|THE HOP-PICKERS MISSION TO
THE WEALD OF KENT, 1868 - 1960
Included in the large Visual Record collection in the library of the Kent Archaeological Society1 are photographs, financial data, newspaper cuttings and a book(2) concerning hop picking in Kent in the latter half of the 19th century. This archive, donated to the society in 1996, describes the mission to hop-pickers in the Weald of Kent funded by the Reverend Joseph James Kendon in 1868 to meet the spiritual and temporal needs of the extremely poor people in the Goudhurst area.
A hand-written summary in the archive reveals that Joseph James was born in Bethnal Green in 1830, the son of a poor silk weaver. Taking up the trade himself, his concern for the poor Eastenders living around him in Dickensian London led him to study in the evening and preach and teach his neighbours. He also visited the sick in the terrible hospitals. These activities coupled with caring for his sick wife who died leaving him with two small children inevitably led to the deterioration of his health. A friend suggested a break in the countryside. The Country Towns Mission needed a minister and at the suggestion of Miss Tapson of 'Finchcocks' he moved to Goudhurst, penniless, trusting that the Lord would provide, as indeed He did. Donations and subscriptions came in and a local farmer provided accommodation for his mission work. Apart from preaching to hundreds of pickers on Sundays the Reverend Kendon supplied them with tea and soup. He also instigated the provision of accommodation for pickers (hoppers' huts) and introduced medical services. He died in 1903 and his work was continued by his son, Samuel, who gave the medical hut to the Red Cross at the beginning of World War II and the creches to the Salvation Army.
Samuel died in 1945 but work was continued until 1960 when mechanisation of the industry was complete.
M. A. Perring 2012
(1) KAS Newsletter No. 19., p. 14 (2012)
(2) Mission Work Among The Hop-pickers in the Weald of Kent. Rev. R. Shindler
Morgan & Scott (London), circa 1895