Our Happy Customers

Alistair Taylor | Jan 2019

Replacing oast cowls on a shared property

I am very happy to recommend Dude and Arnette. They dealt with the replacement of our oast cowls with great efficiency and expertise. The end result is magnificent. Our tenants were barely disturbed, and the price seemed very fair. Throughout they were a pleasure to deal with, and always prompt to answer queries.

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Oast cowl repairs by hand

We’ve always worked with our hands here at Dude & Arnette, some of us used to be mechanics, some started working on oasts early raising cowls up by hand using pulleys and poles. We like getting stuck in, but there are lots of other reason why investing in a true craftsman for your oast cowl repairs is important.

How often should I have my oast refurbished?

Looking after your oast is important, it can preserve the life of your oast and save replacement.  Oasts ideally should be refurbished every five to six years so any rotten or broken wood can be repaired before causing a larger problem.  If we carried out the original repair work, it may be a little longer. From start to finish, a standard cowl refurbishment typically takes around four weeks.

oast cowl repairs    finishing oast cowl repairs a before shot of oast cowl repairs

Why should I have my oast cowl repairs done by hand?

Oast refurbishment is a detailed process. We carefully strip down the oast by sanding it – removing all the paint from the boards. This allows us to see any wear or water damage. The cowl then gets placed in a special drying room to remove any moisture from the wood before we begin repair work. Depending on the cowl’s condition, this may include meticulously replacing or repairing boards, heads, mainframe or curb, our expert craftsmen know exactly how to repair any problems with minimal disruption to the structure of the original cowl.

A critical stage is the re-painting, we still paint the cowls by hand, the shape of the cowl means it’s almost impossible to get good, solid coverage by spraying. And we do five coats for optimum appearance and weatherproofing. Something we are committed to always doing by hand.

What have you changed?

We keep up to date with the very latest technology and quality when it comes to paint and wood treatment.  Using cutting edge primer, undercoats and finishes leaves you fully weatherproofed and prevents any potentially costly problems developing with the wood- and iron-work.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram or Facebook to see what we’re up to in the new year, or get in touch to chat about your oast refurbishment needs.

Oast House Restoration

It’s that time of year when those of us lucky enough to live in a period property are warming our feet by a large open fire. But period properties are hard work. Fact. They require tender, loving care, and a fair measure of expertise. It takes bravery and commitment to take on an oast house restoration and we’re always inspired by the clients we work with.

This month we spoke to Ecclesiastical and World Heritage Magazine about Richard and Jane Horobin’s project, two great examples of the bravery we admire. They transformed the Grade II listed Lydens Farmhouse, near Hever in Kent into a family home. And what a spot to work – with views over the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Committed to Kent’s history

What we liked about the Horobin’s was their commitment to preserving the historical features of the property. Which, luckily for us meant working with only the finest oast house experts in Kent! They meticulously used local joiners, bricklayers and other tradesmen when they could. For example, they used locally sourced oak to replace the original rotten timbers. And Tudor Roof Tiles (traditional clay Kent Peg tiles) that give an authentic, natural finish than modern tiles.

The historical building had no record or clues of how it used to look. That’s where our generations of experience came in. From the diameter of the roundel base, we knew exactly the height and style of oast cowl to build to be true to Kent’s history.

A year of oast house restoration

As the year draws to a close we’re so proud of our team and the oast house projects we’ve worked on across Kent, Herefordshire and Sussex. Thank you from us all for being amazing customers and we’re excited to working with you all in 2019.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram or Facebook to see what we’re up to in the new year, or get in touch to chat about your oast restoration needs.

 

 

Kent’s Oast history

Designed for the drying of hops, an oast (or oast house) is an essential part of Kent history. Kent was famed for its hop-growing, and the demand for somewhere safe to dry (kiln) the hops for the thirsty brewers was high.

How did an oast house work?

Green hops were picked in the hop gardens (for a set price per bushel), however when freshly picked they had a moisture content of 80% – this needed to be reduced all the way down to 6% to be any use for the all-important brewing.

Traditional Kent oast houses were two or three storeys high with diagonally slatted floors (stowage). Hops were strewn out across these thin drying floors and heated from below – the slats allowed the heat to gently rise through them decreasing the moisture content.

