How Shepherd’s Huts Came About
In the nineteenth century, sheep manure was the fertilizer of the day, without which a farm’s poor soil wouldn’t have been viable for growing their crops. Rather than lugging tons of manure up to the fields, sheep were kept tightly penned to graze in a small area, once the land had been grazed the sheep were moved on, leaving a lovely layer of manure to nourish the soil!
Sheep were so vital for this task, that the shepherd became a farm’s most important farm worker. With the flock’s location constantly changing, and often in areas far from the farmhouse, the shepherd required some sort of hut to store food and medicines as well as somewhere to rest, especially during lambing season. From sheer necessity, the shepherd’s hut was borne.
The shepherd’s hut was a kitchen, dining room, bedroom, sitting room and storeroom all rolled into one. The designs vary but all were constructed to provide the shepherd with practical and durable accommodation. The old huts had a stove in one corner for warmth and cooking, and a window on each side so the shepherd could see the flock. A hinged stable door, which was always positioned away from the prevailing wind, enabled him to hear the flock, and strong axles with cast iron wheels were used to withstand the constant movement from field to field.
The durability of these huts is evident today with many fine examples still being used by farmers, mainly as storerooms, and can often be seen parked up alongside fields. Many more have been consigned to agricultural museums giving testament to days gone by.
In 1999, The Shepherd’s Hut Company, founded by David Cherrington, was one of the first of the “new wave” of people to build new shepherds huts from scratch. It all started when a number of people asked David to build them a shepherd hut after seeing the great restoration job David had done on an old hut he had inherited… and it all grew from there!
A lot of thought goes into these huts – David knew that the old style huts were quite high off the ground and unstable, so improved matters by making the huts sit lower, which also aided access. The huts are lovingly constructed with traditional carpentry methods wherever possible, with mortise and tenon joints where necessary and manufacturing doors and windows themselves.
With the first two prototypes finished in the spring of 2000, the company showed their huts at a local County Show and along with editorials in Country Living, Country Homes & Interiors and the Farmer’s Weekly, who were all (quite rightly!) fascinated by this “New Twist on an Old Classic”, they received their first orders.
The Shepherd’s Hut Company has always been client led, so when asked for a slightly larger hut, to allow for a bed to be fitted width-ways, they increased the size and christened the new range the “Drover’s” Hut.
When access to the site was an issue, a flat-packed system was designed, either to be built on site by the company, or by the client.
They have now delivered as far afield as the South of France, Scotland, Southern Ireland, Guernsey, and all parts in-between, and watched in amazement as over the years Shepherd’s Huts have increased in popularity.
While the Drover’s Hut is capable of accommodating some of these, it would be with a considerable squeeze, therefore they decided to think big.
After mulling this over for some time, David remembered the old two storey milking bail he used to have on the farm he grew up on, which he had played in as a child and so looked into designing a much larger hut based on these old moveable milking bails.
Initial designs were on two levels but it quickly became apparent that trying to build and transport such a large hut would be a logistical nightmare.
Having altered the designs, they settled on a single storey hut that could be split in two for ease of delivery. Contemplating the name, the original ‘Milking Bail’ didn’t capture the feel of the new hut and after much deliberation, decided upon the name ‘Wayfarer’s Hut’… the larger size makes it perfect for longer stays!
I am sure we will see many more wonderful huts coming from the Shepherd’s Hut Company, just watch this space!
For more details on these amazing huts and their equally amazing creators, please visit The Shepherd’s Hut Company’s website: www.shepherd-hut.co.uk