Great British Home Restoration Case Study

Hopefully, you caught our recent TV appearance on Channel 4’s new tv series: Great British Home Restoration with Charlie Luxton, but in case you didn’t, you can still see us in action on Channel 4’s catch-up service More4. And for those who share our love for history and heritage, we’ve put together a case study with a bit more insights into the project, which we hope you enjoy. Here it goes:

First, a bit of background

When home restorer Hazel took on the challenge of turning her dilapidated oast house into an idyllic new home, we were lucky enough to be chosen for this incredible challenge.

After decades of living in her large farmhouse, it was time for 79-year-old Hazel and her beloved dog Lucy to downsize. And she had her sights on a new home – literally. Just a stone’s throw from her farmhouse lay a little-used oast house that was a shadow of its former self.

With the support of her friend Glyn and lots of enthusiasm from her builder Stu, Hazel began to restore this little piece of Kent’s heritage.

When host and architectural designer Charlie Luxton arrived at the oast, it was clear that this was going to be a big challenge. The oast house had lost its signature cone-shaped roofs, the 146-year-old brickwork was crumbling and it was far from habitable.

The plan was to strip out the entire interior of the building and add two new floors to the cooling barn – one housing the living and kitchen area, the second a bedroom and office. The roundels would house stairs to the upper floor and a lounge and a spare bedroom.

Great British Home Restoration Oast house
Image source: Channel 4

 

Adding the roof

As the new interior took shape, and it was time to start work on the roundels’ roofs – which thanks to their conical shape is less than straightforward. Enter Dude & Arnette.

The roofs are constructed by adding a ring of cement and sand on top of the roundel and then placing a wooden roof plate on top. This must be completely level to ensure the roof does not lean. A challenge given the old, uneven brickwork.

Once completed, four wooden rafters connected with cross braces are added. On top of this, a wooden ring is placed and then many more rafters are added in to give the roof its iconic conical shape. The cone is then covered with felt and tiled.

Again the cone shape poses a challenge when tiling. Darren and team use traditional handmade Kent peg tiles to tile the new roof. Following the techniques perfected over almost a century in business, the team get to work adding the tiles. They use squares and tapers so that any tiles that begin to drift downhill are swung back into position by the taper. Then every fifth row some cement is added to ensure that once they are in position they are not coming off – regardless of the weather! As Charlie says ‘tiling the exterior of the roof takes great skill and craftsmanship’.

Four weeks later and Darren and builder Stu complete the roof and Hazel’s new home is beginning to resemble its original mid 19th-century self.

 

Creating the cowls

The last stage of the build is to add the oast’s crowning glory, its white pointed cowls. 

Each cowls rests on a long wooden pole that lets it rotate a full 360 degrees. When the wind blows the cowl always has its back to the breeze. This simple and traditional design still works perfectly today. 

Here at Dude & Arnette we still make cowls by hand the traditional way. And that sense of tradition is not only seen in the techniques used, Darren still has his ancestors original toolbag!

Every cowl that comes through the doors of Darren’s workshop have their own tale to tell. A great example is the layer of green paint often discovered while refurbishing old cowls This layer immediately tells the team any cowl they are dealing with is at least 70 years old. During the second world war, cowls were coated in camouflaging green paint to stop them being used as landmarks for the Lufftwaffe.

 

Adding the cowls

The arrival of the cowls is a landmark moment in the restoration. First, a 22-foot rotating pole that the cowl will be fitted onto, is fixed into place. Then comes the nerve-racking part of the process for everyone watching. Cowls can weigh a whopping 220kgs and the ones going on top of Hazel’s roundels needed to be lifted 20 metres into the air. Not only that, but just as the crane arrived the wind picked up (eeeek!).

As Hazel watched in anticipation, one cowl made its way safely onto the roof and placed onto the waiting roundel. Soon followed by the second one.

The final step is to add the bespoke fingers – one with a motif of a dog, to reflect Hazel’s love of dogs and one featuring a cow to represent the farm’s history. Finally, after 50 years the oast house has been returned to its former glory. 

great british home restoration oast house with dude and arnette

To sign off the job, Darren hands Hazel her cowl service book. But this is no boring pile of papers. Based on an old tally stick that would have been used as hop pickers as a way of counting how many bushels had been picked, this piece of wood can now be used to record the history of Hazel’s new cowls.

