Watercress Farming

Prior to the Roman invasion, southern England was a major exporter of grain to Europe. Grain from farmsteads in the Dever Valley would probably have made its way to the coastal ports by boat on the River Itchen or the River Test.

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Watercress is one crop which has been cultivated successfully in the Dever Valley for many years. It is grown in specially built shallow gravel beds fed by clear water from chalk springs and boreholes and discharged into the river. The Biggs family were pioneer watercressmen. 


They came from Hertfordshire and before the Great War Joseph Biggs and his three sons managed and worked cress beds at St Mary Bourne. From 1921 Joe Biggs, youngest of the sons, started his own business farming watercress at Bullington, Norton, Hunton, Stoke Charity and Micheldever, and building beds for other growers until he retired in 1965. 


Some cress beds are still worked today. The crop was harvested by hand, washed, trimmed and packed into bundles and taken by cart or lorry every day to either Micheldever or Sutton Scotney for urgent despatch by steam train to Covent Garden market and as far as the Midlands. Nowadays, watercress growing is a mechanised process and much of the produce is flown in from abroad


CLICK HERE for more information on Biggs family

Carol Legendziewicz
Dever and Down

Watercress Farming
Watercress Farming

The Biggs family working in the beds. Photo: Carol Legendziewicz

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Watercress Farming
Watercress Farming

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Watercress Farming
Watercress Farming

Joe Biggs in picture

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Watercress Farming
Watercress Farming

The Biggs family working in the beds. Photo: Carol Legendziewicz

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