Sunday, 9 September 2012

Tongham Hop Trail

It was very gratifying this weekend to see so many people walking around Tongham with copies of the Tongham Hop Trail, a self guided walk that Jane and myself devised as part of Tongham's contribution towards Heritage Open Days.  For those of you who were unable to make it, here are some of the highlight's in pictures.

The Hop Trail started at the Hogs Back brewery.
The entrance to Tongham Brewery that utilises some of the old Manor farm buildings

The old barn at Tongham brewery

The walk then continued down the street and right into Poyle Road to the Church.

Manor Farm and old dovecot, reputedly one of the oldest buildings in Tongham
Rose Cottage which still has its own well.
The old School, the Bell Tower and the Church

We then retraced our steps to the cross roads and turned right past the shops.

Tongham Shops, built around 1906
Hop leaf motif above the door at the side of the fish shop
In years gone by this was the view towards the station and the humpback bridge, now both long gone

At the Cricketers we turned left.

The Cricketers is a Victorian pub

Before going underneath the A331 we turned left into Tongham Wood.

The path through Tongham Wood follows the old railway line

Hops along the fence in Tongham Wood
On exiting the wood we came out into Garbetts Way and then left into Grange Road and on to the Kiln.
The Kiln sits in the centre of Tongham near the shops and pub
The Kiln
Steve of Amber and Green showing visitors around the kiln
Exhibition within the kiln
There are still hops in the kiln!
View up the inside of the kiln.
On exiting the Kiln, some of us visited the White Hart Pub.
The White Hart pub from the top of the kiln
We then returned back up the street and stopped at Tongham Village Hall for a up of tea and a look at the excellent exhibition that Gill Picken and Derek Rowlands had put together.

Tongham Village Hall
Derek Rowlands in front of the exhibits he helped put together
Gill Picken helping local residents discover the history of their house
Jane serving tea and cakes from the village hall's new kitchen
Over 200 people visited the village hall over the weekend

Hops & Beer in Tongham

If you walk along Grange Road or along the path that follows the old Guildford to Alton Railway line in Tongham Wood, you cannot fail to see hops growing amongst the brambles, up trees and along the fences.  Hops are the rampant climbing plants with maple-like leaves that entwine themselves everywhere.  It is interesting watching these plants produce their distinctive flowers in August and then grow larger until ready for picking in September.
The hop, surprisingly, is actually a close relative of Cannabis but is used to flavour beer with its bitter aromatic flavour.  It is not a native of England but came from Southern Europe and became used for beer making in England from around the sixteenth century.  Hops don’t have many other uses apart from cooking the young shoots as a vegetable, putting as a herb into your pillow case to reduce insomnia or for use in decorative displays.

Some of the hops you might see in Tongham are descendants of the hops that were farmed here locally in the nineteenth and into the twentieth century.  Hop farming was a huge industry around Tongham, Runfold and Farnham and all the way down to Alton in the second half of the nineteenth century.  The building of the railway through Tongham was partly due to the need to transport local beer and hops to London.   Tongham’s remaining oast house, or kiln, was built in 1858 by James Calloway, a tenant of Manor Farm.  With its round kilns it is typical of a 19th century Oast.   Kingston Farm, up Poyle Road, also had an oast house but this is long gone.   The bottom part of the round kiln was fired by charcoal, coke or charred pit coal.  Above this was placed the hops that were being dried.   Once the hops were dried and their moisture content reduced from 80% to less than 10%, they were put on the top floor of the main building to cool and even out the moisture.   When cooled the hops were pressed into sacks or pockets and put onto the lower floor for storage.  Incredibly these beautiful buildings were used for only one month of the year after the hop harvest in September.

The nineteenth century was the golden age of English hop growing but after 1878 it began to decline.  Apart from Tongham Kiln, other reminders of the local hop industry are the hop leaf motives above the door of the Village Hall and the side entrance to the fish and chip shop.  The only remaining hop garden in Surrey is along the Hog’s Back in the village of Puttenham, which provides hops to Tongham’s Hog’s Back brewery.

Tongham now has only two Public Houses but in the past was also served by the Anchor (in The Street near Manor Road where there are now new houses), The Duke of Cambridge (on the corner of Manor Road and Spoil Lane) and The Victory (on the Hog’s Back opposite the Hotel).  The White Hart pub has been on this site since 1619 but the modern pub was built in 1935.  For many years outside the pub was a well and pump and part of the pub was used as a grocery shop in the nineteenth century until it infringed its licence by selling ale to shoppers.   Note the old iron plaque to the right of the entrance.  The owners of the pub put this there when it was rebuilt.  Hodgson Kingston Breweries was a brewery based in Kingston, Surrey who had bought up two local Guildford breweries, Elkins in 1890 and Crookes in 1929.  They themselves were taken over by Courage in 1943.
The Hog’s Back Brewery is now the only brewery in the borough of Guildford but has only been there since 1992.   They do an excellent tour and also have an amazing range of beers on sale in their shop.

Thanks to all those who helped make our Tongham Heritage Open Days a success.

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