These two photographs, taken in the 1930’s, demonstrate how important the heavy horse was to Rye’s industry and supply years after the introduction of the petrol engine. These were the days when farm produce was delivered and sold to Stonhams who processed the raw materials and bagged them ready for resale.
Peas were automatically shucked but Stonhams farmed out the bags of peas to be sorted (the black ones were removed) to local families. This procedure was continued until well after World War Two and in the early fifties they paid the princely sum of seven shillings a bag. The whole family was involved, it was an after school chore.
Hop picking was another job that required the use of the heavy horses. They dragged the hop sacks up the steep banks on which many of the hop fields were situated. This was an autumn activity and the three week period it took to clear the fields was outside the normal school holidays. There were so many local families engaged in ‘hopping’ as it was called, the schools had to adjust their holiday period in this area. Many of the new school uniforms that appeared at the start of the autumn term were the fruits of hop picking.
All the family had to pick, even young children could be seen plucking hops off a vine into an upturned umbrella. It was a way of life in Rye and many were sorry to see the end of hop picking when machines were introduced in the late fifties.
“Rye’s Own” May 2006
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