Now the interior has been completed, Hazel and Lucy are well and truly settled and enjoying life in their wonderful piece of English heritage.

‘Another bit of history saved’

We’re live on Channel 4

If you are fascinated by British heritage and love a good ‘before and after’ transformation you’re in for a treat. Last week Channel 4 launched a brand new series with Charlie Luxton called Great British Home Restoration, a tv programme following couples and families that transform historic buildings into their ultimate dream homes… and guess who’s done one of the restorations? yours truly! Here’s the promo video, can you spot us?

Don’t miss this opportunity to see Dude & Arnette in action simply tune into More4 (Channel4 on demand) on Sunday 1st August, 9pm to watch our episode where we turn an oast house into a dream home!

 

Enjoy an oast house holiday this summer

With international travel still up in the air (or well and truly grounded), there has never been a better time for a staycation. And perhaps the one benefit of lockdown has been discovering the unique gems that are right on our doorstep. You don’t have to travel far to experience some truly unique holidays and if you are looking for a trip with a difference then a stay in an oast house might be just what you are looking for.

There are oast houses aplenty in Kent and Sussex and no shortage of holiday accommodation, but we have picked three potential properties to kick off your holiday home hunt.

Good for couples: Oasthouse Loft, Northium 

Image source: Oasthouse Loft, Northiam Airbnb

Set on farmland amidst rolling countryside this one-bedroom holiday home provides the perfect romantic getaway. Northium is located near the Kent/Sussex border in the High Weald. This medieval landscape is famous for its rolling hills, forests, and, of course, its oast houses. No matter where you walk in this area, it probably won’t be too long before you see an oast cowl rising up from the landscape.

As well as enjoying scenic hikes along the ancient route ways, there is also the option of exploring nearby Great Dixter House and Gardens and Bodium Castle.

Good for pets: Stone Green Oast 

Stone Green Oast holiday
Image source: Stone Green Oast via vrbo.com

Going on holiday needn’t mean leaving behind those furrier family members. With a garden onsite and plenty of countryside and beaches nearby, this is a great option for holidaying hounds – and their owners.

The house is within easy reach of the Cinque Port market town of Tenterden and picturesque Rye.

After all that exploring, you will need a drink. But luckily the property is also a short hop from the Chapel Down vineyard.

Good for luxury: Roserai

Roseari oast house
Image source: Roserai via www.uniquehomestays.com

If lockdown has left you with the urge to splurge on some much-needed R&R, then this might the oast for you. Sat on the edge of the High Weald and within easy reach of the coast, this is in a great location. Not that you would want to go anywhere. Because this really is the oast with the most.

This grade II listed roundel house has been immaculately restored, both inside and out and its grounds include a heated swimming pool and a boating lake.

Roserai oast house
Image source: Roserai via www.uniquehomestays.com

 

Would you like to know more about oast houses? Here are some useful articles to get you started!

What is an oast cowl?

Oast cowls are the distinctive chimneys you can see crowning traditional (and modern) oast houses. Back in the day, they provided a source of ventilation (as part of the brewing process while hops dried) and protected the kiln from the temperamental British weather.

As fourth-generation oast cowl specialists, we hand-made and repair oast cowls to support the conservation of these iconic architectural features of British heritage.

oast cowl and oast houses dude and arnette

If you are interested in what is an oast house used for, our blog is packed with oast curiosities and maintenance recommendations.

 

Oast cowl designs

Oast cowls are as unique as their owners. You’ll find there are a number of different oast cowl styles across the UK and that in most cases, cowls are also decorated with a motif. To find out more about the meaning behind oast cowl motifs, please read our Oast Cowl Motifs: More Than Just Decorations blog post.

