Once a relic rotting on the Downs, made redundant as mechanised farming techniques began to invade the traditional lifestyle of the sheep herder on Wiltshire’s rambling grasslands, and shepherds found that Land Rovers, other 4x4s and Quad Bikes meant that they didn’t have to live out with their sheep, a restored shepherd’s hut is rapidly becoming a desirable addition to a garden, as a summerhouse, garden office or even as ‘glamping’ accommodation.
John Errington, a retired farm manager from Wanborough was aware of many of these sad once-proud mobile homes and made a decision to bring them back to a condition which far exceeded that of the original which once graced the Downs as accommodation for the Wiltshire shepherd.
The earliest shepherd’s huts can be traced back to around the fifteenth century. Sheep were very valuable and provided one of the main sources of income in those days. These first shepherds huts would have been very basic covered carts.
Gradually the sophistication developed, incorporating seating, bedding and a stove for warmth, but still pretty rudimentary although a welcome haven for the shepherd looking after the flock grazing on the vast expanses of Wiltshire’s Downs far away from the farm or nearest village.
John’s restored huts date back to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.
Most huts were made locally to their use and although all huts were basically the same, individual variations did occur. These are mainly where the door is situated. some at the front and some at the back. Window placement also varies depending on who made the hut or the purchasing shepherd’s requirements. The major differences were in appearance with some constructed from corrugated iron whilst others were clad in wooden boards.
All of John’s restored huts will be in pristine condition with all major components replaced or restored to a standard better than they were when new. An example is one hut recovered from just outside Salisbury which was in very poor condition when found. Over the years the wooden part of the axles had rotted away and had been replaced with railway sleepers (not mobile an more). New oak axles were the first step in the restoration, followed by a new floor, whilst the inside sides and ceiling were able to be recovered and restored as was the structural frame and floor supports.
A new stove was fitted to the restored hut which was insulated thoroughly as part of the process of bringing it back to life, and it now features a drop down table, two windows (with curtains) and a day seat which converts to a bed.
John can provide a restored hut to order. Some he can source and restore to the specification of the news owner, some can be purchased in an already-restored state, or some can be supplied in an unrestored state for John to bring back into a desirable and usable condition.
Or, if you already have a Shepherds Hut that is in poor or original condition and in need of restoration, get in touch with John as he will be able to transform it to whatever condition and or design that you may wish.
One of John's restored Huts is now sited at the Three Trees Farm Shop & Cafe, on the A346 at Chiseldon.