Farnham & District Museum Society

Home     About Us     Contact Us     Membership     Talks Programme     Seminars     Journal     Publications      

Farnham HopsHop Growing and its Decline in

the Parish of Farnham, Surrey

1873 – 1973


Valerie D. O’Rourke



Includes a Postscript on the Current Revival





In the town of Farnham in Surrey, for a period from the 16th century until recently, hops of particularly good quality were grown.  From the 18th century these hops were highly renowned within the industry.  They were of a particularly delicate flavour, much favoured by brewers until the turn of the century.


As a native of Farnham, the author well remembers seeing the lorries coming round to collect the pickers each morning during the picking season, after the Second World War, and as each year has passed by, she has sadly watched the disappearance of the various hop grounds, seeing their places being taken by houses and schools.  This process had, however, been going on for some 50 years before the Second World War.




Little has so far been written in detail about Farnham hops, and she felt that this would be not only an interesting subject upon which to research, but that in recording her research, she might contribute a little to the documentation of Farnham’s history. The society were therefore delighted when Mrs Valerie O’Rourke of Fleet gave this thesis, written in 1986, to the Museum Society, with permission to use it in whatever way we thought best.


Mrs O’Rourke was a mature student at the Sydney Webb College of Education in London, and prepared the work towards her Teacher’s Certificate in 1976.  As you will see it represents many hours of painstaking study, and includes some unique reminiscences by local people whose memories went back to the end of the Farnham hop era.


Very few copies survive of the 1986 edition of Valerie O’Rourke’s thesis, and Maurice Hewins suggested that his copy could be used as the basis for a new transcription, so that it could be circulated more widely among the many Farnham people interested in the subject.  The quality of the original photocopied illustrations proved to be too poor for reproduction, but Maurice has kindly loaned sufficient photographs from his collection; he credits some of these to Jim Tice, a former hop grower.



62 pages

29 illustrations