...with a reference this time!
As my previous post on hop history was a severely lacking in references I've gone out and bought a hop book. Sadly the choice of hop books is extremely limited but thanks to a recommendation from Jens Eiken I've bought "Hops" by AH Burgess. The book is getting on for 50 years old and the copy I've got sat for decades on the shelves of Imperial College library, including when I was there, being taken out a total of three times before it was withdrawn.
The book may be old but it's still got a wealth of information. Early on there's a map of hop growing districts with Farnham highlighted, and the first chapter is on the history of hop growing which is just what I need to tidy up my previous post.
The big question of what exactly the prolific varieties grown in the 1900s were is answered. I'd got the wrong end of the stick thinking it was a group of hops, in fact Prolific was the name of a variety introduced in 1852. When I get a moment I'll go back and airbrush out of history my misunderstanding.
As to the date of when hops were first grown commercially in England Burgess is more circumspect than Darby:
"During the fifteenth century, beer, i.e. hopped ale, was still considered in England to be a foreign drink. No doubt, as their value became more widely known, small plots of hops were grown for home brewing, but most of the hops used were imported from the Continent. Their cultivation on a commercial scale was not seriously undertaken until the sixteenth century, about 1524, the enclosure of common lands having made the growing of such a crop more feasible. Hop gardens were first established in Kent, and there is a record of hop gardens in Norfolk in 1533."
There's also plenty more on the origin of English hop varieties, including how there came to be so many varieties of Goldings despite the fact they're grown from cuttings but I'll be coming back to that later.