Barford Shepherd’s Hut - a success story
About 10 years ago, Ian McDonald and his wife were looking at the possibility of buying an old farmhouse in the Norfolk village of Barford. As they went round the back of the property, they saw a tree growing through what looked like an old shed. Ian’s wife immediately pointed at it and said, “That’s a shepherd’s hut!”
The McDonalds didn’t want the house but they certainly wanted the hut and when the property was eventually sold to a developer, they started negotiations for it with little idea that they were about to spend the next decade restoring it and creating the Shepherd’s Hut Archive.
When villagers heard about the McDonalds buying the hut, they began telling them stories about it. In 1945, the hut had been towed by a tractor all the way to Barford from Hall Farm in Rackheath. Eddie Symonds paid his father £7 for the hut and it was used to house an Austrian prisoner-of-war who had been allocated to work at School Farm in Barford. Hans Lenzen lived in the shepherd’s hut for two years, met and married a local girl and spent the rest of his life with her in Norwich. The McDonalds managed to find him and ask him about his life in the hut.
In 2002, there was barely any information on shepherd’s huts to be found in books or the internet so the McDonalds began to collect photos and hut manufacturers' details from farmers and farm day books. The latter tend to contain a wealth of advertisements and information from local agricultural merchants. The web based archive grew as a community of blacksmiths, shepherd hut lovers and owners began to use it as an advice centre. Today, the McDonalds have records of 350 huts throughout the country and have re-homed more than 25 huts.
Over the past decade, the story of the hut and its rescue sparked people's imagination. The 19th-century hut was featured in a Norfolk Magazine article in 2005 and led to dozens of phone calls from farmers, magazines, museums and TV companies. And recently it was voted number 6 in BBC Radio 4’s “A History of the World in One Hundred Objects”! Shepherd huts have become popular in people’s gardens as a retreat, often used as art studios and offices, sometimes doubling up as grandchildrens’ play areas! If you want to learn more or even become a "Huttist", check out the McDonalds' dedicated website and watch the ITV Anglia video.
To mark ten years since the discovery of the first hut, Barford Shepherd's Hut will be open for Heritage Open Days!