Vardos of the United Kingdom
Picture Library

Rare Bill Wright Reading
- The great Yorkshire builder made very few reading-types vardos, and this one is a masterpiece, now overseas. It was once owned by the Lees familia.
Photo courtesy of Black Forest Shires.

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Ref Vardo History County


In beautiful blue. An unusual coloured waggon, nicely decorated on traditional spoked wheels.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.



Fine example of a lovely bowtop waggon, beautifully decorated on traditional wheels, with S steps. On display at WoodFest 2005.

Pictures courtesy of  A. Davies.

St Asaph,
North Wales WoodFest



Lovely maroon body with cream scroll decor on rubber-tyred spoked wheels. Very tidy vardo.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn.


Openlot Bowtop

Red body with yellow unders. Nice example with shafts, ladder and spoked wheels.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


Traditional Bowtop

With spindle racks and S steps, blending into the natural surrounds. Paintwork is green body and yellow underworks, with some nice pony art to the door and pan box. On spoked wheels.


Pictures courtesy of Unkn.



Excellent example of a Bill Wright-style window and door bowtop. Beautifully decorated in crimson and cream.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


Openlot Bowtop "Orangimoon"

Bill Wright-style openlot. Completely rebuilt top on restored original unders from an early Wright's bowtop. The axles are stamped 1890. There are spindle boxes or racks on the body and an unusual oakleaf carving with original boars teeth on the rear. Decoration includes Celtic scroll-work to the front lower panel. This waggon required the old artwork being removed and then complete redecoration. Nice bowtop.

Pictures courtesy of  Stef & Mi & Kevin.




Stunning Bill Wright style, beautifully decorated in green, cream and gold leaf.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


Openlot Bowtop

Lovely green and cream openlot, well decorated, sheltering indoors.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


Openlot Bowtop

Nice openlot in crimson and yellow, with piebald pony travelling the drom. Lovely to see.

Pony is called Ivy and has now emigrated to Australia.

Picture courtesy of Mandy Gardner.



Window and door style, on original base with new top built 2 years ago. Working Queenie stove, shafts, pan box, carriage lamps, pneumatic tyres on artillery wheels, and well curved steps. Finished in green and cream, and very well decorated.

Picture courtesy of  Elaine.



Window and door type. Balanced decoration, not over done, in a timeless style - painted up in maroon and cream on spoked wheels.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


Unique and Unusual 2-Wheeled Bowtop

Built completely from scratch on flat cart setup. Completed June 2005.

Fits horse 15 hands. Iron-tyred 31.5" wheels. Bent shafts. Painted red with pale yellow underworks. Fully functional vehicle for 1 or 2 people or a nice addition to any collection. Dimensions: 6'2" long x 4'6" wide x 5'4" high inside. Includes sliding bed which will sleep up to a 5'10" person. May be the only one of its kind!

Courtesy of  picture owner.




Window and door front, very neat and clean. Decorated in a rich deep green with spacious floral art nouveau type designs, on rubber tyres and artillery wheels.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.



Window/door front. Bright and boldly painted up in yellow with unusual green floral scrolls. Straight steps, shafts and artillery wheels.

It's good to see somebody adventurously flowing colours in a different direction.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn.


Openlot Bowtop

Classic example, with stunning decoration over a crimson top, and yellow unders on rubber tyres.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


Large 4x4 Vardo

New build vardo, made in 2005 by Jon Snow at his workshop with Robert Howell. Built on a Tabbert chassis, this rubber-tyred steel trailer was designed to be pulled by a van or large car.

Traditionally decorated by Sarah Farr, it was sold on to a family in Hertfordshire who use it for woodland skills courses.

Ideal continental travel wagon.

Picture courtesy of Jon Snow, Windy Smithy Workshops

To see more of Jon's wagons visit


Openlot Bowtop

Under roof. Awaiting decoration on maroon glossed body and cream unders. Should look good when decorated - be nice to see.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


Barrel-Top Waggon

Window and door type, glossed in light green and cream. S steps with shafts - excellent example.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


Reading Ledge Waggon

Made from scratch in a modern workshop. Interesting red and white design reminiscent of heraldic shields, with cream unders and spoke wheels.

Picture courtesy of Greg at Mike Rowland Wheelwrights & Coachbuilders.


The Famous Writer Roald Dahl's Vardo

One of Roald Dahl's sisters acquired this van in the 1950s, and he took it over in 1960. His children used the vardo as a playhouse, whilst Dahl wrote his books in it. One such book, Danny the Champion of the World, is about a boy and his father who live in a Gypsy caravan.

Information courtesy of Mrs Dahl and the
Roald Dahl Museum.



A John Rudderham of London showman's waggon

Built in 1906 for Swales Forrest, the renowned fairground proprietor of Gravesend Kent. Decades later, having seen better days, the waggon ended up in Altringham, Cheshire in an antique dealer's back garden.

