The County of Kent, Oast Houses, and other things
I am lucky to live in the fine County of Kent in England.
My recent post about Kent, “the Garden of England” raised a few questions and so it seems a good idea to include a page of my blog to talk about one or two things about Kent.
First of all Oast Houses.
For centuries a staple drink in England has been beer. For hundreds of years beer was preferred for drinking as the water tended not to be as pure as it is today. Even young children drank weak beer, and beer production was a big industry but carried out at a very local level. One of the main ingredients off the beer is the Hop and this unusual vine like plant produces flowers which gives beer it’s distinctive flavour.
Today most hops come to the UK from Europe but right up until the 1960’s Hop fields were a very common sight, particularly in the south of England and Kent in particular. In the 1920’s, to the 1950’s it was common for some people to take a summer holiday (paid) picking the Hops which grow up to 12 feet tall on poles and wires.
To use the hops they have to be dried. This was done in the Oast House.which was generally a round or square building with a conical pointed roof and a cowl on the top to let out the smoke. The cowls which are very distinctive rotate in the wind so that the smoke goes down wind. The hops were placed on slatted floors of the building and a fire at the base provided the heat to dry the crop.
About 5000 Oast houses were constructed in England, around 3000 are in the county of Kent, hence the interest in them by local people and artists and photographers especially. Today most Oast houses have been converted into homes and sometimes shops and museums. About 3500 remain.
They provide a good subject in the Kent countryside and often a focal point in a landscape.
A very good reference is http://www.geograph.org.uk/article/Oast-Houses
where many examples and details can be found, and map references for the traveller. Have read of it it is quite fascinating.
Here are some of the paintings of Oast Houses that I have done over the past 20 odd years. Sometimes they are the subject and sometimes just a part of the landscape. I hope you enjoy them and maybe visit some on your travels.
Secondly and last for now, “The White Cliffs”
The white cliffs on the south coast of Kent almost seem to epitomise England as you approach the UK from Europe, especially by sea.
These chalk cliffs laid down many millions of years ago have provided a barrier to invasion only really breached by the Romans and the Normans.
They extend of course much further than Kent well into Sussex and they also reappear the other side of the Channel in Northern France.
Here is a watercolour painting in my collection that shows them.
Kent has many other interesting features,it’s Castles, Harbours, Boats, Rivers and Houses,but they are for another time.