Tall conical and pyramidal buildings, topped by white cowls or louvred vents, are a distinctive sight on the farms and in the villages of Kent, East Sussex, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Surrey and Hampshire. In these buildings, hops were dried, pressed, and bagged for despatch to breweries. In Kent and Sussex, they are called 'oasts' or 'oast houses', and in other counties 'hop kilns'. Oasts and hop kilns are testimony to a specialised and important rural industry, and for hundreds of years, they were a defining feature of the countryside. By the late 19th century, there were as many as 8,000 hop kilns and oast houses in England.
This book is the first comprehensive account of the history of oasts and hop kilns in England and includes a comparison with hop drying buildings in Continental Europe and the USA. The 400-year evolution of the kilns and their machinery is pieced together from surviving buildings, books, archives and local lore. In this richly illustrated volume, the charm of oasts and hop kilns on the countryside is captured in sketches, diagrams and photos by the author and others.