The Living Van
The Living Van is an extremely large version of a Shepherd's Hut. Ours was owned by Mr Adie Bull on behalf of his Father and had been used as living accommodation at some time in the past. The van was kept at Nomansland in the New Forest, and because of its size (about 29feet long and 13feet high) and condition it was essential to use a low-loader to transport it to the Rural Life Centre
The Van had languished outside the home of Sid and Delsie Bull since it was put there by Sid’s father in 1936. Sid, now a sprightly 84 year old, told us that his father brought it from Salisbury Plain and towed it to their tiny house to act as a sort of mobile extension to his home! It has been used ever since.
The old hut was originally offered to another museum, but they failed to take an interest so the project was snapped up by the ‘Woodies’ and it was moved to its new home early on Sunday morning March 22nd 2009 in a swift operation that went like clockwork.
The old hut is large, almost 30 feet long, and has sat snugly on the chassis of an AEC T Type lorry once used by the military in WW1. Many of these lorries were sold off by the War Office after hostilities ceased in 1918. How or why it was converted for shepherding duties on Salisbury Plain is uncertain. What is confirmed is that after the Great War Sid’s father ran a fleet of GMC ex military trucks for lime spreading, so it is possible that this one was also used for that purpose.
Getting the Hut from beside the house and onto a trailer required a lot of planning. The first job was to take away a small lean-to porch fitted to the side entrance to the hut, then lift the hut so that the wheels, that had sunken into soft sandy soil by the side of the house could be laid level on the ground. The holes left by the sunken wheels were filled with rubble and amazingly, after all the years, the wheels and solid tyres were in a remarkably good condition - even the axles were still packed with military grease!
The next job was to take out and board up the old side windows — these were the only parts of the structure showing any signs of age. Once this was done the 7 ton hut had to be slewed 45 degrees so that it could be rolled out onto the road. Using steel sheets and hardboard, packed in between with grease this was achieved. The next job was to carefully take down part of the tall wooden fence that encircled Sid and Delsie’s house and mark each piece for replacement.
Using a block and tackle to move the hut into a suitable position for towing, it was was edged to the kerbside before being dragged by the professional haulage experts father and son team of Stuart and John Wild onto the trailer, a task they made to look so very easy.
Sid and Delsie were glad to see their ‘old house extension’ move to a museum; a little sad at seeing it move after all this time. Delsie told us "we shall miss it, but it's time it had some loving care lavished on it and who better to do it than the Rural Life Woodies. It's been difficult finding where to put all the things we had packed in the hut over the years and move them into our very small house, but since most of it is very old anyway we left it inside."
The Living Van, now repainted and reconditioned, is used sometimes by the Woodies overnight - truly a return to its original function!
The Van is located at the back of the Woodyard. It is accessed by following a path up between the Cycle Workshop and the tractor pole barn. As the steps up to the Van are steep it is often kept locked, but can be opened on request if there are volunteers available to do so.