseen photographs, from the early days of hand-picking through mechanisation to modern varieties, farming methods and the boom in craft-brewing – this richly-illustrated book celebrates the social history, traditions, culture and magic of hops.

1: The hop story;
2: Celebration of the hop;
3: Growing the hop – the grower;
4: Picking the hop – the pickers;
5: The Revolution – ‘battleships for shrimping’;
6: Hop drying – where the magic happens;
7: Hop competitions – ploughing societies & sampling;
8: Selling the hop;
9: Hops to hostelry – pubs and brewing;
10: Hop research & development – the future.

Marsha O’Mahony has worked as a newspaper reporter, author and writer for number of books and commissioned works, oral historian on a series of documentary film projects and a commissioned memoirist. She lives in Herefordshire with her family.

Paperback with flaps | 288 pages | 242 x 171 mm | 2 July 2021
More than 200 illustrations
ISBN 9781910839447

1 review for Scratch of the Hop, The SIGNED COPY: Hop Picking in Herefordshire, Worcestershire & Shropshire

  1. James Thorne

    A wonderful evocation of the hop industry in Herefordshire. It describes the process of growing, cultivating and harvesting hops and the experience of people involved in the process. The pickers are particularly well-described; they made light of what we would consider as abject poverty, and despite the hard work of picking hops, the harvest was a highlight of their year.

    The changes affecting the industry are explained in a non-judgemental way, with the book ending on a generally upbeat note about the industry’s future.

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