The waggon was later acquired by the well known barge folk artist Tony Lewery in 1969/1970, who moved it with the lorry and trailer in the b/w photo. It has been in North Wales since 1979 after changing hands with a waggon dealer and being sold on, finally settling in the Welsh mountains.

Called "Shantilly", the waggon is once again under restoration and redecoration.

Special thanks to Maria Forrest and the Forrest family of  Kent, who are kindly helping with the family history, and to Tony Lewery, all of which is greatly appreciated.

Pictures courtesy of  Stef & Mi and Tony Lewery.



Burton Showman built by Orton & Spooner of Burton on Trent, Staffordshire. Previously owned by Roger Daltry of The Who!

Originally built about 1920 for Reuben Smith,
who sold it in 1973 to Roger Daltry. He had it restored by Alistair Campball in 1974-76. The interior of the wagon is rich in cut-glass and mahogany. The bed (at the rear) is pulled out by chrome handles beneath the sliding mirrored panels. The bed area has velvet-buttoned upholstery. There is a hostess stove with oven and surround of Dutch scenic tiles. The beautiful chromed "angel lamps" have red cranberry
cut-glass founts. The ceiling was painted by craftsman John Pockett.

Width: aprox 6 ft.
Length: aprox 12 ft.
Height: aprox 12 ft.
Weight about 35 cwt.

Special qualities
It has a special compartment - a hidden safe!

Pictures courtesy of Martin.


Reading-styled Vardo

Finished in green and cream, with S steps.

Photos courtesy of Scott.


Contemporary Vardo

Cheerfully finished in yellow and red, on wooden spoke wheels.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


A Rare Squarebow

Nicely painted in crimson and yellow, on rubber tyres.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn.


Unusual Waggon

Painted in maroon and cream, enjoying the views.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn.


An Early Tong of Bolton Showman's Waggon

Awaiting restoration, with some nice early carvings on the front panels and porch brackets.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn.


A Burton-type Waggon

Awaiting restoration.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


An Early Watts Waggon

Under restoration. Built on an unusual early rubber tyre assembly, with heavily carved panelling on the front.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn.


Reading-style Vardo

In dark green and cream and finished with gold leaf. Nicely shaped "S" steps. Fabulous example.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


Ledge Waggon

Yellow and red body with red undercarriage on traditional spoked wheels. Painted by John Pockett - an example of his early work.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


A lone monument

Echos back to the golden days of the vardos. This picture rokkers a thousand words.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn.



Early showman built around 1910 by Henry Jones of Hereford

This waggon was once owned by the well known Buckland fairground family of Northamptonshire. In 1970 master signwriter Kenneth Bethell decorated and restored the waggon. It's now in the process of being fully restored.

Lovely interior, with heavily designed acanthus carvings and original cut glass mirrors.

Pictures courtesy of  Stef & Mi.



Gypsy Trolley

A beautifully restored rare Gypsy trolley, decorated by a Romani artist.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


1950s Grinders Barrow

Not a vardo, but we thought this little painted barrow was so special that we put it in the gallery. 1950s grinders barrow, fully restored and owned by Gypsy Bert (Smith). He used to sit peddling away, wearing his bowler hat and waistcoat, sharpening tools and knives, etc.

Pictures courtesy of Gypsy Bert Smith.





Romany's Vardo 1921 - 1943

Belonged to the BBC Radio broadcaster Rev George Bramwell Evens, who is most famous for his broadcasts on BBC Children's Hour 'Out With Romany' programmes. His young friends Muriel and Doris along with animals Raq the dog and Comma the horse accompanied him on his weekly outings, often centred on the vardo. Romany was our first natural history broadcaster, the forerunner of, and inspiration for, David Attenborough and David Bellamy.

Picture courtesy of Phil Shelley/Romany Society.



Howcroft Showman Waggon

Body finished in green and gold leaf. Heavily carved throughout. Lovely example of Howcroft of Hartlepool.

Picture courtesy of Unkn.


Dunton Ledge Waggon

Beautifully restored to its original glory. Built in 1914 by the River Kennet at Crane Wharf. In full splendour and now on display in Reading's Riverside Museum.


Openlot Bowtop

Dating from the 1950's. The axles have the builder's stamp Watts & Sons, Pershore and Worcester. This vardo travelled around Wexford in Ireland in the 1950s and 60s and is still in use for holidays.

Restored with new canvas, paintwork and mahogany steps. Has a pull-out double bed, cupboards, drawers, and panbox at the rear. The wheels are newly built on the original axles and made from oak, ash and birch. On rubber tyres. Travels the drom with a lovely piebald.

Pictures courtesy of  Kieranna.

Newry, Ireland

Modern Handmade Bowtop

Unfinished project. Built with English ash, cedar and oak, and on modern rubber tyres.

Courtesy of picture owner.


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Gypsy caravans of the UK
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