History of Oast Cottage Laddingford

Here at Dude & Arnette we’re passionate about oast houses, from oast house maintenance to roof repairs, we’ve been in the business since 1937 and know a trick or two. But we don’t stop there. We’re also big advocates of preserving British heritage and sharing with you fragments of our country’s history through its oast houses.

On this blog post, our customer Mike Reader shares with us the fascinating history of the unusual oast cottage Laddingford. Let’s have a look…

An oast within an oast

Laddingford Oast Cottage is an unusual one. The original building, a small T shaped oast house with 2 square kilns and stowage, probably dates from the 17th century. It may represent one of the earliest purpose-built oast houses. Many of the early oast houses were created from existing barns with kilns added, but this building was designed and built as an oast house. The evidence for it being built as a unit is the distinctive brickwork and ragstone plinth around the T shape, neither of which are in the rest of the building. An indication of its age is given by the roof construction without a ridge plate and without the use of nails. The building is essentially an “oast within an oast”.

interior view of wooden beams

Additionally, there are 2 windows with simple vertical square-sectioned timber battens, they have no glass but had external shutters. These are possibly like those in Scot’s oast dated 1574.

wooden pivoted louvres

There were also wooden, horizontal pivoted louvres, controlled by a simple timber mechanism, for ventilation throughout the building. One of these still survives.

horizontal window louvres

At some point in the 18th century, a larger 3rd square kiln was added on the southern side to provide increased drying capacity.  The construction is not of such high quality and the roof has a ridge plate. There is evidence in the roof showing where the cowl was situated. A deposit of ash was found under the bricks in the centre of the floor, showing where the fire had been. The addition of another kiln led to a need for an increased cooling area so a small barn was dismantled and rebuilt on the western side of the building to provide an extension to the upper floor.

old Postcard of painting by A W Head produced around 1900
Postcard of painting by A W Head produced around 1900 showing cottage Laddingford on the right-hand side

In 1820 a small weather-boarded 2-bed cottage was built on the western side, next to the small barn.

The 1871 map of the area shows that the southern-most roundel had been built. This was probably to replace the large square southern kiln, whose cowl was removed from the roof.

Moving onto the 19th century, a fire affected both small square kilns. As a result, these kilns were no longer used and the roof was rebuilt without their cowls. The lost drying capacity was replaced by building a new brick roundel on the northeast corner. This is shown on the later 1897 map.

The building was bought by Walter Reader in 1912, as part of Mereworth Farm. It has remained in the Reader family since.

The oast was used to dry hops until 1935 after which all drying was carried out in the oast at Uptons Farm. The cowls on the roundels were removed in the 1940s having been damaged by a bomb falling nearby. They were replaced by Dude and Arnette in June 2020.

old photo of flooding in Laddingford
Photograph of flooding in Laddingford which shows the cowls, taken in 1935.