Shepherd's huts were a familiar sight on the downlands of the south of Britain. Small homes on wheels; they were moved with the herd and provided restful shelter from the elements for the shepherds who tended the sheep. Often owned by the farmer or landowner, a shepherd's hut would be rented to them. Forgotten about as the nomadic lifestyles began to disappear, many were burnt where they last stood and their wheels and axels scrapped. Then, with a new found idealism of the country lifestyle, and the huts featuring in popular media and adaptations such as ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ and Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ series, an interest in this forgotten part of history has arisen.

The shepherd's hut is intrinsically linked with the heart of Coombe Bissett as one of the most prolific builders in the UK, H&C Farris, called the village home. Many of the shepherd's huts were built by the head carpenter of the Farris Family, the late John Judd who lived in the village for 96 years. The last of the huts built by H&C Farris was finished in the early 1950s.

H&C Farris huts were renowned for being well built and sturdy despite many years of abandonment. One such hut was left on a farm in Pitton, where it was rescued from the flames by my parents and has since sat in the garden for many years. It still contains the rabbit traps, ropes and bags for wool, as if someone had only moved out yesterday. 

 

Image: Shepherd hut, Xander King 

When looking at such a beautiful piece of history, it is easy to imagine being up above the strip lynchets of the reserve, watching over a herd of sheep in lamb, with a kettle boiling on the stove behind you. It’s also easy to imagine the winters and rain which is arguably a lot less appealing!