A History of YALDING, Kent, England

These are extracts from the memoirs of Hilda Blunden, wife of Hubert, who was brother of Edmund.

Amongst my earliest recollections was sitting on the doorstep at Woodfalls Cottages (where we lived) with my mother and father. I saw what I thought were silver birds. My mother said they were Zeppelins. They bombed a school in Folkestone or Dover. Unintentionally I am sure. I was 3 or 4 years old at that time and of course I did not know that World War 1 was in progress. I also recall a balloon coming down in the farmyard. Two French Officers climbed out. They had lost their way. I remember their smart uniform and shiny leggings to this day.
I often look back to my school days. I remember being given a tray filled with sand and a stick. You were taught your letters this way. Also a bead frame to help you count These methods seem very crude today, but eventually you moved on and came to terms with the so-called 3 RRR's.

In Laddingford we had a little shop run by Mrs. Stoneham She stayed open until 9 o'clock of an evening. We all made our way there to enjoy her hot peppermint or black currant drinks at 2d a glass. We could also get 1d bags of monkey nuts. I expect her dustpan and broom came out as soon as we were gone - wonderful days Pity the clock doesn't go back .
Our bathing arrangements were very simple, one cold water tap, no hot water. Once again every drop had to be heated. We had a galvanised bath placed in front of a blazing fire - what luxury. We were thoroughly scrubbed with Lifebouy or Sunlight soap - head as well, no Amami Shampoos then. All this coupled with the lovely fresh smell of clean night clothes airing on the fireguard was something never to be forgotten. One not so nice memory, was the large dose of Brimstone and Treacle which always followed bath night. Then armed with our hot brick we went to bed. Primitive yes! but very satisfying then.

Most people in the village worked on the farm - my father included, he was a labourer. We lived in a "Tied cottage" so my mother was expected to do some seasonal work. This was mainly Raspberry picking and hop training, leading up to hop picking. Before starting the latter the bins were stacked outside for the women to repair any damaged cloths. The "Oasts" would be cleaned out, and bundles of straw for the hop pickers beds, also "brish" for their fires, was carted to the huts. We children loved the excitement of these people from London, Also gypsy caravans, very colourful with lurcher dogs (Poor miserable skinny creatures) tied behind. We were a little frightened of them. They were quite harmless really. We looked forward to our first days hopping. After the rules were read, a horn was blown for work to commence. Armed with boxes and umbrellas, we set off with high hopes. Hop-picking of course was very different then. The bines were laid across the bin and you picked off the hops. Every three or four hours you would hear "Get your Hops ready" This meant taking out the leaves. The measurer would be along with his bushel basket. Ten bushels into a poke (a large sack). They had to pick five or six bushels for a shilling. It was hard work. However, it had its lighter side, meals in the fresh air and visits of the lolly man were great compensation. On the last day, unless you were very wary you were tipped in the bin and smothered in hops, all good fun. A lot of people relied on hop picking to get their winter clothes! My mother included. This meant a trip to Maidstone. We had to walk to the station, no buses in those days. In my youth I walked to Maidstone and back many times a total of 14 miles. The yearly shopping event was much enjoyed, especially the sugared almonds - my mothers favourite sweet.

My father was Head hop dryer at Woodfalls Farm for many years. He was very conscientious and took his work very seriously, remaining at the Oast day and night through the week, coming home on Saturday. I remember his swollen feet after being on them so long. Hopping lasted 4 or 5 weeks in those days. Never again will we know the taste of potatoes baked in the hot ashes of an Oast House fire. Most of these buildings are now privately owned. Turned into houses surrounded by landscaped gardens, so different from the places of industry they once were with the cart horse standing so patiently, waiting to be unloaded by the farm workers. The hop pokes were wound up to the kilns by means of a pulley to be dried. No more will you see or smell the cowls belching smoke mingled with sulphur, charcoal and drying hop fumes. I am glad to have lived through that era. Electricity has taken over. No labour of love, now ! Hop bines are slashed down and loaded on to a tractor, carted off to a machine where a few women are employed to pick out the leaves - all in the name of progress. Hop gardens are becoming rare. Gone is the aroma of hops hanging thickly on the bines. We import a lot of our beer. Kent, "The Garden of England" has lost one of its main attractions.