Was This Gabriel Oak’s Shepherd’s Hut, As Described By Thomas Hardy?

Aeronautical engineer David Morris has devoted his spare time to researching, restoring and writing about Shepherds’ Huts and Living Vans. In particular he has rescued and rebuilt a derelict hut, the last one used for shepherding at Waterston Manor near Puddletown, Dorset. Waterston was transformed by Thomas Hardy into Weatherbury Upper Farm in his novel Far From The Madding Crowd so it is not entirely fanciful that this van was the model for Gabriel Oak’s living quarters. There is a strong link with Shaftesbury in that this hut was one of many built by the Farris company of agricultural engineers.

David’s daytime job is Curator of Naval Aircraft at the Fleet Air Arm Museum. He is a Research Fellow of Bournemouth University, a published author, and has appeared in the TV series Britain at Low Tide. At 7.30p.m. on Tuesday 02 October at Shaftesbury Town Hall he will deliver the Teulon Porter Memorial Lecture on The History of the Shepherd’s Hut. While he will range over the earliest depictions of Shepherds’ Huts and their forms in different societies, he will deal with the Hardy and Farris connections. David’s work is strongly represented in our current temporary exhibition A Small Dairy Farm in the Blackmore Vale and his book is available in Gold Hill Museum shop. Admission to the Teulon Porter Lecture is free to members while non-members may pay £5 at the door. Entry to Gold Hill Museum, where there is also a permanent display about the Farris company, is free, though donations are welcome.