"My aim has always been to produce an authentic Shepherds Hut of the period. It all started when I restored an old Lott & Walne (iron founders in Dorchester) Shepherd’s Hut many years ago, little did I know what a fascinating project it would become and to what extent it would effect my life.
I remember reading the faded writing on the old penny farthing boards where the old shepherd had calculated his flock numbers. There were no computers or email then, just a message for the farmer written on the door in large letters BACK 3rd DEC. In amongst the accumulated fertiliser bags, old rolls of barbed wire and other farmers treasure, was a set of old branding irons, and the stains of a spilt tin of blue Raddle that used to mark the chest of the Ram.
I remember jacking up the axles to lift the wheels out of the mud and being astounded that they still turned after standing for fifty odd years. Old Shepherds Hut’s have a wonderful ‘feel’ to them and are steeped in history. As one old farm-hand once said to me “you would give your right arm to know what went on in here over the years”. So having studied many original Shepherd Huts and with my blacksmithing and restoration background, I set about producing my own, worthy of standing shoulder-to shoulder with some of the original makers."
Ideal for a cosy retreat, an unusual office, an inspiring studio or appealing extra accommodation - the Butterfield Shepherd’s Hut can be all these things and more.
Many Shepherd’s Hut makers have sprung-up over recent times so why choose me? When considering the purchase of your Shepherd’s Hut you may wish to ask yourself will it have the right feel to it. Do you want a modern box or something with character, a correctly made period piece? I can offer you a genuine craftsman made Shepherd’s Hut made by someone who really does make them with the same tools and techniques of the period and cares deeply about the impact on the environment and the preservation of our woodland.
To spend an evening with family and friends in a traditional old Shepherd’s Hut enjoying views across the countryside, perhaps sharing a glass of wine with the old stove going, is a relaxing almost magical experience.
"I use western Red Cedar as it has a natural resistance to insect attack and does not require any environmentally unfriendly chemical treatment, I also use locally sourced Douglas and Larch, both durable softwoods. Once sawn on my 1890’s rack saw bench, the timber is stacked up to season; this process allows the moisture content in the timber to dry out naturally. This usually this takes about 12 months and the end result is a far more stable board, less prone to shrinkage and distortion than a modern kiln dried board, where they are cooked in an oven.
Years ago, you would not dream of using a piece of timber unless it was properly seasoned, indeed an elm hub of a cartwheel would be left for a good two years before a wheelwright would consider it fit to use. Once seasoned the boards are thicknessed, then the mouldings are planed to match those used on early Shepherds Huts and thereafter, a light hand-sanding provides the finished board.
Many of the modern sawmills do not like cutting western Red Cedar because the bark is very stringy and not at all suitable for modern peelers that strip the bark prior to sawing, as it jams up the rollers. It is also quite an abrasive wood to cut and soon dulls the teeth of a band saw. My rack saw bench was originally made by Stenna & Gunn of Tiverton in Devon around 1890 and I believe it was one of the very first of it’s type. It was originally driven by a Burrell steam engine, and apart from a period of about 10 years, it has been in regular use, which is a credit to those who made it 120 years ago. It’s able to cope with western Red Cedar very effectively as you do not have to peel the log before it is sawn.
In addition, the old style teeth (55 of them) can be sharpened by hand with a file every hour or so, to keep them nice and sharp. With its old fashioned teeth, the saw creates chips rather than sawdust and this goes to the local stables for bedding, the horses prefer it. The off-cut of the logs (known as slab-wood) are used to power the steam engine and also produce charcoal in my kiln, which itself is used to forge to iron components required of my Shepherd’s Huts and, of course, the occasional BBQ."
I specialise in the restoration of ancient and historic ironwork and have for many years worked with ecclesiastical bodies who value my craftsmanship, knowledge and high standards of authenticity. My interest in our cultural and rural heritage extends to the research and conservation of craft skills, which are fast disappearing elsewhere, and the preservation of rural bygones. I am one of the few in the UK who carefuly restore traditional Shepherd’s Huts and painstakingly create authentic replicas."
My cottage lies in a beautiful hamlet adjacent to Bere Regis, it was built in 1848 on the site of a previous older building. The smithy lies behind the cottage adjacent to the Bere Stream, a fine chalk stream favoured for it’s trout fishing. Years ago there was a agricultural contractors here and a water driven saw mill across the meadow. Steam engines and threshing tackle were order of the day , and i am still digging up artefacts in the garden. It was on the old drove way to wood bury hill fair, which was a fair by royal charter for 750 years, I am sure many hundreds of sheep cattle and horses passed this way over the years. It is a most beautiful and tranquil setting in which to work, and I consider myself extremely fortunate when on my daily commute to work (about 50’).
"My Grandfather, William Butterfield was a manager of Burnetts, a railway repair works on a private siding in the 1920s. He is the tall man at the rear of this photograph with the collar and tie. My father in his early days used to work for the firm repairing the old rolling stock, machining the wheels and refurbishing the woodwork, indeed I still use the old hand augers and wood planes that used to belong to my grandfather and still bear his initials stamped over 90 years ago."
Craftsmen have always used all the materials and skills at their disposal. Every part of the log is used and so it should be it has taken 50 odd years to grow, and I think it is only right that all of it is put to good use. I can even tell you where the timber for your Shepherd’s Hut originated from. .