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The humble shepherd’s hut helps unearth Hampton Court’s horticultural history

Amy Brice

Picture courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces

Picture courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces

Historic Royal Palaces has become the latest top organisation to install a bespoke Plankbridge shepherd’s hut in the world-famous gardens of Hampton Court Palace. The new Gardeners’ Hut is being used as part of an interactive mobile garden exhibition, which will travel around the formal gardens of the palace’s 700-acre estate. The hut was commissioned to celebrate the work of the Hampton Court’s gardens team, in a year which marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of the palace’s most famous chief gardener – Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

Remaining true to the original Victorian footprint, the Dorset-based master hutmaker has repurposed the traditional 12’ by 6’ space, which was once used as a portable shelter for shepherds tending to their flock during lambing season, to provide a unique historical and horticultural resource for visitors of all ages to explore and engage with the great outdoors.

In keeping with the historical context and the magnificent surroundings of Hampton Court Palace, the Gardeners’ Hut is fitted with reclaimed wood furniture and is filled with old gardening tools, unusual objects and surprising discoveries. Much like the shepherd’s huts that were common place in the countryside of Victorian Britain, the hut will be moved around the spectacular gardens throughout the year, following the interesting seasonal projects taking place within the grounds, which Henry VIII and his six wives once wandered.

Aileen Peirce from Historic Royal Palaces explains;

“To house our mobile exhibition, we wanted a vehicle appropriate for our historic gardens, so traditional design, materials and craft skills were key priorities. The Gardeners' Hut, which Plankbridge has produced enables us to showcase the work of our talented team of gardeners, right where their work takes place, whilst the hut’s ability to move around allows us to tell seasonal and location-specific stories, in a way that would have been impossible with a traditional indoor exhibition.”

Richard Lee, founder and co-owner of Plankbridge, adds;

“Building a hut for Hampton Court Palace Gardens was a huge honour, especially during the 300th anniversary of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the palace gardener. This was a really exciting hut to build with every possible space being utilised and filled with information boards, drawers, work surfaces, fascinating artefacts and sign-written quotes on the walls. I know that visitors will enjoy exploring the hut as much as we enjoyed building it, while following the fascinating horticultural projects around the gardens.”

For more information about Plankbridge Hutmakers visit www.plankbridge.com.