 

Wooden cowls and fibreglass cowls

As professional oast cowl refurbishers, the word fibreglass (or GRP) often gives us the chills. They rot easily, they develop fungi, and well, they are just not as durable as traditional timber cowls. We can help you refurbish them if you already have one, but we don’t recommend installing them new. Wooden cowls, on the other hand, offer a better long-term investment and with our perfected craft skills, you’ll always be in safe hands.

dude and arnette repairing oast cowls.  oast cowl motif

About Dude & Arnette

Since we started in 1937, Dude and Arnette have restored hundreds of cowls around the UK, including the famous Hop Farm Family Park in Kent, the world’s largest collection of Victorian oast houses. Today, the majority of our happy clientele are homeowners, and we know how much people love living in converted oast buildings. They remain a wonderful part of our British heritage – and we’re committed to making sure that they are here for generations to come.

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to see our crafty work in action.

Six of Kent’s Best Beer Gardens

Fancy a pint? That’s a question you probably haven’t heard for some time, but come the 12th of April pubs across England will be opening up their beer gardens and offering their customers much-needed drink. And after the year we have just had, most of us could do with one!

Unsurprisingly, the county famous for its hops has no shortage of fantastic pubs, but if you are struggling to choose, here are six great options for a pint in the spring sun.

(If the last year has proved anything, it is that even the best-laid plans can go a little awry, so pro-tip: double-check the pub’s website or social media before travelling to avoid disappointment).

The Bull Inn, Linton

aerial photo of the bull inn pub
Image: The Bull Inn Facebook 

This traditional Kentish Inn – very traditional, it has been here since 1674 – serves a range of cask and keg ales from local brewer Shepherd Neame. The pub features a large beer garden and patio, which is due to open from the 12th of April. The pub isn’t taking bookings so just turn up and take a seat.
More info: http://www.thebullatlinton.co.uk/

 

The Halfway House, Brenchley

view of the garden halfway pub kent
Image: The Halfway House Facebook

The Halfway pub is famous for their great quality ales straight from the barrel and their lively, festival-like beer garden. They offer a selection of 10 different beers available every day as well as delicious, traditional pub food. To celebrate the end of Lockdown they will be offering 2 Halfway House new beers that they have spent the last few months developing and perfecting with 2 local breweries. You will only be able to get these there!
More info: https://www.halfwayhousebrenchley.co.uk/ 

 

The Vineyard, Tunbridge Wells

The vineyard pub tunbridge wells
Image: The Vineyard Facebook

We often talk about the role the beer brewers have had in shaping Kentish heritage – after all it was the beer industry that gave us oast houses. But Kent is becoming increasingly famous for its wine. This aptly named pub has an extensive terrace, which overlooks the Lamberhurst vineyards. If you fancy swapping grain for grape they, as you would expect, have a great range of English wines on the menu. Their outdoor space is set to reopen on the 12th of April.
More info: https://elitepubs.com/the-vineyard/ 

 

The Three Chimneys, Biddenden

The three chimneys pub
Image: The Three Chimneys Facebook

Enjoy a drive through idyllic Kent country lanes to arrive at The Three Chimneys pub where mouth-watering food and local ales will be waiting for you. The Three Chimneys is an award-winning, 15th Century traditional Kentish pub serving exceptional foods and beers locally sourced reflecting the seasons. Apart from a relaxing location and seasonal menu, you can also spend some quiet time there, enjoying their charming accommodation.

Historical Curiosity: Their name, The Three Chimneys, comes from the Seven Years’ War in the 18th Century where French prisoners were kept at nearby Sissinghurst Castle. When the prisoners were placed on parole, they were allowed out as far as the pub building. At the time, locals referred to this as the ‘Three Wents’ (or three ways) but the prisoners called it Les Trois Chemins (the three chimneys). The unique name of the pub derives from the French term for the junction of three roads.

Their garden and terrace will be opening on Monday 12th April 12-6pm (weather dependant). 
More info: http://thethreechimneys.co.uk/

 

The Griffin Inn, Fletching

The Griffin Inn Pub
Image: The Griffin Inn FacebookThe Griffin Inn, Fletching

In a privileged location with incredible views, The Griffin is popular amongst locals for its Serengeti Garden – a 2 acre garden with views of the South Downs and the famous National Trust Gardens of Sheffield Park. However, that’s not the only charming thing about this award-winning 16th-century country inn. The Griffin also accommodates guests with 13 individually-designed bedrooms overlooking the Ouse Valley, as well as providing locally sourced produce.
More info: https://thegriffininn.co.uk/ 

 

The Belle Vue Tavern, Ramsgate

Belle Vue Pub view
Image: The Belle Vue Facebook

After a year of no fancy foreign holidays, a day at the beach is long overdue. With a huge patio that offers some truly spectacular views over The Channel, a drink on the Belle Vue’s Balcony of Kent terrace will soon help you rediscover that holiday feeling.

