Traditional buildings with a variety of modern uses

Suffolk Hut Makers, makers of shepherd's huts,
Tom Wray and John Archer

Suffolk Hut Makers, makers of shepherd's huts, Tom Wray and John Archer - Credit: Archant

Buyers are flocking to own a Suffolk shepherd’s hut

Tom Wray and John Archer of Suffolk Hut Makers.

Tom Wray and John Archer of Suffolk Hut Makers. - Credit: Archant

Out in the lambing fields, a traditional shepherd’s hut would provide shelter and warmth during the cold nights of spring – and now a youngbusiness, based at Saxtead near Framlingham, has re-visited that tradition.

The Suffolk sheep hut is back, but it can now come with modern conveniences including heating and lighting. The huts are handmade, bespoke homes/vehicles, and because they are mobile they don’t usually need planning permission.

Cabinet maker Tom Wray, from Debenham, and John Archer, whose background is in boatbuilding, are the duo behind Suffolk Hut Makers.

They have gone back to traditional designs to find their model, but the new huts are built to exacting, modern standards. They are virtually mini homes, insulated and heated, and have a wide variety of possible uses such as home offices, artist’s studios, changing rooms and guest accommodation – or as shepherds huts, if you keep sheep!

Suffolk Hut Makers started about a year ago, and has a full order book.

“We started a year ago,” said Tom, “Before then we had restored traditional huts. We have built six since January. It is keeping us busy six or seven days a week. We are really pleased with how it is going.

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“We have tried to keep close to tradition, but with a high quality finish.”

Tom continued: “They are highly versatile. It is like parking a caravan in your garden but they are a lot nicer. As long as you have the space for them, there isn’t usually a problem unless it is a conservation area. You might need planning permission if you wanted to live in one full time.”

The latest 12ft hut they have just completed is going to customers in North Walsham, Norfolk, and the next one is for clients in Rendham, Suffolk.

The latest hut has double glazed windows, an oak floor, electric lights and an unusual woodburning stove for heating, a design originally made to heat Thames sailing barges. Tom’s mother-in-law Connie made the curtains for this one. The electric lights are made by John, from old Kilner jars, and the sofa turns into pull-out bed.

John added: “We have tried to make them as eco friendly as possible. This one is solar-powered so you can leave the light on all day. You could keep the lights on 24-7.

“We do 12ft, 14ft, 16ft and 18ft long sheds. It is really whatever you are intending to do, and what you want in it. One is a changing room for a natural swimming pool.

“We have also had an enquiry about a sauna.”

Whevever possible they use recylced materials. In this one there is Suffolk oak from Walberswick and the cast-iron wheels came from a family business in Hamphsire. The steel chassis are made in Harleston in the Norfolk/Suffolk borders.

John added: “We have restored huts that are 120 years-old, so we want something we make to last 120 years. We want them to be around long after we are gone.”

Suffolk Hut Makers is based at Saxtead Bottom Farm. The firm is planning to be at the Suffolk Show at Trinity Park this year, where it will also be showing a “mini” version of its hut – a kennel for that special dog!