Traveling through Sussex last week, I was struck by all the very pretty oast houses we saw. You can spot an oast house by its distinctive conical roof. Oast houses were used for drying hops which you needed to brew beer and ale. The conical roofs had a couple of thin floors on which the hops were laid out and a kiln at the bottom. Hot air was passed through the floors to dry the hops. The roundels were effectively acting as giant chimneys. Nowadays, hops are dried in factories. Therefore, many of the 19th century oast houses have been converted into residential homes. These houses usually come in a set of three – the farmhouse, the oast and the barn.
So what do you do with round rooms in a residential setting?
One popular option seems to be kitchens. These kitchens have to be specially made to fit the setting but they definitely are charming.
This rental house, Finchcocks Oast, has gone modern with its oast kitchen. The conical roof provides a fabulous double height ceiling. The open plan aspect also removes the need for a completely round kitchen. Finchcocks proves that you don’t need to have traditional interiors to renovate an oast into something cool.
Oasts also require creativity on the top floors, such as circular staircases, bedrooms and bathrooms.
Here are some floor plans for making use of round rooms. Hare Farm Hideaways was a working oast on Hare Farm which became unviable for its original purpose in the 1960’s and is now a holiday rental near Rye, East Sussex.
If you are interested in seeing an last house without necessarily renting one for a holiday, a handful of places open to the public exist. For example, you can visit a National Trust owned oast house at Bateman’s, a Jacobean house in East Sussex which also was the home of Rudyard Kipling. The oast house is now a shop, so possibly not the most authentic experience. The Oast Theatre in Tonbridge is also a converted Victorian oast house which was in use until 1966. Now, the oast is a converted theatre and art club and the barn used to store costumes.
What do you think of living in an oast house? Do you like their history and English quirkiness or would round rooms drive you crazy?