Ezra Meeker, Ralph Vaughan Williams, And Beer: Historic Homes. Historic Hops

Aug 5, 2013

Perhaps you’re enjoying a cold Northwest craft brew on an August evening and listening to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose sweet orchestral sounds often keep you company on Northwest Public Radio.

Leith Hill Place, Ralph Vaughan Williams’s family home in Surrey, England, just opened to the public this summer.
Credit British National Trust
During the years when Ralph would have been a young teen, between 1884 and 1887, Washington State founding father Ezra Meeker was making regular visits to England in the interest of the brew you’re enjoying now.  Historical society narratives call Meeker the “hops king,” in honor of the phenomenal success he had as a pioneer cultivator of the plant that makes beer possible.  

In Puyallup, the restoration of Ezra Meeker’s beautiful mansion continues.  Hops vines painted on a ceiling are being lovingly uncovered, as the Tacoma News Tribune reported earlier this year. 


Meeker Mansion in Puyallup
Credit Mike Martin

Britain’s National Trust has just this summer opened to the public the Vaughan Williams family home in Surrey, England -- Leith Hill Place, it’s called. The work of historic restoration continues there, too.

Inside Meeker Mansion
Credit Mike Martin
Meeker left more than a legacy of great hops: He was the champion of the marking and preservation of the Oregon Trail. To make sure that Washington, D.C. didn’t forget this piece of national history, he crossed the country more than once, in covered wagon, model T, and airplane, to make his case.  

Ambitious businessperson that he was, Meeker realized that England was a great market for his product, so he traveled often to London. As a man of good taste, did he seek out some beautiful Wedgewood pottery to bring home? Vaughan Williams’s mother was part of the Wedgwood family, which owned Leith Hill Place. Maybe Meeker made a side trip to Surrey?