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Hop-picking had never been as popular a subject for British artists as the wheat harvest. This was partly because it lacked its religious associations, but also perhaps because the end product, beer, was a luxury (unlike bread). In 1807, Joshua Cristall sent a large watercolour of a hop harvest to the exhibition held by the Society of Painters in Watercolour. This may have inspired Uwins to add hop-pickers to his own range of rustic genre, for in 1811 he was making sketches in Farnham of the hop harvest. As well as this watercolour of hops, there are sketches by Uwins in the Oppé collection of workers picking and stripping hops. Hops were grown in Kent and Surrey and harvested by temporary workers, usually women and children from the East end of London.

August 2004