Shepherds’ huts may seem to belong to a bygone age – or museums – but Blackdown Shepherds’ Huts is a business that has found a growing market today – and won the Somerset New Business of the Year Award in 2012 in the process.
Whilst the modern version of the traditional hut retains many of the outward features of the original, these “luxury mobile living spaces” are much less spartan, having heating, lighting, bathrooms, kitchens – whatever their owners require. Each one is made to order, right down to interior decoration.
With such a range of possible styles and specifications, prices for a hut can range from under £5,000 for a self-assembly kit to five times that amount for a full-finished bespoke vehicle.
The business was founded in 2011 by cousins George Bannister and William Vickery from their company which specialised in building extensions to blend harmoniously with old properties. The idea for shepherds’ huts followed a visit to see some examples that have survived on the Blackdowns where they were a feature of larger farms in Victorian times. Wheeled huts with their distinctive curved roofs were moved by horses around grazing land to provide shepherds with some protection from the weather.
Today, according to George, their shepherds’ huts provide “accommodation that is both decorative and practical. They make ideal garden offices and spare bedrooms and are much less expensive than an extension. A number of the huts put together on farmland would be ideal as holiday lets. There’s also a self-build version, an extra large version, a towing version …”
The business partners try to source as many of their components from local suppliers as possible. “We employ three full time and one part-time staff but we are providing work for twenty or more local companies, from the ironwork that goes into each hut to the wool insulation. The timber is French oak but is sourced locally,” George explained.
Customers attracted to the charm of the huts – and their practicality – are not only from the UK but from as far afield as Australia, and Canada and the United States are “potential markets”.
This year already fifteen huts have already found their way to sites all around the UK. So, if you see a pretty hut in a field or a garden anywhere from Cornwall to Inverness, it may be one inspired by the Blackdowns and made by this Somerset firm that is keeping an old tradition very much alive.