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 Davina Morris, who found it lying abandoned and rotting in a hedge while walking along a public footpath, 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 lady of the hut probably wore womens gardening clothes to take care of the back garden so she didn’t ruin her normal clothes. There is a great selection of clothing out there for ladies but when it comes to outdoors you really want quality and warmth especially in the winter.
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.