Filming an oast cowl construction with Channel 4

The guys from Channel 4 love a good oast cowl construction. Back in 2017 they featured us in their Village of the Year programme showcasing the history of oast cowls and Kent peg tiles. This time, they approached us to film the construction of an oast house a from start to finish. This is part of a programme that will showcase the build of different traditional buildings, each one being different and unique (a church, a windmill). With faces most definitely made for television, who were we to deny the public this experience?

They were particularly interested in watching us build the two oast house roundels (the roof) and the two oast cowls. As highly trained craftsmen and a fourth-generation family business, we know this process very well. We restore and rebuild oast houses and oast cowls from scratch and over the years, we have worked on all types of oast houses across the country, including buildings listed with local heritage departments.

Building an oast owl from scratch

We started the construction by pitching the two oast roofs known as roundels. We then used Tyvek (flash spun high-density polyethene fibres) to weather each kiln. After that, we used counter batten up each rafter, so that when we lathed the kiln it could hold the tile nails away from the Tyvek preventing holes. We then made onto the counter baton to work out where every row of tiles had to go so that they were evenly spread up the kiln and weathering one another.

oast cowl construction  Oast cowl structure being put together  oast construction filming

Going onto the makes we added the lath, which is wood that’s run out really thin and therefore gives us an opportunity to bend it and pin it around the roof. The lath also serves as a base for the tiles. We used tapered and square tiles as due to their shape they’re able to go around the roof without running downhill. Once the tiles were on with lead and fibreglass, the top was ready for the oast cowl.

Preparing tiles for oast construction  oast construction tiles . oast cowls built in the warehouse

The last step of the process is to add the oast cowl on top, which we are in the process of putting on so watch this space for the final snaps!

Whether you’re interested in oast construction, installation or kiln roof maintenance, get in touch with our specialist oast cowl build team for a clear, honest and concise quote and we will organise a visit to your oast house at a time that suits you.

Want to see how we finish this project? Follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for the latest oast updates.

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.

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!

6 Great Kent Pub Walks

There can’t be many more pastimes as British as whacking the wellies on and striding off with the family in tow in search of an invigorating walk, ending of course in a traditional country boozer. Here in Kent, we’re lucky enough to have plenty of public footpaths to explore and even more pubs to end up in. Kent pub walks are perfect for a Sunday when the lure of a Roast is sure to ignite the interest of even the most reluctant rambler…

Here’s our choice of where to end up, and a rough guide* to how to get there. Don’t forget to spot the oast houses on route! *We can’t be held responsible for any lost and hungry walkers…

The Goudhurst Inn

Goudhurst is a pretty village, known for being one of the highest locations in Kent. The countryside surrounding the village is sprinkled with Oast houses, so no surprises we put it top of our list! The Goudhurst Inn is located in the Hush Heath Estate which is famous for its production of English wine and cider, and the pub even has rooms upstairs should you overindulge in the apple nectar and need a reviving snooze. There’s a great AA 3 mile walk which spans the village and offers fantastic views of the Weald – highly recommended for a sunny day!

oast houses on Kent pub walks

Credit: Tunbridge Wells Online

The Hare, Langton Green

Royal Tunbridge Wells is one of the most popular Kent towns, with plenty of shops, entertainment for families and even the Ivy Restaurant chain have landed in the High Street. Head just a few miles out of the centre and you’ll find the pretty village of Langton Green. A classic English pub with a huge garden, it’s the perfect location to park up and head out for a stroll before enjoying a hearty meal. We’ve found a scenic 4 mile walk which begins from The Hare and takes you on a circular ramble which passes through the majestic Groombridge Place with it’s 200 acres of manicured land.

Credit: DOUK

The Tiger Inn, Stowting

Priding themselves on a menu curated around fresh, local and organic produce, the Tiger Inn is a firm favourite with both locals and visitors to the village of Stowling. Log burning fires and being surrounded by picturesque Kentish scenery makes the Tiger a great base for a stroll, and we’re ramping things up a little with a brisk 9 miler, which will certainly stoke your appetite for a meal after!

Credit: Walks and Walking

The Dove Inn, Dargate

If cycling is more your bag, may we suggest taking a trip to Dargate, where you can begin your ride from the popular Dove Inn and explore the nearby Victory wood and the hamlets of Hernhill, Yorkletts and Boughton. Eating at the Dove Inn is a real treat, and they do a mean pizza – perfect for post-exercise carb-fest.

Credit: Mobile Food Guide

The Rock at Chiddingstone Hoath

A Grade II 16th century pub, built in 1520 and boasting a wealth of original features and Inglenook fireplace, The Rock Inn is a local favourite. Located in the small hamlet of Chiddingstone Hoath, there’s often more horses than motors in the car park due to to the rural area! History buffs will be in their element as the walk we recommend takes in the historic sites of Hever, Penshurst place and Chiddingstone itself, not to mention oodles of Oasts – all in just 4.5 miles!

