Where did strawberry dodgers live?

The dodgers were accommodated in model hutments (Barracks) designed by an erstwhile architect and no picker would be allowed to start work before being medically examined, ”only clean and healthy persons being engaged for fruit gathering and packing”. The county medical officer of health also regularly visited the campus and a dentist was on call.

Concerts and various entertainments were organised in leisure times, the dodgers providing much of this with mouth organs, concertinas, fiddles, etc. They were a happy crowd. On Sundays religious services were conducted. There was sometimes romance on the camp, for at least one occasion a priest was called upon to officiate at the marriage of a dodger couple.

Nevertheless, the dodgers were disliked by the local community, for although the majority were sober, hardworking men and women seeking a break in the country from their drab town surroundings, rowdy elements from Wrexham delighted in baiting them, and pitched battles along the road to Holt were common in season, especially on Sundays when Wrexham ties, intent on overcoming the then Welsh drinking laws invaded the village as bona-fide travellers to fill themselves with ale.

The local press was scathing about these excursions and the degrading spectacles to be regularly seen along the approaches of Holt. “These scenes are unbecoming of men and women in a Christian land”, commented one writer, “Ribald songs are sung and filthy language indulged in by those under the influence of drink… Scarcely can any respectable person pass along the main road without being accosted and insulted”. And with reservations he praised the conduct of the dodgers but strongly deprecated their arrival on Sundays to start work on the following day. He appealed to strawberry-growers “not to employ such Sabbath breakers”.

More than a hundred years have passed since Charles Bellis first planted strawberry-runners in his garden and thus initiated a thriving industry which now encompasses other agricultural produce. And the days of the strawberry dodger have long since passed. More often than not buyers will be invited to pick their own. But the demand for the Bellis Berry is as keen as ever.