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19th Century Introduction

The 19th Century was the peak of hop growing and drying in the UK. The majority of surviving kilns and oasts date from then. This was the era of the round kiln or roundal. Volatility was a continuing feature of the hop business. Production expanded sharply during the Napoleonic wars […]

Hop Picking

A large supply of hands were needed to pick even one acre of hops. So the tradition of itinerant workers arriving for the picking season was early established. But in the 19th Century with the huge increase in acreage went an expansion in the hop picking “phenomenon” – the mass […]

The Age of the Roundal.

Barns, sheds, malt kilns and other buildings were still being converted for hop drying in the 19th Century, according to Lance. But by this time barn -style oasts with one or more kilns in the middle and a loading and cooling floor at either end are described as “the old […]

The West Midlands

Hop growing and drying flourished in Hereford and Worcestershire in response to demand from the Midlands. Soil conditions along the slopes of the valleys of the Rivers Teme, Lugg and Frome were excellent. Increased acreage and building of new kilns was especially strong in the second half of the century […]

Furnaces and air currents

  By the 19th Century there was a diversity of heating systems ranging from the simplicity of the traditional brick open stove to elaborate and high cost iron stoves and pipework. Samuel Rutley (Journal of the RAS, 1848) surveyed the options and concluded that he was not able to say […]

Hop Pressing and bagging

  The practice of making a hole in the first floor cooling area with a ring to hold the hop pocket (bag) suspended from it probably started in the 17th Century and continued little changed up to the 19th Century. Lance in 1838 commented that “the process of treading is […]

The Cowl

  The cowl on the kiln is the most distinctive feature of oasts and hop kilns, yet little is known about its history. It is a skillfull invention for preventing rain entering the vent at the top of the kiln and for drawing the draught up through the drying floor. […]

19th Century variants and eccentrics

As mentioned on the Home Page, there is no standard, off-the-shelf designs of oasts and hop kilns. Some were cross-overs between round and square kilns. One example is at Great Dixter, East Sussex which has three square kilns but looks more like three round kilns joined together outside. It may […]

The Comeback of the Square kiln

To talk of a comeback of the square kiln is really only relevant in Kent/Sussex where the roundal had taken over by storm in the mid 19th C. In Hampshire, Hereford and Worcester the square kiln remained predominant through the century. But from about the 1860s there was a reversal […]

New Book on Oast and Hop Kiln History.

The account on this website has now been greatly developed as a book with the same name, published by Liverpool University Press and Historic England in November 2021.  It has 250 colour illustrations, diagrams and maps