The Contemporary Hempery

We are delighted to welcome Claire and Kitty with their ‘Contemporary Hempery’ enterprise. Fully equipped with their Home Office licence, they are growing an alley of hemp within our agroforestry alleys here at Wakelyns in 2022.

History of Hemp in England

Hemp has been utilised for its fibre in England since 5th century AD when Saxon farmers produced ‘hempenspun’ a rough cloth for garments. It was important enough to be a tithable crop in the 13th century when charted markets to trade the cloth were established. The fibre was crucial in the success of Tudor naval exploration, in the form of rope and sail cloth, although it was not until the 1700’s that the Waveney Valley became a ‘great hemp belt, stretching from Eye to Beccles’ producing 8% of the entire UK output.The industry flourished until the early 1800’s when (in part) competition from cheap imported cotton made the industry uneconomical. Despite this the making of fine damask table wear from hemp lingered in North Lopham until 1925. 

What about Hemp?

The incredibly versatile industrial hemp plant has many uses : fibre for cloth and paper, architectural products for building, oils for medicines and cooking, proteinous seed for eating, material for animal bedding and most importantly the plant sequestrers carbon at a rate 5 x that of new growth forest so has a major part to play in tackling climate change. The deep tap roots re mineralise the soil helping with the regeneration of this crucial resource.

Hand working hemp with traditional tools

An important part of our project is to revive the traditional skills of pre mechanised agriculture in the Waveney Valley.Harvesting, retting, heckling and scrutching the plant by hand with the same tools our forebears would have used.The fibre will be spun on a wheel, dyed using all natural hedgerow dyes and woven on a loom to create fabulous cloth for garments. From field to fashion, we intend to face down the horrendous waste in the garment industry and grow our own clothes.