The pub’s outdoor area is set to open from the 12th of April (weather permitting) and they do not take bookings.
More info: https://www.thebellevuetavern.co.uk/ 

 

Interested in Kent life, history and culture? So are we! 

Follow us on InstagramFacebook or Twitter and learn more about our family’s work and the traditions we love!

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!

Best warming winter beers from Kent

The clocks have gone back, the mercury has plummeted and those long summer evenings are nothing more than a memory – in other words, it’s beginning to look a lot like winter! This year, give the mulled wine a miss and say hello to the festive season with our county’s traditional tipple.

As you would expect from the land of oast houses and hops, we have no shortage of great local breweries right on our doorstep. But with so much choice, deciding what to try first can be tricky. So, here are five great winter beers to get you started.

 

Snow Top

photo of old dairy beer and crops
Image Source: Old Dairy Instagram

Brewery: Old Dairy
Location: Tenterden – Kent
Alcohol by volume: 6%

Old Dairy have brewed the perfect ‘winter warmer’ – if they do say so themselves – with their award-winning Snow Top beer. This rich, dark delight is packed with the taste of Christmas; it is full of fruitcake and marmalade flavours and topped off with some spicy notes.

 

Godswallop Winter Ale

Brewery: Westerham
Location: Westerham – Kent
Alcohol by volume: 4%

Making full use of the local crop are Westerham with their Godswallop Winter Ale. Six Kent hops combine with pale ale, dark crystal and chocolate malts to create a traditional ale style beer that is both complex and comforting. This slightly sweet, smooth caramel, gentle hoppy traditional old winter ale will keep your mood up as the temperature drops. Oh! and making the most of the season, Westerham have also launched an awesome 2020 Beer Advent Calendar featuring a mixed case of 12 different beers – because a beer a day keeps…. your problems away?

 

Porter

a pint glass of larkins porter ale in a pub
Image Source: Larkins Brewery

Brewery: Larkins
Location: Chiddingstone – Kent
Alcohol by volume: 5.2%

Is there anything more quintessentially Kentish than oast houses and crop fields? Local brewery Larkins still produce their real Kentish ales in a traditional oast house, which we love – obviously! Included in Roger Protz’s acclaimed guide, ‘300 Beers to Try Before You Die’, the award-winning Larkins’ Porter is the perfect choice for those long dark evenings, with a deep, rich and warming taste.  

A curiosity about The Larkins Oast House – it was built in 1935 but bombed by a V2 rocket in 1945 and then rebuilt in 1948. It has a kiln, a drying room, cooling and pressing machinery for the traditional processing of hops from drying, preserving to storing. Using traditional tools and methods they ensure their characteristic Larkins quality and flavour!

man drying hops at larkins brewery
Image Source: Larkins Brewery

 

Christmas Jumper Ale

mad cat brewery christmas ale label
Image Source: Mad Cat Brewery

Brewery: Mad Cat
Location: Faversham
Alcohol by volume: 4.4%

Based at Brogdale Farm in Faversham and set up by father and son in 2012, the Mad Cat Brewery is a micro-brewery providing fresh and quality craft ales. They have very quick turnarounds – they can pick and have the hops brewed in under 12 hours for its beers – but when it comes to seasonal beers, they only release a small number of batches, so you have to keep an eye not to miss them! Every year they release a Christmas-themed ale featuring their famous creative cat designs and for this year they’ve launched the delicious Christmas Jumper Ale which promises to be rich, nutty and decidedly festive!

Christmas Ale

close up image of shepherd neame christmas beer
Image Source: Shepherd Neame

Brewery: Shepherd Neame
Location: Faversham – Kent
Alcohol by volume: 7%

A winter beer often means a stronger beer. Of course, it’s not hard to see why cold weather would make a stronger drink more appealing – nothing seems to heat you up more than shot of the hard stuff. But there is another reason these beers are a pinch more potent than their counterparts. Traditionally, winter beers were usually brewed during the harvest and the season of plenty probably encouraged brewers to be a little more bountiful with the malts, meaning a higher alcohol content. When it comes to alcohol proof, Shepherd Neame’s Christmas Ale beer packs a punch.

