The First Shed Read the story of where the name Chickenshed came from. Local landowner Lady Elizabeth Byng presided over the 2,500-acre estate of Wrotham Park, just a few miles up the road in Barnet. A neo-Palladian pile built in 1754 for Admiral John Byng, it’s now popular with film directors – scenes from Vanity Fair, Jane Eyre and Bridget Jones’s Diary were shot there – and when Jo Collins, one of Chickenshed's founders, first visited she was invited to take tea in the dining room, now familiar from Gosford Park. ‘She could only afford to heat one room and she opened the door wearing several jumpers, an overcoat and Wellington boots. But she had a maid, and the sideboard was laid out with beautiful napery, and China tea, India tea, coffee scones, all different types of jam – just for the two of us! ‘She asked if we were going to do Rock* again, and I explained that we wanted to do more things like it, but the problem was that the church hall was off-limits and what could we do? She asked how she could help and I said we’d like a barn and did she have anything on any of her farms. “I’ve got just the very thing – a chicken shed.” I didn’t even know what a chicken shed was and I thought she’d lost it a bit, but I humoured her and she suggested we go and see it there and then.’ Lady Elizabeth drove her bright yellow BMW ‘like a maniac’ down a winding road to her farm, where there stood three wartime sheds. ‘What about this?’ she asked, showing Jo inside one of them, its dirt floor strewn with straw and feathers. ‘I said it would be brilliant – but how much? And she said we could have it, though of course there was no paperwork. We were there for several years until she died.’ With help from friends, parents and young thespians, all trace of chickens was soon banished: a floor was laid, the inside painted. The burgeoning drama group now had a home. ‘The kids would say, “We’re going to the chicken shed” – and the name just stuck.’ *Rock was a musical based, like Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar, on the Gospels. It was written by Jo, and had been performed at Vita et Pax church. Lady Elizabeth Byng had come to see every single performance of the run. This information is an excerpt from An Awfully Big Adventure, written by Liz Thomson to mark Chickenshed’s 40th Anniversary year which you can purchase from our Shop.