In the 19th Century shepherd huts became a common site in many parts of rural Britain, predominantly in the more hilly regions where it was an efficient farming practice to rear sheep rather than grow grain and cereals. The role of the shepherd was to stay with his flock, to tend, herd and guard the sheep, his hut becoming a home for months at a time as they moved from pasture to pasture and then particularly during the lambing session. The purpose of these huts on wheels was mobile accommodation for the shepherd as he moved with his flock as well as shelter for sick lambs. They were roughly furnished with a straw bed, stove and a medicine cupboard. Under the bed was the compartment called the lamb rack for the care of sick lambs.

A hut very similar in style was that of the living van, otherwise known as a road mender or ploughman’s wagon. These were often part of a steam engine or steam roller’s ancillary equipment. They would have been used by the road workers as living accommodation as they roamed the countryside. Fitted out with bunk beds for 2-5 people they are notable for a separate externally accessed compartment at the rear for the storage of tools. Later models often had rubber shod wheels, brakes and suspension, differing them from shepherd huts that only required cast iron wheels for use on tracks and pastures.

The individual design of these traditional huts varied but were most often characterised by the use of cast iron wheels and corrugated iron roofs and sides. In the early 20th century when metal became in short supply the chassis and sides were often of timber.

Use of these huts by farmers and road workers alike reached a peak in the late 19th Century and dwindled in the 20th with the advent of mechanised machinery, altering the face of agricultural production and traditional practices.

Nowadays we are seeing a revival in these huts. The possibilities inherent in their function and the attractive form that they take making them a popular choice for many gardens.