When London families spent their summers picking hops in the countryside
By 1870, special trains were being run to transport families to the hop fields. Londoners who could not afford to get out into the country normally looked on harvest time as something of a holiday.
On arrival, though, conditions were squalid. Families lived in barns, tents, stables, even pigsties. Hygiene was poor and disease spread — in 1849 cholera killed 43 hop pickers on a single farm.
In the 1860s, two priests began to visit the hop fields and campaign for improved conditions, eventually forming the Society for Employment and Improved Lodgings for Hop Pickers in 1866. One of the priests had a team of twelve missionaries by 1889.