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Living, breathing, farming...

Old farming equipment

Shepherd’s huts were once a common sight in the English countryside – a combined kitchen, dining room, bedroom, sitting room and storeroom on wheels.

They gave shepherds in the 19th century a place to store tools and medicines and to keep an eye on their flocks, which is why there are windows on both sides. The hinged stable door was always positioned away from the prevailing wind, while strong axles and cast iron wheels withstood regular moves from field to field.

You’ll see ours, which was used to house an Italian prisoner during the Second World War, as soon as you emerge from the reception area. It was restored by our volunteer John Oliver after we rescued it from a farm in Rutland.

Our Claas combine harvester, at the bottom of the farm, began its journey from Germany in 1970 and was assembled on a farm in Sussex. When the machine became outdated and unreliable it retired to Sacrewell and is now in need of a full refurbishment.

John and his team have many more projects waiting in the equipment graveyard beyond the mill. In the meantime, you can pose with our old Harry Ferguson TE 20 tractor, built by the Standard Motor Company in Coventry in 1952. Fergie lives outside the evergreen maze.

But some of our tools and equipment are far older. In the 18th century, when our watermill was built, farming – and agricultural equipment –was being revolutionised. Farmers were learning how to rotate their crops so that the fields were profitable all year round and experimenting with new breeds to get a greater return from their animals. New machinery was making life easier, too, enabling farmers to produce more food and take on more land.

You’ll find smaller items of equipment from farming’s past throughout Sacrewell – horse-drawn ploughs, wooden shovels, cake breakers used to break up animal feed, scythes for cutting corn and hay, milk churns, barrels and crates in many of the barns and outbuildings. Many of the tools were made in Stamford.

Down in the Wagon Hovel, you’ll find wheelwright and blacksmith’s equipment. Sacrewell farmers would have used the blacksmith from a neighbouring village and traded goods or services in return.