When considering Hop growing areas in the UK we naturally think of Kent, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and maybe South Oxfordshire but not North of the county. What made me study this subject was the reference on an old 1800′s map of Banbury (above) to there being a ‘Hop garden’ showing on Salt Way. Here’s what I’ve found so far.
Looking back using the sources shown below I found the earliest reference to Hops came under Wroxton in 1685, for ‘purchase of a Hop ground’. I suspect this was part of Wroxton Abbey that most likely had its own Brew house.
Of special interest was the 1706 reference, under the Reindeer in Banbury, to there being ‘a close at the back called Hopp Yard’. So again this suggests the growing hops for own use. This seems likely as there is a reference in the 1800′s Banbury to ‘one Brewer growing Hops’.
Again, possibly linked to a large country house, we have an entry for Broughton in 1778 ‘new crops including hops being grown’. There is a similar entry for Swalcliffe for the 1700′s and Adderbury in the 1800′s. Heythop Park is mentioned in 1805 where there was ‘work for 25 women including Hop Picking’.
Regarding the Hop Garden shown on the map, this could possibly connected to the cultivation of ‘medicinal plants’ by the Usher family of Bodicote in the 1800′s, although there are of course a number of large country houses nearby.
The coming of the Railway in 1850 was probably the reason Hop growing in North Oxfordshire ceased, as supplies could then be easily obtained from elsewhere.
A History of the County of Oxford – The Banbury, Bloxham and Wootton Hundreds – Alan Crossley – OUP.