Restoring Shepherds Huts
Shepherd’s Hut Before Restoration
The Restoration Process
Shepherd’s Huts are restored to their former glory after a careful assessment of their history, so that as much of the original character can be retained as possible. Where new materials are essential, they are sourced with great care so as to provide the best possible match to the original and worked with original techniques. The attention to detail even extends to the choice of nails for the floorboards!
Restored rear axle and wheels.
Shepherd’s Hut After Restoration.
On occasion I come across a cast iron wheel which requires attention, many of these wheels were subject to harsh conditions being bumped down unmade lanes. Some wheels were fitted with an iron band similar to that found on a cart wheel, this was done to strengthen the cast iron wheel to enable it to withstand rough treatment and to protect the edges of the rim from damage.
Wheel ready for restoration
Tyre band fitted to the wheel after being treated
The restored wheel
I am very fortunate in having a very old tyre bending machine that enables me to roll up the required iron band. Done properly, once shrunk onto the rim it pulls it up so tight that this gives it a new lease of life. In the pictures you can just see the band in the fire getting up to temperature, and the wheel in readiness to have its new band fitted.
Front axle ready for restoration
Test fit of ironwork on to restored front axle
Complete front axle with new timber and unrestored ironwork
Kendall Shepherd hut
The Kendall hut was one of those rare gems that don’t come up very often, made in around 1860 (the same period my Great Grandfather was wagon building) by Mr Kendall of the Cashmoor implement works Dorset. Thomas had the works, and his father ran the pub on the opposite side of the road.
With all timber construction, it was evident that the owner had cherished the hut for a very long time which swayed me into taking on what would become a very detailed and long restoration.
It was in such a poor state of repair, and realistically only the framework was salvageable. It was decided after much deliberation and careful consideration (11 years!!) that we could extend it by 24 inches to suit the owner’s requirements without distracting from the original format. Done very carefully, I thought that it would not stray from its original design and build and would be a part of its history.
The end result was very pleasing indeed. Everything that could be salvaged or remade was. All the little details, the beading, handmade nails etc., all came together, and it was an absolute privilege to preserve a very rare piece of social history. I hope my Great Grandfather would be proud.
Sybil’s Hut by Rollin Nichols
I first met Rollin when he enquired about an original shepherd’s hut, I did not have anything for sale at the time, but on meeting Rollin, it was apparent to me he was a true enthusiast.
Time moved on, and an original J Farris Shepherd’s hut came into my possession that required a total restoration with no wheels or undercarriage. Remembering Rollin was after one, I gave him a ring, and he commissioned me to carry out the restoration. Little did I know what adventures were to follow.
As seen on
I had a phone call from the research team at plumb productions (I get enquiries from various production media companies from time to time) asking what I was up to and if I would have anything suitable for their Amazing Spaces Series. I had three restorations on the go at the time, and after much deliberation, we settled on Rollins hut as the centrepiece of this production.
As the hut lacked wheels, I managed to source an original set and made up all the undercarriage horse shafts etc. Rollin did the painting, polishing and all the final touches, and the end result was very smart indeed. George commented, ‘It was the best hut he’d ever seen!’ that’s how good it was. Needless to say, working with Plum and the team was brilliant. Filmed over many months, the TV programme came together very well.
Rollin having the Farris bug by now was keen to find another hut. I knew of one at Combe Bisset owned by Sybil Spinks (the late granddaughter of George Farris of the Coombe Bissett Steam Plough Works) and suggested to him one day in the workshop why don’t you pop in on your way home to enquire if it is available.
Rollin is a very outgoing individual, and his enthusiasm is immeasurable once he gets involved. I think it was apparent to the owners he was a genuine chap keen to preserve this hut, so they dutifully agreed to sell it to him. I went and collected the hut and embarked on another restoration.
When the idea of the book came about to raise money for a diabetic charity, Rollin asked if I would help him with its contents. Naturally, as it is for a good cause, many hundreds of emails and photographs passed back and forth, and I think the end result is very good. My friend Julian at Media4 made an excellent job of putting it all together, and if you are enthusiastic about shepherd’s huts, I think this is one you should add to your book collection.
For me, it was a delight to meet Sybil Spinks (nee Farris). Unfortunately, Sybil is no longer with us, but this book is a record of the Farris family and the huts they made all those years ago. To have listened to Sybil reminiscing about her grandfather and the old works I will treasure forever.