Kentish Oast House Unsigned
Oil on Canvas Kentish Oast House
Frame size 27.125 ins (689 mm) by 23 ins (584 mm)
Image Size 23.375 ins (595 mm) by 19.5 ins (495 mm)
An oast, oast house or hop kiln is a building designed for kilning (drying) hops as part of the brewing process. They can be found in most hop-growing (and former hop-growing) areas and are often good examples of vernacular architecture. Many oasts are now houses. The names oast and oast house are used in Kent and Sussex. In Surrey, Hampshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire they are called hop kilns.
They are a rectangular one or two storey building (the “stowage”). And one or more kilns in which the hops were spread out to be dried by hot air rising from a wood or charcoal fire below.
The drying floors were thin and perforated to permit the heat to pass through and escape through a cowl in the roof which turned with the wind. The freshly picked hops from the fields were raked over to dry and then cool before being bagged up and sent to the brewery.
The Kentish dialect word kell was sometimes used for kilns (“The oast has three kells”) and sometimes to mean the oast itself (“Take this lunchbox to your father, he’s working in the kell”). The word oast itself also means “kiln”.
The earliest surviving oast house is at Golford, Cranbrook near Tunbridge Wells. dating from sometime in the 17th century and closely mirrors the first documentary evidence on oasts soon after their introduction of hops into England in the mid 16th century.
Early oast houses were adapted barns but, by the 18th century, the distinctive tall buildings with conical roofs had been developed to increase the draught.
At first these were square, from1800 rounded kilns were used believing they were more efficient. Square kilns remained more popular in Herefordshire and Worcestershire and came back into fashion in the south east in the later 19th century. In the 1930s, the cowls were replaced by louvred openings as electric fans and diesel oil ovens were used.