Oast Houses

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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright April 2009, Oast House Archive; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.
Images also under a similar Creative Commons Licence.


❖ Materials

Like all vernacular buildings, oast houses were typically constructed from the materials local to them, using local timbers, brick, stone, tile, or slate. There were other determining factors for construction materials, such as the brick tax from 1794 to 1850.

Early adapted barn oasts were simple timber constructions, with weatherboarded walls, and tiled roofs.
TQ7936 : The Oast House, Golford, near Sissinghurst, Kent by Oast House Archive

A typical oast house was constructed of red brick, usually in a flemish bond, and had a titled roof. Early to mid period oasts would usually have dark stained weatherboard timber framed walls at first floor.
TQ8143 : Unconverted Oast House at Place Farm, Water Lane, Headcorn, Kent by Oast House Archive

East Kent has a large number of oasts with ragstone walls.
TQ7458 : Oast House at The Museum of Kent Life, Cobtree, Lock Lane, Sandling, Kent by Oast House Archive

After the government dropped the 'brick tax' in 1850, round kiln roofs were often made of brick and covered with cement and tarred. They were more expensive to construct due to the material and the complexity. However they were less susceptible to catching alight, and in theory needed less maintenance than their timber counterparts.
TQ7629 : East Heath Oast, Stream Lane, Hawkhurst, Kent by Oast House Archive
…it is not always easy to spot them as some have been subsequently covered with tiles.
TQ9127 : The Roundel, Stocks Road, Wittersham, Kent by Oast House Archive

This photograph shows the construction of a typical timber and tile roundel roof.
TQ7737 : Wilsley  Oast, Wilsley Pound, Angley Road, Cranbrook, Kent by Oast House Archive

Slate roofs appeared on later oasts, particularly in East Kent and Hereford & Worcestershire.
TQ7353 : Court Lodge Farm Oast, Lower Road, East Farleigh, Kent by Oast House Archive

❖ Details

Typical eaves detail. Cogged or Dentilled brickwork.
TQ8143 : Eaves Detail on Oast House at Place Farm by Oast House Archive TQ7751 : Dated Brick of Lyewood Farm Oast by Oast House Archive

Hoist. This was used to lower pockets directly onto the cart, or lorry. Common on later oasts, particularly in East Kent.
TR1158 : Matthews Oast, Plough Lane, Harbledown, Kent by Oast House Archive

❖ Development

As hop and beer production took off, the size of oast houses increased.

Small oast houses
TQ7936 : Oast House at Godwin House, Tenterden Road, Golford, Cranbrook, Kent by Oast House Archive TQ4735 : Oast House, High Street, Hartfield, East Sussex by Oast House Archive

to large oast houses, with up to eight kilns
TQ7353 : Court Lodge Farm Oast, Lower Road, East Farleigh, Kent by Oast House Archive TQ6550 : Crowhurst Oast, Bells Farm Road, East Peckham, Kent by Oast House Archive

As the demand for hops increased, kilns were added to increase production. The oast house at Gatehouse Farm originally was built with two round kilns. Later a third a third roundel was added, followed by a fourth square kiln.
TQ7345 : The Roundels & The Square Oast, Gatehouse Farm, Hunton Road, Marden, Kent by Oast House Archive

The increase in hops meant an increase in storage. An a open slatted platform, called the 'greenstage', was often added to cope with demand. Hops waiting to be dried were stored here, the open slats prevented the hops sweating before drying. The greenstage could be attached to the stowage, or directly to the rear of the kilns, in which case an external first floor door to the kiln needed to be added.
TQ7638 : Greenstage of Hazelden Farm Oast by Oast House Archive TQ6936 : Oast House at Little Scotney Farm, Lamberhurst, Kent by Oast House Archive TQ6747 : Bell 2, Beltring Hop Farm, Beltring, Kent by Oast House Archive TQ7638 : Hazelden Farm Oast, Marden Road, Colliers Green, Kent by Oast House Archive

Typically a larger kiln indicates a later built kiln, as their sizes increased with the increase hop production. However, some oast houses were built with two different kiln sizes, so as to use the right size of kiln depending on the hop load to be dried. The variation allowed for a smaller load at the end of the day or during a wet season.

A larger kiln would need more fuel to heat the larger space, so a smaller kiln could be more efficient for a smaller load. Kiln roofs were built of varying heights. Problems could develop from an unsuitable height; a too shorter roof may draw out air too quickly and drying the hops too quickly, and a too taller roof may struggle drawing enough air through the cowl.
TQ6953 : The Oasts, Red Hill, Wateringbury, Kent by Oast House Archive

During the 20th Century, oil and electricity was introduced to the oast houses, and many were adapted to suit the technology. The wood/charcoal fired kilns were changed to oil, and controlled louvred and fan driven draught systems were added to the roofs. Flues were fitted to control the fumes.
TQ7036 : Oast Houses at Finchcocks Farm, Goudhurst, Kent by Oast House Archive TQ6444 : Lydd Farm Oast, Sychem Lane, Five Oak Green, Kent by Oast House Archive TQ6747 : Bell 3, Beltring Hop Farm, Beltring, Kent by Oast House Archive

The Watson ventilator, designed in the 1960's. This replaced the whole kiln roof and cowl, with a wooden mechanically draughted ventilated louvred roof. It was considered unsightly by comparison, and most have since been removed during conversion, which is why few remain. Their scarcity makes it more important that those that remain are not removed.
TQ6445 : Unconverted Oast House at Finches Farm, Five Oak Green Road, Five Oak Green, Kent by Oast House Archive

Bottle neck roof and cowl
TQ6735 : The Oast House, Town Hill, Lamberhurst, Kent by Oast House Archive TQ6734 : The Slade Oasts, The Slade, Lamberhurst, Kent by Oast House Archive

Once an oast house had finished its life of hop-drying, the kiln roofs were often removed and replaced with a more conventional flat of pitched roof.
TQ7750 : The Oast, Heath Road, Boughton Monchelsea, Kent by Oast House Archive TQ7734 : Swattenden Oast, Swattenden Lane, Cranbrook, Kent by Oast House Archive
Nowadays, oast houses have become desirable residences and many owners want an authentic looking oast, so many of those roofs are being reinstated back to their original tall roofs with cowls.

KML

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