Photo gallery: New lease of life for shepherd’s hut after restoration by north Norfolk craftsman
PUBLISHED: 12:57 24 April 2013 | UPDATED: 12:57 24 April 2013
Archant Norfolk 2013
The weatherbeaten “wriggly tin” skin of Rusty the shepherd’s hut is testimony to a hard working life in the farm fields.
But the 100-year-old relic of a bygone age of agriculture has been born again thanks to months of work by a rural craftsman.
The wheeled shed, which used to be home, shelter and animal hospital for its original user, has been given a new lease of life as an office.
A glass door and double-glazed windows have been added as “mod cons”, but its owners were keen for it to be kept in authentic rather than pristine condition.
So inside there is original woodwork with telltale marks showing where the shepherd slept on a bed above a cage for sickly lambs, along with a cosy stove, table, and scratched “witch marks” on the wall to ward off evil spirits.
But it was rats and rot that were the real enemies of the hut, said restorer Richard King – the son of a steam engine maker whose Suffield workshop builds and mends things, ancient and modern, in wood and iron.
“Everything below waist height had been eaten by worm or rats,” he explained as he applied the finishing touches to the labour of love.
When he took on the project the hut, dating back to about 1900, was “complete but fragile”, with the cast iron wheels falling off and the metal bolts in the oak chassis rusting away, leading to a 4in tilt.
The floor was replaced, along with the thinning tin on its pitched roof, but the resulting hut was still 80pc original, he said.
As he painstakingly took the hut apart he found “three wheelbarrows full of muck” inside its skin, hauled there by rats, which also ate their way through chunks of woodwork.
Grisly evidence of their presence came in the white mummified body of one discovered in one corner of the hut.
He has also found drawings, pictures and dates on the inner walls, including some from the 1960s and 70s when the hut was probably a play den for children.
But taking the shed back to its original shepherd’s day “fits everything I love – farming, history, old wood and old steel,” said Mr King, from Thurgarton, who also owns and shows vintage tractors.
It had taken a year because things were repaired rather than replaced, to maintain the authentic feel at the request of its owners, who live in mid Norfolk and want to remain anonymous.
“It takes a long time to create what is here and an hour or two to destroy it – which is what we would have done if we re-clad the shed.”
Instead, its rusty metal skin has been mended and wax-oiled to preserve and weatherproof it.
“You can imagine the shepherd sitting in here, with the stove going, tending his lambs with the elements lashing outside. It must have been a lonely life,” said Mr King.
Some huts would have had brown paper lining the walls to keep out the draft from the cracks.
But Rusty has got a different sort of paper in its walls – two copies of the EDP secreted away as a time capsule.
“I really hope no one ever gets to read them though – because it will mean my work has failed,” he added.
For more information about Mr King’s work visit www.thurgartonironworks.co.uk