Ahead of the release of the upcoming film version of Far From the Madding Crowd, an old shepherd’s hut belonging to a man who inspired one of the novel’s characters has been painstakingly restored. Stumbled upon by museum curator David Morris, who found it lying abandoned and rotting in a hedge while walking along a public foothpath, the shepherd’s hut was painstakingly restored over a period of ten years and has gained a new lease on life.
The land on which the hut stood belongs to Waterston Manor, which was the real-life inspiration for Hardy’s fictitious setting of Weatherbury Farm. In the story, the shepherd Gabriel Oak lives in a hut just like it, just as many shepherds in Victorian times would have done, due to the 24-hour nature of their work. In time, he becomes close to Basheba, the wife of his employer, who lives at the big house, and he falls in love with her. Eventually, after many trials and tribulations, they marry.
The hut Mr Morris found, which Thomas Hardy may even have seen, has been found to be well over 100 years old and continued to serve as a functional shepherd’s hut until 1981. It was made by George Farris and Sons, who were based in Combe Bisset, Wiltshire.
Mr Morris sought permission from the manor’s owner to restore it, and it now serves a new purpose as a fruit and vegetable store and charming summer house in Morris’s back garden. While some new parts had to be added, 70 per cent of the hut’s original structure remains as many of the oak and pine timbers were still intact. As a museum curator and thus a dedicated preserver of historic items, Mr Morris was undoubtedly ideal for the task of breathing new life in this icon of literature and history.
For more information on Hardy’s rural inspirations, check out BBC News. To learn more about shepherding, be sure to read this Guardian piece.
Finding your own
If you are looking for shepherds huts for your own farm or rural property, there are a great range of shepherds huts available.
These pieces of living history are a wonderful way to add atmosphere and rustic beauty to your property, whether you use them as decoration or a glamping option.