Shepherds’ huts used to be a regular feature of our landscape. Since the 1800s, these simple wooden, and later corrugated iron sheds on wheels provided a mobile living space for rural workers so that they could shelter and sleep out in the fields near to their livestock – especially important in the lambing season. The huts worked best in lowland landscapes and were common in dowland areas where they could be transported about the fields most easily.
By the 1970s these portable huts were redundant, as farming practices changed and they could be seen silently rusting away in the corner of fields, half-burried in nettles and often as not used as storage space for sacks of fertiliser.
In recent years these basic huts on wheels have been completely reinvented by companies making traditional styles or rennovating old vans for a whole new clientele. Today they have found popularity as summerhouses, home offices, children’s play dens or even as extra accommodation for visitors. They can be fitted out with wooden flooring, lined inside with tongue and groove timber or kitted out with everything from a bed, to a stove for heating and cooking or broadband for a laptop. Outside they can be traditional black-tarred or painted in subtle shades to suit a country garden.
To see a good selection of huts visit The Weald & Dowland Museum – one of my favourites - an open air museum with a terrific selection of historic rural buildings rescued and ressurected in beautiful downland scenery.
Read David Morris’ informative new book on these quirky huts with interesting historical background (Shepherds’ Huts & Living Vans, £16.99, Amberley Books