Saturday, May 28, 2022

Boulton and Paul shepherd's hut: Where are the Fellow who Cut the Hay?

This is a shepherd's hut-based guest post by Robert Ashton whose book Where are the Fellows who Cut the Hay? currently being crowdfunded by our friends at Unbound.

When I hear someone say ‘shepherds’ hut’ today, my mind takes me straight to David Cameron’s back garden and the rather pretentious construction he installed as a writing studio. According to the Guardian, this cost him £25,000, contains a wood-burning stove, Bakelite light switch and sheep’s-wool insulation. Apparently it also has a pull out sofa bed and is tastefully decorated with Farrow and Ball paint. 

Blaxhall shepherd Robert Savage (born 1880) would not have regarded Cameron’s cosy lair as a shepherd’s hut. In retirement he lived next door to oral historian and author George Ewart Evans, and so not surprisingly featured prominently in Evans’s book Ask the Fellows who Cut the Hay which was first published in 1956. During the Spring lambing season, when he had to on hand to help should an ewe get into difficulties, he would live for days on end in a draughty wooden shepherd’s hut. 

Robert Savage’s shepherd’s hut was probably made by Boulton and Paul, a Norwich firm who also prefabricated mission churches and later, built Sopwith Camel aircraft during the First World War. In 1910 ta shepherd’s hut cost 16 pounds and 10 shillings, which was not far short of a year’s wages for a Suffolk shepherd. But while sleeping out in a shepherd’s hut was not very comfortable, Robert Savage happily endured in year after year because he was paid a bonus of sixpence for every lamb born that he could keep alive. As Evans wrote; ‘lambing was the shepherd’s harvest,’ and the extra money an important addition to the household budget. 

Having worked on a farm in Blaxhall myself, and come to know the sons of many who featured in Evans’s books, it was inevitable that one day I would write my own, bringing the stories Evans collected up to date. My book, Where are the Fellows who Cut the Hay? reveals how David Cameron’s shepherd’s hut is far from the only rural tradition that is enjoying something of a renaissance.


Welcome to your new teak garden room from Moonalabs. Unparalleled quality at an affordable price.

No comments:

Post a Comment