An historic part of the countryside is being brought back to life by Scotland’s leading furniture design school.
The humble shepherd’s hut was once a common sight across much of the British countryside, allowing farmers to watch over their flocks by night, particularly during the lambing season.
The project by the Chippendale International School of Furniture, which has completed its first shepherd’s hut, complete with wood-burning stove, also aims to give it a 21st century makeover.
The traditional hut was a small one-room structure with cast-iron wheels and, internally, contained a bed for the shepherd, some basic amenities such as a stove, and feedstuffs and medicines for the animals.
The first recorded shepherd’s hut dates back to the 16th century and they were a common rural fixture in the 18th and 19th centuries. During World War II they were sometimes used as Home Guard outposts or as accommodation for prisoners-of-war working on farms. However, by the 1950s, very few remained.
The Chippendale school, which takes furniture design students from across the world, believes that there are new markets for the shepherd’s hut – everything from home offices and spare bedrooms (with indoor toilet and shower facilities) to outdoor gyms, storage sheds or workshops.
With the shepherd’s hut being of limited size and with wheels, it more resembles a caravan than a fixed structure, and not normally subject to planning regulations.
Anselm Fraser, Principal of the Chippendale School, said: “Our intensive 30-week courses teach students traditional woodworking skills, as well as practical business skills to turn their craftsmanship into commercial success.
“But we also want our students to realise that excellence in woodworking can be put to use in different ways – for example, boatbuilding or, in this case, bringing an almost-forgotten part of the past back to life.”
The school, which is now taking commissions for bespoke huts made mainly from Scottish Douglas Fir, also believes that history could turn full circle, with NFU Mutual in 2012 estimating that 69,000 farm animals were stolen at a cost to farmers of some £6 million.
“While we want to reinvent the shepherd’s hut for the 21st century, it may still have a role to play in keeping farmers’ livestock safe at night,” said Anselm Fraser.
Prices for the shepherd’s hut are available from the Chippendale school and depend on interior fit-out and configuration. Visitors to the school are always welcome during office hours.
The school also intends to run an intensive 4 to 8 week course next year where people can learn basic woodworking skills and build their own shepherd’s hut. Further information can be obtained from the school.
Images courtesy of Tony Marsh
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