Shepherd Huts: To Turn or Not To Turn?
Updated: Jan 7
At The English Shepherds Hut Company, our huts are available with a choice of three different styles of chassis (That's the bit that the hut sits on and comprises of supporting joists and axles to which the wheels attach). You have an option of a modern fixed chassis with a non-turning axle, a traditional turning chassis with a 5th wheel and draw bar system, or a completely road towable chassis comprised of a modern trailer with pneumatic tyres.
Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages and this article explains the rationale behind each type to help you work out which is the best option for you.
Why do Shepherd Huts Have Wheels?
As a portable shelter and home-from-home for shepherds tending to their herds, the original, historic Shepherd Huts were designed for mobility first and comfort second! With the Shepherd often spending weeks out in the pastures and leading his flock over vast distances, it was essential that his Shepherd Hut could be towed along with him, often navigating tight bumpy lanes, rolling hills and muddy fields. Fortunately, the huts back then were relatively small and lightweight, and could be pulled by a horse, traction engine or later a tractor, with the aid of their sturdy turning axle and tow bar.
Do Shepherd Huts Still Need to Move?
Nowadays very few Shepherd Huts are used by actual Shepherds, with more common uses being glamping accommodation, garden rooms or home offices. This has meant that comfort has become the primary focus of the design, with mobility being a distant second in most cases.
Compared to the historic designs, most modern huts and their contents tend to be of a much more robust construction, as well as a more intensive fit out- The Shepherds of bygone days probably didn't enjoy fitted kitchens, underfloor heating or ensuite bathrooms in their huts! The evolution of the Shepherd Hut has resulted in them becoming larger and inevitably heavier than the originals, which means that they are harder to tow.
With most modern Shepherd Huts now being set up permanently on glamping sites, connected to utilities or confined within a garden, very few are actually required to be moved at all. This makes the traditional turning axles and draw bars a bit obsolete, as they seldom need to be used and the increased size and weight of the average hut tends to make towing impractical and unwieldy.
Despite this, the metal wheels that elevate the hut remain one of the striking iconic features that identify it as a Shepherds Hut!
Although we can provide a fully functional, historically accurate chassis with a turning axle and draw bar, many of our customers opt for a simpler fixed chassis instead. This consists of sturdy steel joists and axles with metal wheels which turn, but do not steer. This has the advantage of being more cost effective, more stable, more secure and also helps the hut sit lower to the ground. It also saves a little weight and is one less component to maintain (If a towable hut sits in place for several years without being moved, the turning axle would likely seize up due to the weight that's been sitting on top of it anyway).
On the other hand, the turning axle looks more traditional, and can potentially allow the hut to be delivered to slightly more tucked away locations. If the access for delivery is tricky for our transport lorry to reach, a turning axle could make delivery much more simple. For more information on delivery and access, we go into more detail in this article.
Even if you did want to move the hut very occasionally, don't forget that you now have access to something else that our ancestors didn't! Using modern plant machinery and vehicles such as stick cranes, hi-ab lorries and telehandlers are likely to make the moving of a hut much more straightforward than even the most well greased turning axle.
Is a Turning Axle Worth the Cost?
In our opinion, opting for a turning axle over a fixed one is usually more of an aesthetic choice than a practical one and it does tend to be significantly more expensive. If your hut is likely to remain in one place, we'd usually recommend going for a modern fixed chassis unless the delivery access is particularly tight and the extra manoeuvrability is needed. For any hut over 20ft in length, the chances are that the turning axle is going to be pretty ineffective due to the sheer weight of the hut. Ultimately, it comes down to personal choice!
However, if mobility is your primary concern and you need to frequently move your hut over large distances or between venues, we also offer our Wild Rover style road towable chassis which is built upon a modern flatbed trailer. This is particularly popular for huts intended for event hire, and especially successful when designed as luxury loos. We admit, the sight of the vehicle tow hitch and pneumatic tyres does not inspire quite the same wanderlust as the traditional ironwork of the originals, but the increased functionality will open countless new avenues for your hut!
Road Towable Chassis
Best Suited For
Larger Huts which are connected to utilities and likely to remain static, such as guest accommodation
Smaller huts that are off-grid, such as garden rooms or home offices, or situated in harder-to-reach locations.
Huts for event hire, such as bars or pop up bathrooms
There are many reasons to opt for one type of chassis over another and ultimately you can choose whichever you feel suits your hut best. Hopefully this article has helped make the choices clearer and shed some light on the thought processes that are behind our designs!
If you'd like to discuss your design with our friendly team or need more advice on the build of your hut, give us a call on 01603 397777 or email email@example.com