Credit: Tripadvisor

The Greyhound at Charcott, Tonbridge

Under relatively new management, The Greyhound offers light pub food using locally sourced ingredients and a friendly atmosphere for locals and visitors alike. There’s plenty to explore in this beautiful part of the Kent countryside, but if you’d like to incorporate a touch of history and literature into your ramble, why not try the ‘Jane Austen & Tonbridge Walk’ which takes in the family connections of the famous author, and also visits Tonbridge Castle. The pub is a short drive from Tonbridge and the perfect location to discuss your adventure over a cold pint.

Credit: The Greyhound

Get in touch and let us know if we’ve missed any of your favourite Kent pub walks.

Featured on: Village of the year 2017

The word village conjures up nostalgic images of cobbled streets, thatched cottages, local boozers and of course, Oast Houses. Being the UK’s leading experts in all things Oast, when Channel 4 launched their search for the Village of the Year 2017 they came to us to learn the history of oast cowls and Kent Peg Tiles. With faces most definitely made for television, who were we to deny the public this education?

 

Off to Goudhurst we went and filmed a live and unscripted interview which was both terrifying and a great experience in equal measures. During the interview, our main man, Darren explained the history behind Dude & Arnette and also why we advocate the use of Tudor Roof Tiles in oast cowl refurbishment. These traditional peg tiles are handmade in Kent using methods which combine age-old craftsmanship with advanced firing techniques. The process ensures each tile has its own unique colour and character and most importantly, allows the oast roof to continue to retain its authentic appearance. We install these ourselves, but when we are in need of assistance we often call upon award-winning Kent Peg Tiling company, Karl Terry who are specialists in restoring the roofs of heritage properties.

 

Village of the Year is presented by the legend and actress that is Penelope Keith, who also featured in Channel 4’s popular ‘Britain’s Hidden Villages’ series. Penelope has spent most of 2017 scouring the length and breadth of Britain to discover the most scenic and interesting villages, rating them across a range of categories;

  • Appearance
  • History & Heritage
  • Village Events
  • Activities
  • Visitor Experience

 

The winning village will receive £10,000 towards a worthwhile community project. Make sure to keep an eye out for us when the show airs on the 23rd January let us know what you think!

In the meantime, we’re off to practise our BAFTA speech…

Our favourite Kent & Sussex Craft Beers – perfect for a festive pint.

It’s not a secret that after a hard day’s work at Dude & Arnette HQ, we’re partial to a craft beer tipple, especially around the festive season. Pop a bit of Michael Bublé on the gramophone, and that’s our kind of party.

Traditionally, Oast Houses were designed for kilning (drying) hops as part of the brewing process so you could say we’ve got the amber nectar running through our veins (in more ways than one).

 

With the majority of Oast Houses located in Kent and Sussex, it’s no wonder that these regions are famed for their microbrewed craft beers, and in the spirit of Christmas, we’ve put together our favourites that we’ll be supping throughout the festivities.

The Canterbury Ales (Kent)

Hohoho and a Merry Christmas – could this be the best name in the brewing world? The Canterbury Ales have been making craft beers since 2010, and in 2014 their ‘Merchant’s Ale’, a 4% mild stout, was judged by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) to be not just the best beer in Kent, but the best beer in the South East of England! Their popular ‘Mosaic Gold’ is back for a limited time only for Christmas so get in quick…

Caterbury Beers

Larkins Brewery (Kent)

Specialising in traditional Kentish-style real ales, Larkins is a family run brewery based in the idyllic village of Chiddingston. Using only hops from the on site farm, they produce 3 traditional beers (Traditional, Pale and Best Bitter) alongside two guest brews which change with the seasons. Available on tap in many of the independent pubs in Kent.

Larkins Brewery

Mad Cat Brewery (Kent)

Crazy name, kooky branding and delicious in taste, the Mad Cat Brewery are based in Faversham, where they’ve set up a microbrewery at Brogdale Farm. They’re on a mission to create something that will send your taste buds into ecstasy, and in their own words ‘if you want taste and flavour and a genuinely delicious experience then welcome to Mad Cat Brewery and the craft beer revolution’. With a range of ‘keepers’ and a couple of seasonal ales available, we’ll be enjoying a pint of ‘Santa Paws’ (4.5%) this Christmas.

Mad Cat

Long Man Brewery (Sussex)

Tucked away on Church Farm in the hamlet of Litlington (near Alfriston) the Long Man Brewery derived their name from nearby popular walking attraction, ‘The Long Man of Wilmington’. In August their brew, ‘Old Man’ was declared ‘World’s Best Dark Mild Beer 2017’ at the World Beer Awards. When moving into the farm they discovered that a document written in 1538 stated that Church Farm House had a ‘brew-house chamber’ as a part of the premises, so it’s safe to say there’s been plenty of ale through the ages, and Head Brewer, Jamie and his team are keen to continue the tradition for us thirsty folk to enjoy.

Long Man Brewery

Bison Beer (Sussex)

We couldn’t write a post about craft beer without mentioning the bearded, hipster, ale-drinking city of Brighton & Hove. Mock the cost of a pint (or bottle) on the south coast all you like, but the guys over at Bison Beer are making waves throughout the south with their tasty brews such as ‘Tropic Soda’ 5.8% and ‘Stoutzilla’ 8.3%. As we’ve been very good boys this year, we’re hoping to find a few in our stockings this Christmas.

Bison Beer