Hairspring Watercress was founded by George Hair circa 1870 when an employee on his farm visited friends in Kent and saw commercial watercress being grown there. There was a chalk spring on the Hair Farm with an abundant supply of water and this formed the nucleus of their business. Two of Georges children, James and Charles followed their fathers lead using the Spring at West Ashling and the spring at nearby Hambrook, formerly used to drive a corn mill mentioned in the Domesday Book. These two brothers and their heirs ran both operations until in 1965 they were combined under the ownership of the great grandson of the founder and at the present time by his children.
In 1870 the majority of the cress was sent by train to Brighton and London with local markets being supplied by horse and cart.
This continued in a similar fashion until a motor van replaced the horse and road haulage replaced the train. Today, refrigerated transport to London, Brighton and the West Country is used exclusively.
Over the years the watercress beds have been modernised by the construction of concrete walled beds and firm gravel bases. When in the early 1970’s a succession of dry years caused an acute shortage of ground water in the chalk, deep boreholes were hurriedly constructed to replace the ailing spring supply. By using submersible pumps it was possible to continue operation until a return of the groundwater levels.