Old Hop Kiln, Donnington

Recent Photograph of Old Hop Kiln (Donnington)

Hop Kilns in Herefordshire, typically square like this one, and built of red brick, with a Welsh slate roof, were once a more common site, and in neighbouring Worcestershire too.

Like the Oast Houses of Kent, and Sussex, these buildings were designed specially for drying hops.

A fire was lit on the ground floor, the heat rising to dry the hops which were spread out over the floor above. The hole for the smoke in the roof is protected by the conical cowl, which is mounted on a runner, enabling it to turn with the prevailing wind, maximising the up-draught. There is usually also a wind vane, seen sticking out on the left on this photograph, which indicates the direction of the prevailing wind, and also assists with the rotation.

When drying was finished, the building attached to the kiln would be used for packing the hops into sacks (known as ‘hop pockets’) to be carted off to the hop factor's warehouse.

Although this kiln is no longer used for drying hops, the cowl is still functional, and the groaning noise, as it turns round, can be particularly noticeable on a blustery day, sounding quite spooky! In the circumstances, it is all too easy to believe in Phil Rickman's (fictional) account of the supernatural in action around a Herefordshire hop kiln in ‘The Cure of Souls’, fourth in his Merrily Watkins mysteries.[1]

(Information provided by Rosemary Lockie)

[1] The Phil Rickman Website.

Image contributed by Rosemary Lockie on 20th June 2005.
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URL of this page: https://places.wishful-thinking.org.uk/HEF/Donnington/OldHopKiln.html
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