Sussex shepherds’ hut business soars during pandemic

18 November 2021

A young Sussex man with no formal carpentry training has built a £400,000 turnover business building timber shepherds’ huts during the pandemic and been listed for two county business awards.

Rob McFagan started with a £2,000 loan from his dad just two and-a-half years to build his first commercial timber-framed Shepherd’s Hut aged 21.

Today, the young entrepreneur and agricultural buildings enthusiast has paid his dad back, designed, built and sold more than 50 traditional Shepherds’ Huts.

His company, Holmes Hill Shepherds’ Huts, is a finalist in two categories - Start-Up of the Year & Business Growth - of the 2021 Sussex Business Awards, with results announced on December 2.

From building that first shepherd’s hut, in a rented marquee on a small industrial estate in 2019, Rob has moved to a 1600ft2 unit and now employs four staff to craft more of the iconic rumbling wagons that used to roll through Britain’s country lanes and fields.

Built in much the same way as they have been since the 16th century, Rob’s shepherds’ huts are built using principles from 16th century construction, on four iron wheels and with corrugated iron tops. The rest is traditional timber.

The 12x6ft structures are meeting customers’ outdoor sheltered space needs of today: home offices, gyms or extra hospitality accommodation. His first hut – a £10,000 office space – took six weeks to build, but today it takes just six days.

Mr McFagan said the Covid-19 pandemic created great opportunities with customers looking for extra space with all mod-cons to provide upmarket rental accommodation, a garden office, extra room, glamping accommodation, catering outlet or even a full-time home. 

“I love working with wood, the feel and smell of it, the weight of the hand tools and of course running my hand over the end result,” he said.

“When I left college, I drifted for a while, reluctant to commit to a well-planned out career path. I sprayed steel for a local company and turned my hand to general maintenance – neither of which lasted long as my dad convinced me that as I clearly wasn’t shy of hard work, I should give manufacturing shepherds huts a go.”

A finished shepherds’ hut by HHSH