Since we started in 1937, Dude and Arnette has restored hundreds of cowls around the UK. We approach every job with honesty, dedication and craftsmanship. We’re committed to making sure that our work is long-lasting and that our clients are happy with our work. Every project is approached as unique, so we can make sure we tailor our services to your exact needs.
We recently received a client testimonial and we thought we’d share it with you so you can get an idea of how we roll.
Dude and Arnette came recommended as the country’s top specialists on cowl restoration. Because of our oast’s difficult access, Darren and his team had to use the traditional way of block and tackle to remove our cowl, and what a great job they did with it.
It was delivered back to us a few weeks later like new. It was a pleasure to know that three generations were restoring our cowl and are keeping the tradition alive.
Five years later Dude and Arnette returned to spruce up and refresh our cowl. The service and standard of work were top notch yet again. We are happy to recommend the company without reservation.
East Sussex is not short on picturesque landscapes and country pubs, and now that summer is fast approaching, there is no better time to get out there. East Sussex’s gentle rolling countryside, combined with the promise of a great country pub, could inspire even the most reluctant walker to don walking boots and a cagoule.
While the High Weald AONB (that’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in case you were wondering) might be in the London commuter belt, it is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The rolling farmland is dotted with traditional oasts and cowls so, wherever you end up, be sure to keep a lookout for some delightful oast houses.
The Playden Walk
The Playden Walk is a relatively gentle ramble is a must for oast house aficionados. Beginning and ending at Rye train station (no designated driver necessary if you all fancy a tipple), this trail meanders across fields and farmland, offering views of the picturesque Tillingham Valley.
The real highlight comes approximately halfway through the walk, where a small detour brings you to the Playden Oasts. This charming inn features three oast houses topped with traditional cowls. As well as two great restaurants, the inn also offers guests the chance to stay the night at the top of an authentic oast house.
The beautifully restored building was actually run as a working oast house until the 70s. Could there be a better place to enjoy a Sunday roast and a traditional pint of English ale than this?
This six-mile round-robin ramble sets off from the beautiful village of Burwash. The walk kicks off with some fantastic views of the Dudwell valley before weaving its way through the medieval landscape of the valley.
The route takes walkers through ancient woods and meadows and past many traditional structures. Want to know what the area looked like 700 years ago? Well, this walk is the one to do.
Beginning at the nearby Eridge train station, the Eridge country walk passes Harrison Rocks – a must for rock climbers. Remember to look out for the oast house towards the end of the route!
The quaint country pub The Huntsman, in the sleepy village of Eridge, certainly packs a punch with its top-notch hearty pub food and quality real ales.
Catsfield & The White Hart Inn
When the sun is out, the White Hart Inn’s expansive beer garden is the perfect place to catch some rays. The captivating countryside around Catsfield offers plenty of opportunities for burning some calories – before putting them back on with a long lazy lunch.
This moderate walk begins at the White Hart Inn and takes walkers on a picturesque four-mile hike through forests and rolling countryside. View further information on the Catsfield walk.
Marc Cross Walk
For those who enjoy a bit more of a challenge, this walk from the village of Mark Cross should suit. The area boasts oasts and cowls aplenty and walks around here should offer the opportunity to spot many an oast house.
All that exertion and effort deserves a reward, and the Mark Cross Inn certainly delivers. Their menu is created from seasonal and locally sourced produce and is sure to satisfy even the fussiest foodie.
Here at Dude & Arnette we know looking after oast cowls is a serious crafty business. And if you don’t do much to maintain them… well, a costly one. Our expert team uses traditional building and maintaining methods (perfected over 4 generations) to weatherproof and protect your roof and ensure your roof is tip top!
To help you get an idea of what’s required to maintain your oast cowl we’ve put together 5 recommendations:
1. Get them serviced every year
It might seem obvious, but we’d suggest having your oast cowl serviced every year. This is to avoid it from collapsing due to damage caused by weather conditions. Lucky for you, with Dude & Arnette you’ll be in safe hands. Our specialist team can strip and re-tile all types of kiln roofs, including brick and wooden, round or square roofs, making sure your roof is weatherproof. We can also replace ironwork and lead work for kiln tops, and craft bespoke kiln guttering. Phew!
2. Have them down every 5 years to avoid as many repairs
Repairs can be costly, so avoid leaving it too late by having the cowls down for a check-up every five years. This will help you get an idea of the state of the cowl and avoid potentially costly problems that can develop with the wood- and iron-work due to weather conditions. Prevention is key, folks.
3. Always get the oast cowls down to refurbish
After we’ve assessed your oast cowl we bring them down using scaffolding or a crane, which is usually a fast and hassle-free process. We also cap the building securely to protect against the weather and any would-be nesting wildlife. Once the cowl is down, we sand it, remove all moisture from the wood before any paint work or repairs take place. If you want more detailed information of our step by step process, read how our cowl repairs work.
4. Check the top of the oast roofs when the oast cowls are off
It is as important to check the cowls as it is to check the top of the oast roofs. In some cases, where the cowls have been severely damaged, it may be more cost-effective to build a new traditional wooden cowl rather than carry out all of the repairs needed. If we feel that this is best, we will always advise clients in advance and discuss the options.
5. Banging or squeaking? Get your oast cowl serviced ASAP
If you hear any banging or squeaking coming from your roof we recommend you contact us as soon as you can to prevent any damage or water coming in.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!