We 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. Transport was provided for the move free of charge by a local company, whose owner as a child had chosen a puppy from a litter born in the hut.
Sorry we don’t want the house – but we’d like the hut!
After sitting on massive axle stands
for 6 months, we made a start with the ‘repairs’. As with many Shepherds huts in the East of England, the beasts who live this side of the country are mainly of all wooden construction. With cheap, or even free Estate wood on hand, it was more cost effective to use ‘all wood’ construction and use corrugated Iron sheet only for the roof. Unfortunately, that means that our ‘eastern ladies’ suffer from the elements much more that their western cousins. The outer boards in this case were of Chestnut planking, one foot wide and an inch thick. Despite being tarred lack of maintenance since she was towed to her resting place in the Farmyard more than 60 years ago, meant she had suffered greatly from woodworm and rot. Fortunately a passion for all things old and an apprenticeship as a youth at a coachbuilding company, gave hope for this old girl.
With all the Ironwork sand blasted, flame zinc sprayed and powder coated it was time to start on the frame and chassis. Carefully drawing and photographing each piece on disassembly was a godsend. The Oak frame was reused but the softwood was completely rotten. It is at this stage when I had to make the choice of patching it up, knowing full well in five years I might be fighting the battle again or getting new wood specially cut to imperial sizes and reproducing exactly what had been taken out – That is the route I took. You can see the two end frames in the picture awaiting installation with new wood grafted onto the old.
7 months in, the hut looks like some giant flat pack
Beginning life at Hall Farm, Rackheath near Norwich. Bought by Eddie Symonds from his Father in 1945 for the sum of £7, Eddie towed this hut behind a Tractor to School Farm Barford in order to house one of two German prisoners of war who had been allocated to work on the Farm, from nearby Kimberly POW camp. Hans Lenzen lived in the hut for 2 years, met and married a local Girl and lived the rest of his life with his wife in Norwich.The exterior Larch boards now weathered in nicely in this picture. A bronze plaque hangs over the door to commemorate the restoration and the help given by many of the villagers in its restoration.
Finally complete, including a restored pot-bellied stove for those cooler nights. The hut has hosted sleepovers, evening dinners, parish council sub-committee meetings, Boy’s ‘fish and chip’ (and Beer) nights and serves as an Art Studio and watercolour gallery for my wife, Carol.
Utterly hooked by the whole experience, this has prompted our passion for finding and recording other survivors.
The hut has subsequently been featured in numerous glossy magazine articles and appeared in an ITV history documentary. The story of Hans Lenzen and his time in the hut has been featured on BBC radio.