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Gypsy caravans of the UK
Vardos of the United Kingdom
Picture Library 2
Vardo History County

Openlot - Bowtop

Smart red Openlot with fine fruit design on the sides and interior by Lol Thompson.  Cream kettlebox, undercarriage and spoke wheels, curved step. Lovely wagon.

Special thanks to John 'Pegman'.



Traditional bowtop "window n door style" on original spoke wheels and iron tyres.

Picture courtesy of Peter.



Original Fred Hill Showman

Wonderful maroon showman belonging to Arthur Gaskin from Bradford, originally built about 1889 by F Hill & Son of Swinefleet.  Design is black grapes, pink roses and golden leaves, with golden horses on the door panel and above the door.  Yellow undercarriage and kettlebox, plus spoke wheels.
Still rolling, it travelled to Appleby by road 2006

Special thanks to Arthur Gaskin.






Fully restored in 2003. In great condition and was originally purchased for a garden feature. Double bed, rear hay cratch, kettle box and quality shafts. Ready for decorating.

Picture courtesy of Matt.



Openlot - Bowtop

Crimson bowtop on artillery wheels with quaint leaded rear window set by rustic log cabin - they go together quite nicely in the woodlands.

Bowtop built in Ireland about 1940s.  Restored by Irish Gypsies before travelling to Devon and then to Wales in 2005. Beautifully carved and painted, with allusions to Irishness in its features. Presently used for holidays beneath the Black Mountains. 

Courtesy of Blaentrothy Holiday Cottages UK.



Openlot - Bowtop

Bought from Stoke-on-Trent about 1997 but wood was so rotten that it was set alight and only the iron works, springs, lamp brackets, etc were saved. A fresh wagon was then rebuilt over 7 years as a Wright's design Openlot.

Interior has a mahogany finish. A single bed pulls out to form a double. The table pulls out from under the bed, and there's plenty of cupboards and drawers. Under the canvas roof and above the ceiling material is felt carpet underlay.

All timber is penny farthing tongue and groove 2" wide, fastened to heavily chamfered 3/4" square frames. Paint work cream and green and finished with goldleaf. Cratch on the back with butterfly chamfers. Kettle box also to rear. Removable canvas curtain at front. Overall length 13 foot. Vardo in use on the road for holidays for family and friends.

Pictures courtesy of Graham.




Neat window and door bowtop finished in red and cream unders on artillery wheels, curved steps.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn


Openlot - Bowtop

Lovely maroon Openlot specially built and decorated by the Dugdales. The top section took 9 days "working into the midnight oil" to construct ready for painting up. Wagon painter Colin Dugdale uses a horsehead motif in his designs to signify his work. With wagon-building in the blood, the next generation is set to follow.

Very special thanks to Ian Binney and the Dugdale family.



Half Bowtop

Nice half bow finished in brown with cream unders on artillery wheels. Camped up in the green stuff.

With thanks to the owner.



Contemporary Bowtop

on "easy clean" wheels. Can be horse-drawn or motor-towed. Stained glass windows and exterior hand-painted floral decorations.

Inside has sleeping area for two plus seating area-cum-single bed. Gas oven/hob and grill, multi-fuel stove, and Ladlow antique tiles around the basin.

Picture courtesy of Ian.

West Sussex

Bowtop by F Hill and Son of Swinefleet

Beautifully finished in shades of greens, cream and goldleaf.

A fine example of an 85 year old bowtop, bought at Lincoln after being there for 30 years. It was recognised at Appleby 2006 by a lady who remembers the wagon as a child. Her grandfather had bought it from new for £150 all those years ago. Nice history.

This actual wagon can be seen in a b/white photo in the book  "The English Gypsy Caravan", with the little girl and the corner of a parked transit van.

Very special thanks to George Gaskin.




Openlot - Bowtop

beautifully decorated in shades of greens with gold. Grapes design with horsehead on the sides and intricate scroll work surround. Cream undercarriage and kettle box. Wooden spoked wheels on rubber tyres and curved steps.

Also smart traditional dray, well painted and lined out.

Very special thanks to Ely Smith and family.


W. Yorkshire

Bowtop built by Phillip Jowett

window and door type. Very eye-catching in striking dark green and goldleaf body, decorated with wooden carvings, exquisite gold scrolls on the front and gold horse on the door. Golden horsehead designs interwoven with gold scrollwork on paler green side panels. Beautifully finelined. Cream undercarriage and kettlebox, on wooden spoked wheels with iron tyres. A spectacular wagon.

Very special thanks to owner.



Openlot - Bowtop

Grey primed openlot, uppers built by Donald Robert Dugdale, base by Phillip and David Jowett. Awaiting painting by Stevie Powell. Lovely carvings on the front. Cream unders and kettlebox, wooden spoked wheels on rubber tyres.

Very special thanks to Glyn and family.



A nice pair of bowtops

- superbly decorated - nestling in the shade of the trees after a busy day at the fair.



Openlot - Bowtop

Nice openlot, brightly finished in yellow and red, resting in wooded glade.



A pair of nice bowtops and their horses at the end of a long June day.

Thanks to John Legge.



Openlot - Bowtop

Cheerful red and yellow openlot built by Phillip Jowett of Bradford; uppers made and painted by the Dugdales. Yellow, cream and mauve scrollwork framing initials JH on the sides. Yellow kettlebox painted with horse faces. Rope design on the hubs. Can be pulled by 1 or 2 horses.