Topped by anywhere between one and eight circular kilns, the oast cowls that we so lovingly construct and restore provided ventilation for the hot air from the wood or charcoal fires below to escape. They were cleverly designed to swing away from the prevailing wind and therefore create a vacuum that kept hot air being drawn through the slatted floors above.

The hops were then left to cool before being bagged up into large jute sacks called ‘pockets’ with a hop press. Each pocket contained about 150 bushels of green hops! Most importantly, the pocket had to be marked with the grower’s details. The brewers at the market would want to know for certain, where their hops were coming from, as they were used in their breweries to add distinct flavour and character to the Kent beers we know and love.

A history respected

Starting our business in 1937 it’s no wonder we know these oast and oast cowls inside out. We are really proud of our part in maintaining this important part of Kent life. If you want to see a traditional oast house in Kent, one of the best preserved is The Hop Farm Country Park at Beltring. Famous for having the world’s largest collection of Victorian Oast Houses it has been our honour to work on this project.

If you have any questions about oast houses in Kent then get in touch.

Toasting a busy summer

We’ve had a wonderful summer here at Dude & Arnette, from press interviews celebrating craftsmanship to maintaining our much-loved oast cowl project Hop Farm and constructing brand new kiln roofs and oasts in Sussex. We couldn’t have done any of it without our hard-working team.

Kent Life Magazine

Our very own Dude was also interviewed for Kent Life Magazine’s piece – 4 Kent Craftspeople: from blacksmith to woodcarver. It was an honour to feature alongside fellow traditional businesses including bespoke woodcarving, spinning, and a blacksmith. What we all have in common is a passion for bespoke work, attention to detail and respect for traditional tools and techniques. So thanks to Kent Life Magazine for showcasing true craftspeople like ourselves.

Dude and Arnette Kent life Magazine
photo: Manu Palomeque

Traditional oast cowl construction

We’ve been on the ground on many sites doing not just restoration but complete oast cowl construction. We wanted to give you a look at the care, commitment and dedication to the craft you only get with a company with over 70 years of experience. You can follow us on Instagram or Facebook to watch us in action. See below some of the painstaking tasks of completing a new kiln roof, timber work, and the blacking phase. We’ve been lucky with the weather and have been enjoying some great views across the Sussex countryside.

 

Ecclesiastical and Heritage World Magazine

We were also featured in Ecclesiastical and Heritage World Magazine last month. The oast cowl styles standing proudly atop traditional oast houses can be spotted across the Sussex, Kent and Hereford & Worcestershire countryside. Each county has a unique style that is stuck to and we love how these styles tell a story about our countryside’s history and are very much a part of our heritage, so we were delighted to be featured.

Autumn shows no signs of slowing down, but we work year-round and now’s the perfect time to prepare your roof and oast cowl for winter, so get in touch to chat about your needs.

Our Happy Customers

Martin Nicholson | Aug 2018

Repairing storm damaged Oast Cowls

Having had storm damage to one of our two cowls I called Darren to ask his help and he came the next day and offered a verbal quote to remove the cowl, make safe and watertight. Two days later he arrived with his team and a crane and removed the cowls and took them away. I had mentioned to Darren that our daughter was getting married in 3weeks with the reception in the garden and even though he was very busy he got the cowls back up on the roof with a week to spare. I was impressed with their professionalism and quality of workmanship and would highly recommend Dude and Arnette.

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Our Happy Customers

Beccy Smart | Aug 2018

Refurbishing a well worn cowl

The team were excellent to work with from start to finish, they were very competent and easy going. The end result was a beautiful gleaming white, smoothly rotating cowl. Our neighbours cowls now look even more derelict!

We have them lined up for maintenance work for the next time the cowl needs a service in 5 or so years!

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Oast House Holidays

Yearning for a ye olde English holiday in the countryside? Somewhere to kick off your Birkenstocks and relax in front of the fire, with a couple of faithful pooches by your side? Well, you’ve come to the right place, as we also happen to enjoy those things and have done the hard work in finding a selection of beautiful locations that fit the idyllic country theme perfectly. And what’s more, the accommodations are all converted oast houses! But you knew that was coming didn’t you… Here’s our selection of the best oast house holidays in and around Kent and Sussex…

The apple of Kent’s eye

The historic village of Appledore can trace its history back to Viking times when it was a bustling port. Nowadays, things have quieted down and it provides locals and visitors alike with a quaint English feel, scenic countryside and of course – The Black Lion pub. We have actually restored the cowls on the Hop Pickers Oast guest house (pictured) so we can vouch for just how stunning the location is!