Shepherd Neame’s Christmas Ale beer is brewed using mineral water from their own well. This Christmassy concoction combines notes of fruits and spices and is packed full of some great local crops. The beer itself is delightfully packed with a Dickensian style label and a traditional pump lid.

Enjoyed our roundup of Christmas beers? Why not following us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to keep up with all Dude & Arnette’s updates

Make an oast house your home

In an age where homes are built using the same templates as their neighbours, and roads are filled with rows of identical houses, it can be difficult to truly stamp your own individuality on a property.

As you look further afield, leaving the purpose-built communities, take a look at the could-be’s and what-ifs. The buildings that have been abandoned, the structures filled with potential. This is what we see each time we visit an old oast house: the potential for repairing and rebuilding a family home, returning it to its former glory.

Building or converting your own home can be a daunting project, but oast house conversions can create a truly personal space. Each oast house is unique, and therefore each project requires an individual assessment and detailed preparation, including planning permission, assessment of whether your oast house needs a replacement oast cowl or whether it just needs cleaning and painting.

At Dude & Arnette our family have been repairing and restoring oast cowls since 1937, helping hundreds of people realise their dreams and working with them to truly create personal place to call their own. To organise a free consultation and quotation, call Dude & Arnette on 01622 725 898 or visit our Contact page, fill out our contact form, and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.

oast house conversion

What you should know before converting your oast

Converting, restoring and repairing an historic oast house can be a rewarding and enjoyable process. From your initial consultation to seeing the stunning results at the end of the work, there are few projects more satisfying. This process should be carried alongside a team of experts, and here are a few tips on how to approach converting or restoring your oast.

Submit an application to the council before any work is carried out

Around 1 in 10 oast houses are listed buildings, and therefore permission needs to be granted by the council before any restoration work can begin. You’ll also need to carry out a survey to check for any animals that may have made your oast house their home! There are other factors that should be taken into consideration, and our expert team will be able to make sure that all the boxes have been ticked before you begin the application process.

Assess access

Our director Darren Hole attends every initial visit to discuss the requirements of every project Dude & Arnette work on. He will gather together exactly what you need, check access for removing the cowl, and will collate all of the information into a written quotation that breaks down each cost, and organise a timeframe for your work to be carried out and installed. Generally, this takes around four weeks, depending on the house.

Retain original features

With any restoration and repair work on an old building, it’s important to retain the integrity and original features of your oast house. Our family have been restoring and repairing oast houses and cowls since 1937, and provide expert knowledge and superior workmanship on every building, and can advise on the best possible way to use your space.

To arrange a free quotation, or to discuss your individual requirements in more detail, visit our Contact Us page, or call us on 01622 725 898.

 

Time to get your oast cowls ready

After having Covid-19 throwing any routine or normality out of the window, we’re pleased to announce that following Government advice – Dude & Arnette are back in action.

Normally we wouldn’t necessarily do a maintenance update but we felt it was necessary, as a lot of the oast cowl maintenance and repair work that would take place in early spring had to be paused completely due to lockdown.

So if you have an oast cowl, here’s what we’d recommend:

  1. We’ve seen a lot of rain this winter so a safety check would be the first thing to do to ensure there are no damages to the cowls and the roof
  2. After a safety check, you’ll get an idea of what might need to be done (oast cowl repair, clean, paint, re-build etc)
  3. The best thing to do if there aren’t any issues? Get your cowls freshly painted. This helps to weather-proof your cowls and makes them look their best. You might have done some indoors redecorations during lockdown, now is the time to give your home’s crown a bit of TLC!

Why you should have them painted, you ask? Well, oast cowl repairs can be costly, so avoid leaving it too late. When it comes to oast cowl maintenance, prevention is key, folks.

If you want to read more about how to clean an oast cowl, please head over to our blog for more oast cowl cleaning tips.

Want a non-obligation assessment? Contact us or call us on 01622 725 898 for an honest quote from our director Darren Hole.