Sheds – A Brief Look at the History of the Garden Shed
England is a nation of shed lovers, one recent survey puts the figure at 20% of us owning a shed. From garden sheds to bikes sheds, wooden sheds to metal sheds, sheds have a long history and a multitude of uses aside from the storage of flower pots and the garden rake.
Shed is a derivation of an Old English word spelt shadde, shad or shedde which was first documented in 1481when referring to a “yearde in whiche was a shadde where in were six grete dogges.” While we still keep animals in such buildings, the need for storage separate to our house is as strong and ancient as our need for a roof over our head.
As far back as humans in caves, smaller caves and alcoves were used as storage areas separate from living areas. The evolution and development of the shed runs parallel to that of the home. As homes became free-standing (as apposed to hewn into caves) so too did the shed, though it would be some time before that name was applied.
In the same way that wealth plays a role in the grandeur of homes, fortune affects the shed. Whereas the majority are able to fit all they need to into a 6×6 Apex-roofed wooden shed at the bottom of a garden, the wealthy are able to afford small extra buildings that are as opulent as their homes. It is appropriate that the nation of shed lovers was the same nation that the wealthy caused to birth the English Folly.
The English folly, such as Wimpole’s Folly in Cambridgeshire, are buildings that serve no purpose over than their original storage needs, and would often be built simply for decorative purposes in the gardens of the rich. From gothic towers to elaborate brick sheds, the folly shows that even the wealthy have a love for the shed.
While it has been many a century since a folly was built, sheds are still in high demand in England and there’s often more than one in a garden. So why own a shed? The common garden shed is more than just a way to stop the kids’ bikes getting rusty (or stolen from the garden) and the range of activities carried out under the pent or apex roofs are various. In fact it could easily be argued that as the extravagance in designs for sheds has reduced, the diversity of its uses has increased.
Often tied in with the need for solace and retreat, many a hobby is able to fit inside a garden shed. From brewing beer to storing collections of old computer magazines, workbenches stocked with power tools, an area separate the numerous forms or recyclable litter or just as somewhere to house what the garage can no longer fit. There’s sheds that have been turned into gyms with the installation of home work-out equipment or pool-side sheds that serve as changing rooms or even saunas.
So when strolling around a garden centre or looking for a shed online, the question is no longer “what do I need a shed for?” it’s “what couldn’t I do in a shed?”
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