It was a portable shepherd’s hut near Thomas Hardy’s Dorset cottage that inspired Richard Lee and Jane Dennison to start a business building custom shepherd’s huts in 2000. “Time-honoured craftsmanship and British countryside traditions are deeply rooted in the Plankbridge approach,” says Lee. “Capturing the spirit of the Victorian makers that came before us, our team of 11 likes to stick steadfastly to the original dimensions and design of shepherd’s huts, while incorporating bespoke modern interiors to make them fit for contemporary living.”
The huts are built entirely in Dorset, using local suppliers to create such features as cast-iron wheels, corrugated-iron exteriors and oak floors. “Each one-of-a-kind hut is a truly British bolthole,” says Lee, adding that they are being put to use as offices, living rooms, saunas, writer’s retreats, children’s hideaways and guest rooms, to name but a few recent commissions. Clients have included Hampton Court Palace Gardens, The Pig hotel group, Daylesford Organic and even Highgrove, for whom Plankbridge created a particularly special hut for His Royal Highness Prince George’s first birthday.
The hand-built environments range from a non-bespoke Simply Classic shepherd’s hut (from £16,500) to more elaborate, customised, winterised Living Huts (from £35,000) with English oak windows and stable doors, a solid French oak floor and a Farrow & Ball painted interior with kitchen and washroom facilities. Lead times can vary from several weeks to three months depending on the complexity of the project, with Lee and Dennison overseeing each stage, from initial sketch to site installation.
“We use modern tools as much as we need to, including computer-aided design for the working drawings,” says Lee. “But we also hand draw the floor plans together with our customers. We still get a buzz from taking a blank sheet of paper and sketching a unique space.”