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Outbuilding of the Week: A Shepherd’s Hut for Long Summers

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Outbuilding of the Week: A Shepherd’s Hut for Long Summers

June 2, 2017

The most romantic thing about the traditional life of a British shepherd may have been his wooden hut. Or so it seems, from the proliferation of shepherd huts in recent years: we’d all like to park up somewhere green and pleasant, and shut the door on modern life.

Spotted recently in New England, this genius version by Berkshire Shepherd Huts, adapted to American summers: it is essentially a mobile, screened-in porch.

Images via Berkshire Shepherds Huts, unless otherwise noted.

The screened-in hut, at the Trade Secrets Fair in Connecticut. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.
Above: The screened-in hut, at the Trade Secrets Fair in Connecticut. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.

Made in Sheffield, Massachusetts, Berkshire Shepherd Huts come in different degrees of specification, from a sauna to a spare bedroom. We love the simplicity of this one, a cross between a 1920s sleeping porch and the most basic of working structures for life outdoors. In fact, this model is the brainchild of Englishman Robin Berthet, a general contractor living on an old farm in the Berkshires.

Excellent views and fresh air and vitally enclosed in netting.
Above: Excellent views and fresh air and vitally enclosed in netting.

The land around Robin’s 225-year-old farmhouse was cleared by the earliest settlers. Instead of sheep, he began to rear Scottish Highland Cattle, to keep the fields open and “to honor the spirit of the farmers and their hard work.”

The American-English hybrid shepherd hut is focused on ventilation, with protection from bugs. The unadorned frame is cedar, with a  floor of oak, ash, cherry, maple, or pine. Steps are usually made of oiled ash wood.

A metal bedstead is pushed into the darker, enclosed area. The folding deck on this model was made from a fallen tree. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.
Above: A metal bedstead is pushed into the darker, enclosed area. The folding deck on this model was made from a fallen tree. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.

The hut in which Alan Bates shivered, as shepherd Gabriel Oak in Far from the Madding Crowd, was dark, with one or two tiny windows. It would have been made of corrugated tin with oak beams and a cast iron chassis. Darkness could be achieved by sliding a shutter across each window.

English shepherd huts of today usually include a stove, a built-in bed and wainscoting, finished in a pale shade of eggshell. They might include a former prime minister, like David Cameron; they’d certainly have plenty of neighbors around the Cotswolds, each immaculately turned out.

Berkshire Shepherd Huts, USA

Above: With an insulated corrugated ceiling of galvanized steel, the American shepherd huts keep an authentic atmosphere while being completely modern. They can be off grid, in terms of solar power, composted toilets, etc, or plumbed in and wired up, depending on what is required. This can be a dilemma in itself: who is the hut for, and who gets to make the decisions?

Berkshire Shepherd Huts, USA

Above: Insulation of floors, wall, and roof comes from recycled denim. A bare frame, with no insulation, may seem like a more relaxed approach to a summer building, but these structures have proved to be more hot when you want to be cool, as well as more cold at the wrong time.

Berkshire Shepherd Hut

Above: Outside awnings can also be provided, made from recycled cotton boat sails. As a contractor, Robin Berthet has a team of carpenters and cabinet makers who are able to work on huts and houses.

The huts are easy to transport and have been scattered around the country, since their inception in \20\14.
Above: The huts are easy to transport and have been scattered around the country, since their inception in 2014.

Authentic-looking wheels are made by a small Amish-run foundry in Pennsylvania; the key component is melted-down brake drums. A more modern style (seen on the wheels attached to the above model) is made of steel, again by an Amish company.

N.B.: For more of our favorite tiny weekend retreats, see:

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