The High Weald – an area of outstanding natural beauty is nearby and provides plenty of opportunity for lazy rambles, or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous – mountain biking. If the sun shines, make sure to pack up your beach bags and head to the endless Camber Sands near historic Rye – but get up early to secure your space on the beach…

Where to stay?

Converted oast house

The Hop Pickers Oast

Gory history and sparkling wines in Sedlescombe

If you’re looking for an oast house holiday with plenty of local history, the village of Sedlescombe could be the perfect spot. You’ll be just a short hop from the historic site of the Battle of Hastings which was fought in 1066 between the Norman-French and English armies. The whole family are sure to enjoy the gory details of the fight, and there’s plenty of museums dedicated to the event. Children will love the old Smugglers Caves located in the West Hill area of the town and the tourist attraction allows you to explore the winding labyrinth – but expect a few surprises along the way!

Wine buffs are sure to enjoy Sedlescombe and for a special treat, why not book a tour and tasting of the local vineyard who create award-winning sparkling wines.

Where to stay?

The Oast House, Sedlescombe

sedlescombe-vineyard-via secret escapes
Image – Sedlescombe Vineyard via Secret Escapes

Heading back in time in Newenden, Kent

The hamlet of Newenden was first documented in history in AD 791 and there is pre-Roman fort in the near hillside which could indicate settlement even before this date. The parish church of St Peter has an original Saxon carving which is an attraction to visitors in itself! In the 16th century there were no less than 16 public houses located in the village, but understandable only one now remains – The White Hart, which is popular for both a pint of local ale and home cooked pub grub.

Close by is the Medieval Bodiam Castle, accessible both by road and via a boat trip from the Newenden bridge in the village. This 14th century moated castle is well worth a visit and although the interior has been destroyed by the various wars over the years, the exterior rises proudly from the water, flanked by acres of manicured grounds.

Where to stay?

The Oast – holiday cottage in Newenden

Bodiam Castle via Days out with the Kids
Image – Bodiam Castle via Days out with the Kids

Get in touch and tell us about any memories of oast house holidays.

All hail the Tally Man!

Not a phrase you hear often these days, but get ready ladies and gents as we’re taking things old skool, bringing back one of the ancient traditions of working Oast Houses.
The Tally stick is back.

Original Tally Man

 

If you’re not familiar with the term then let us enlighten you. In the early 1900s, a ‘Tally Man’ would visit the Oast Houses and note down the amount of hops they were picking and brewing, and mark this on a tally stick.

“The ‘tally man’ came round at intervals during the day, when the hops would be measured out by the tally and recorded for each family. They were then transferred to the oast house in huge ‘pokes’ known as ‘green bags’, each containing 12 bushels, by horse-drawn farm wagons. Pickers were paid by the bushel and an average pick would be 25 bushels a day. One shilling (5p) per bushel is the highest pay recorded and for many years it was only eight old pence.”

[source: Faversham Hop Festival]

At the end of the picking season he would then exchange the tally stick for tokens which could be redeemed by the grower for goods such as new clothes and boots. Designing elaborate hop tokens became something of a competition between hop growers, and they are much sought after by local museums.

The Tally Stick process was later replaced by hop picker books, but not ones to let a good tradition go, we at Dude and Arnette have crafted our very own tally sticks which we use to record services on the Oast Houses we restore and revamp on across the country. We then leave the stick with the Oast House owners and it serves as a handy reminder of when we last visited and reminds them, and whoever takes over the property to keep their cowls in top condition!

Dude & Arnette Tally stick

Our team are passionate about the history behind hops, and being in the business since 1937 it’s important to us to bring some of the old history back to life whenever we can! So next time you visit an Oast House, ask to see their Tally Stick – and if they don’t have one? Send them our way!

Our Happy Customers

Sue & Les Hart | Mar 2018

Refurbishing a well worn cowl

From agreement of work to be done to completion of works, everything went to plan including price, timing, quality of workmanship and was carried out by a cheerful, competent and professional team. We have no hesitation in recommend D & A. LH, Hever

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