Very special thanks to John Legge.




Door and window bowtop on top of a Scottish dray built by James Barrie of Glasgow about 50 years ago. Before "rolling the road" it was stored in a shed for 15 years. Lovely maroon, cream and flame-coloured design on the body, with Lemington legend at the back and JS initials on the kettlebox. Swan-neck springs front and back, and yellow spoke wheels.

Very special thanks to John Legge.



Half Bowtop

finished in maroon and red, with mauve and green artwork and white lining. Yellow kettlebox and unders on artillery wheels. Recently bought at Bradford.

Special thanks to Kevin and Mark.



Minature Bowtop

Unique hand-crafted miniature bowtop Gypsy caravan. Nicely painted.

Picture courtesy of Darren and friend.


Rare Wrights Pot Cart Bowtop .

Rare Wrights pot cart bowtop, one of only a handful left in existence today. 120 years old and built by H & A Wright, Rothwell Haigh. Stunningly decorated in green with gold leaf and cream unders - a fine wagon and a credit to the owner. Previously part of the William Lee Collection, now in North East England.

Special thanks to Mr Harker.



Stunning Bowtop painted by Ian Stanton

decorated in maroon with green, cream and orange scrolling. Cream unders with initials CG on kettlebox.  Curved steps and spoke wheels.



Impressive Reading waggon from 1896

Maroon body with cream, green and red scrolls. Pierced porch brackets. Cream unders. Based in Scotland now but previously travelled the UK.

(Editor's favourite wagon.)

Special thanks to Mr Raleigh.


John O'Groats


Rebuilt window and door bowtop in excellent order, complete with stove and rear bay window. Painted up in maroon top and cream unders on spoked wheels.

Picture courtesy of Hugh, Gypsy Caravans UK.


Kite-shaped waggon

Originally at Appleby on a small trolley above easy clean wheels. Wood-stained body decorated with chamfered ribs of yellow, cream, red and blue. White roof with red, white and blue archway.

Purchased in 2011 by a new owner and now settled in Yorkshire with a different colour scheme.  Look out for it at Appleby.


North Yorkshire


on artillery wheels, finished in red top with cream unders.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn



Built on a London dray by Mel about 2001.  Recently travelled from South Yorkshire to settle down on an island.

Picture courtesy of Mel.

Isle of Wight

Traditional Bowtop

well decorated with floral scrolls and colourful unders.

Picture courtesy of Hugh, Gypsy Caravans UK.



recently still used and lived in. For the past ten years was on the roads of the west country. Now being restored smartly.

Picture courtesy of Sean.


Openlot - Bowtop

with attractive scrollwork.

Picture courtesy of Hugh, Gypsy Caravans UK.


Late 1940s Showman's waggon

24ft long. Separate bedroom with bow-fronted dressing table and large double bed. Lounge area with stove, sofa/bed, dropleaf writing bureau. Kitchen area with gas hob and gas fridge.

Picture courtesy of Hugh, Gypsy Caravans UK.


William Wheeler Showman's waggon

built around 1930. Restored and awaiting decoration. Very ornate with lots of carvings.

Picture courtesy of Sean.



King of  Wisbeach Showman's waggon

built around 1930's. Beautifully restored to its original colours with gold leaf on carving - lovely wagon.

Picture courtesy of Sean.


Thomas of Chertsey Showman's van

built around 1935. Now fully restored to its original colours.

Picture courtesy of Sean.

Whoopee Waggon

Traditionally called the whoopee waggon by the romani fokendi they were often seen in the 1950s at appleby and stowfair. With todays busy roadways making horsedrawn travel virtually impossible the whoopee is in revival - unusual builds of all shapes and sizes - a compromise to the tradition Bowtop. What defines a Whoopee? basically the unders they are always built on steel trailer chassis running on car tyres and towed by motor vehical.

This one is a new build in traditional style on single axle caravan chassis for modern day transportation. Specially strengthened for travelling behind a vehicle. Dimensions: 11ft long excluding drawbar, 8ft high, 7ft at widest point of bow. Exterior woodwork painted in red undercoat, one coat in white primer, and two coats of undercoat. Interior has natural wood finish and roof lining in Laura Ashley floral design. Traditional pull out single to double bed. Bay window in front wall. Rear end stable door and detachable lighting board. Exterior woodwork intricately chamfered by hand. Neat job Barny!

Picture courtesy of Barny.


Barrel Top waggon

Full-size barrel-top waggon, 70 years old. New canvas 2005. Nicely balanced decoration with a traditional feel, finished in green and red with cream unders, curved steps, trad spoked wheels recently rebuilt, and shafts. Inside is gold and red upholstery plus Queenie stove.

Once travelled the drom around Hereford and Worcester, more recently Shropshire.

Picture courtesy of George.


Openlot - Bowtop

traditional openlot painted in maroon and nicely decorated. Cream unders on spoked wheels, curved steps and shafts.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn


Pair of excellent Bowtops

on the left original Bill Wright Bowtop built in Rothwell Haigh in 1900. In lovely restored condition with s steps, finished in dark green with cream unders and awaiting decoration. On the right is a quality Jowett  wagon with maroon top and cream unders, fully decorated.

Pictures: special thanks to Tom.

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