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.

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.