Who are we and why did we get involved in Shepherd's huts?
The most popular question we get asked is - Why?
We certainly don't claim to be the first supporters of the Shepherd Hut cause, that honor can probably be placed squarely at the feet of Gerald Beavis. Gerald owned and tended flocks of Sheep in the Stapleford area of Cambridgeshire for many years. When he sold his Farm, he preserved his own hut as well as many of the tools he used as part of his Shepherding life. Gerald had the foresight to realize that other huts were not so fortunate. He therefore began to record Shepherds huts with his camera, not just in Eastern England, but all over the Country. We are very fortunate to have been invited to digitize Gerald's entire photographic collection of over 100 Shepherds Hut's, some unfortunately long since lost. Others passed into preservation, some just waiting to be rediscovered. Gerald also gave talks to interested groups and raised awareness by writing an article on the subject for Farmers weekly, appealing directly to the Farmers to consider the part that old hut, sitting in the corner of their farmyard, had played in the past prosperity of their Farm. This was well before these endearing old beasts received popular press from monthly glossy magazines, becoming popular as Garden retreats. He has now moved to Yorkshire, with his Hut, and he continues to appear in the Press regarding the subject. Gerald has also collated his Shepherding tools and plans to open a small Museum on the subject (details to follow when available).
We became involved when found our first hut while viewing a Farmhouse for sale in our village. It was in a very a poor state. It's weight caused the wheels to sink into the ground and a build up of soil under the chassis as well as an Alder growing through the side of the hut didn't help either. After negotiating with the developer's agent who had bought the site, we lifted the hut onto a trailer and moved it to our garden at the opposite end of the village.
School Farm Barford, our first hut. Home safe & sound with its new owner
Once home to our cottage at the Far end of the village, the poor old Girl was placed on large axle stands while I debated just how much restoration I was going to do. The hut was in a dreadful state as a tree had grown through one side, as well as the fact that the chassis had been sitting directly on the damp ground for goodness knows how long. The Hut was recovered in May and I took the next 5 months sorting out materials and fittings for the restoration. (plus gathering the courage to start the job).
The one thing I found missing was information, either the history of our Hut, or more to the point any other hut! There just wasn't anything around at that time, either on the internet or in the Library. We are blessed here in the East in having a wonderful rural life museum at Gressenhall, Near Dereham. I contacted them and they put me in touch with a lovely Lady called June Ross who had written a short paper in 1997, titled ' Shepherds Huts' as part of her extra-mural studies under the auspices of the University of East Anglia.
In the paper, I was excited to not only find that Gressenhall had two such huts in its collection, but a local retired Shepherd from Cambridgeshire had two himself, and what's more, he had spent a lot of his life recording others. Could this Gentleman still be alive I wondered? Well he was, an indroduction via June was arranged and Carol, my Wife and I met Gerald and his good lady at their Walsingham home. I believe that Gerald was really pleased that a 'Young un' was coming to help, in his seemingly single handed fight to make people aware of the important part these lovely old ladies played in our agricultural past.
And whats more, he had two of his own in his back yard!
Gerald had two Huts in his Walsingham Garden