Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Seashore sheds

If sheds are increasingly valued as work spaces than the prices they can command as places for relaxation also demonstrate a growing popularity, writes architectural historian Kathryn Ferry. It’s a question of the estate agent’s mantra ‘location, location, location’ but if your shed is by the sea, adopting the colourful guise of a beach hut, then its value will probably have risen substantially over the last decade.

When I came up with the idea of writing a book about beach huts I imagined myself happily ensconced with pen and paper (electricity supplies being a rare luxury for hut occupants), words coming to me with the regularity of the lapping waves. After all, it works for the crime writer P D James who has penned many a successful novel in her hut at Southwold. Unfortunately, whilst I’ve been doing my research on the history of how wheeled bathing machines evolved into beach huts, the prices have continued to go up meaning my book needs to be a best-seller before I can even think about having my own hut!

But perhaps it’s best for me to get on with my project inland because, having seen more than 20,000 huts around the English coast and having spoken to many dedicated ‘hutters’ I’ve realised that these fabulous bolt-holes come with many more in-built distractions than your average shed.There’s the sea for a start, with all its changing moods; the opportunities for people watching are plentiful and if you’re on the right stretch of coast the maritime comings-and-goings of ferrys, yachts and tankers can become oddly compelling.

Beach huts are fantastic for families and their popularity owes much to childhood-holiday nostalgia; their very existence was a response to increasing leisure time from the late Victorian period onwards. So I’ll finish my book in my inland out-house and, when I finally get it, I’ll keep my beach hut as my ‘time off’ shed.

Kathryn Ferry’s book ‘Sheds on the Seashore: from bathing machines to beach huts’ will hopefully be out soon. For more information and to hire a hut go to www.beach-huts.com.

(This article appears in the latest issue of The Shed magazine. For a free copy email me here.

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