Bespoke outdoor sitting project: A cowl seat

Did you know we also do bespoke features? That’s right. Every so often we get requests from clients to build something unique for them and it’s always great fun. This, not only allows us to put our tried-and-tested skills to good use but also to flex our creative muscles to bring ideas to life.

First things first

When Russel C. approached us to do some work on their estate, we packed our van and headed over to assess the work that was needed. They had heard of us working on some other oast houses and they were keen to get in touch. We firstly worked on building fresh new oast cowls and also carried out some roof repairs to ensure all the roofs are set and ready for the upcoming autumn and winter months.

But there was one last request. We got chatting, as we do, and the conversation then led on to creating something new… and the idea for a cowl seat was born!

A seat with a twist

But what’s special about this artefact? Well, it’s something we’ve always wanted to do, but most importantly – it’s something that has never been done before to such high standards.

The base of the chair was made out of steel at Laddingford engineering. The oast cowl was made out of wood, using our perfected, oast cowl construction methods, and then we fibreglassed it over the outside. Want to see the end result? Here are some snaps! Needless to say, our client was over the moon with his new cowl seat – the perfect place to read a book, or to enjoy a good cuppa!

Oast Cowl Motifs: More Than Just Decorations

A cowl is an oast house’s crowning glory. But did you know that fitted to the kiln roof, cowls allowed the hot air to be drawn up through the hops and out through the roof? As they rotated in the wind, hot air was given the clearest escape path and the hops were kept safe from the infamous English rain. PS: If you want to read more about what is an oast house we tell you all, about it here.

A quick look up at the cowls might give you a clue as to where in the country you are though.

While Kentish cowls tend to have a flat cap, cowls in neighbouring Sussex have additional blinkers attached. Oast cowls within Herefordshire and Worcestershire follow a very different style with a pointed top and no cap. But, don’t ditch the map and compass. These rules are not set in stone and all styles have been known to travel beyond their home counties. To help the cowl do its important job and turn in the wind, a distinctive finger, fitted to the centre post and attached to the backboard, juts out from the cowl. It is on these that many owners place a delightful oast cowl decoration – a motif.

Duck motifs

These charming motifs are often more than just an aesthetic addition, they tell a tale of the history and heritage of their county. The original farmers who used the oast houses began adding these as a kind of brand identity for their farm. Hop picking season was short and most farmers would have had various sources of income, and a clue to their other activities can often be found in the oast cowl decorations.

Common motif designs range from horses, cockerels, hunters and pheasants, ducks, swans, deer and fish to relatively modern agricultural symbols like tractors. Many other historical moments are also celebrated through the motifs; one oast house features a motif of Winston Churchill on one cowl then a spitfire on the other.

The motifs also reveal the county’s history. The most popular motif is that of the horse, and the popular Invicta horse is an important symbol in Kentish heritage. The emblem exults the fact that during the invasion of Britain, William of Normandy was unable to subdue the county and so Kent negotiated favourable terms for itself. But this celebration of British heritage and culture has travelled into the modern-day. While some oasts still defer to their original owners for their motifs, as part of the oast house restoration, many owners decide to stamp their own family traditions on their oast cowls.

Malcolms brand new Cat Cowl

It has been a while since the majority of oast houses have been used to dry hops, but they have certainly not outgrown their use as a business premise. Many oast cowls are now fitted with motifs that represent their new business owners, with company logos adorning the cowls, showing that these beautiful buildings still have a place in Kentish life.

Detail of oast cowl motifs

Fancy giving your oast cowl that extra pizzazz? Our experts can craft and fit new support arms, arms, motifs and fingers for GRP cowls – perfecting the look and structure of your cowl, simply get in touch with our expert oast house Team for a consultation.

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.