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Vardos of the United Kingdom
Picture Library 5
Vardo History County


William Wheeler Showman's waggon

Stunning Example from this famous waggon maker - built around 1930. Fully restored and beautifully finished in crimson lake and cream Very ornate with plenty of carvings and curliques with gold leaf.

Picture courtesy of  Albert




King of  Wisbeach Showman's waggon

built around 1930's. Beautifully restored to its original Brunswick green colours - red and yellow ribs and gold leaf on carving - Nice waggon.

Pictures courtesy of Albert


Miniture Bowtop

Beautiful miniature window and door Bowwtop handmade by an elderly traveller in traditional style.

Size: 6' Long, 4' Wide, 6.5' Tall


Picture courtesy of Helred


Showman - Burton Type

Florel Panelled fronted showman with matchboard and ribbed sides and rear, spot florel carvings to the body and rear. simple and tasteful frost etched leaf design to all the glass, Decorated in deep crimson Lake and cream. Acanthus carved front/rear  weather boards and carved shallow porch brackets, The highlight of this burton has to be its elegant 22 spindle bowed cratch.


Picture courtesy Ukn


Square Bow

Finished in crimson on cream wheels this unusual ledged square bow sits snug with its spindled porch brackets.  Greyhound motifs on the body sides and subtly decorated in florel scroll with nicely chamfer timbers to finishes.


Picture courtesy Ukn


A Jessee Pollit early English Showman
Road-a-Rail waggon

Owned now by the Wyeld Brothers, Olly acquired this beraggled showmans waggon a few years ago.  It was originally offered to him by a teacher who had it in his garden for the children to play in!  Although Olly initially turned the vardo down he went back a few years later to see if it was still there, but it wasn't, the teacher having given it to someone else nearby.  So after some discussion he managed to buy it from the chap!

The restoration of the Pollitt wagon was done by Robert a retired friend of his who trained as a cabinet maker. Sadly the craftsman died a couple of weeks ago.

History  - Jessee Pollit owned a steam boiler yard in Lever Street in Bolton, Lancashire from c.1862 and was thriving in the 1910s.  As well as making boilers, he built road-rail waggons 16-18' long, with wide solid rubber tyres, and weighing 1-2 tons. 

In the mid 1800s carriages were being carried on flatbed railstock throughout Britain via the steam railway but early Showman vans were the wrong shape: they were too tall to go under tunnels and bridges!  Some roofs were lowered, but then the vans were too low to live in.  The alternative was to lower the underworks and use smaller wheels, but often waggons were still high at the front because of turntables.

A grand example of a waggon restoration and a credit to Olly's effort - "Where there's wood there's a way". Just shows what can be saved even today.

A worthy memorial to the cabinet maker "Robert "

Pictures special thanks to "Olly"
Wyeld Brothers



Window and door style - beauitfully restored to a professional standard - traditional colours and decorations with nice coloured Pony motiff to the door - rear bay  window and cratch - wooden spoked wheels on rubber tyres. This is a lovely little vardo.


Pictures special thanks to John


Bowtop - Under construction!

Bare timbers showing - these pictures were taken of an open lot being built by a romani Pral who builds and restores vardos using all the traditional methods -he has over 10 waggons being restored.

If anyone has a complete set of quality photos we can display to show the various differents stages of how a Bowtop waggon is constructed please contact us.

Special thanks to Les Robinson and Pral


Leisure Waggon?

The original trolly was probably a small commercial dray - made by the coach builder whites of Arundel /south coast approximately 1888/1890. A road workers waggon was more than likely the outcome for this build however between 1915/30 the dominance of the motor vehicle ended the golden days of horse drawn vehicles and the waggon was probably "laid up" like the majority of them were - folk struggled to give them away! 

Then at some point its looks like it was converted into a small leisure waggon or day van probably to be used on quieter roads for a day out in the country. it sounds fitting and nostalgic!  ---------- either way only the waggon knows its secret past - as all vardos do! 

The waggon is now under restoration deep in the Welsh countryside.

Pictures courtesy  David

North Wales

Bowtop - Built by Tommy Gaskin

Very Neat Bowtop window and door style - She was built around 1957 by Tommy Gaskin.  All his original decoration was preserved inside, along with the original silks, and the outside paintwork was faithfully copied by Nick Dow during his 2006 restoration.  This vardo now lives in a garden in Northern Ireland, where she provides much needed extra work-space for a writer.

Picture special thanks to Jo

Northern Ireland

Bowtop - built by Hirst Brothers circa 1918

Uriah Hirst of Woodlesford, Yorkshire once worked for Bill Wright. He then set up on his own making wagons almost indentical to the Wright Waggons. This is the finest one to survive. Window and door type, adorned with gold leafed carvings and beautifully decorated

Pictures courtesy of  Don


Bowtop - Openlot

Newly built on original solid undercarriage,
new lock, pan box, runners and a brand new top. Hand crafted in only quality timbers and all joinery made from ash, piranha pine , beech and a lttle oak.

Generously painted in a deep rich crimson lake with partly decorated artwork of bright red, green and gold just ready for someone to finish off the finer detailed curlicues - over all a great new bowtop for someone's dream.

Pictures courtesy of  Walt



Wainfleet Square-bow

Believed to  have been built around 1940's in Lincolnshire and known as a Wainfleet Living Waggon.

This lovely squarebow was used throughout 2006 and was seen regularly around the Lincoln area. Its green body sits proudly on red artillery wheels with pneumatic tyres and it was fitted with a new canvas early 2006.

Pulled along by a cute small cob . A queenie stove enlightens the interior to make cups of meski on and keep the cold at bay. It looks well travelled going from the interior - either way nostalgic and atmospheric to say the least.
Thats what we like to see! 

But lets not forget to mention the hanging clanging brasses and pots in the bedroom.

A simple waggon with a taste of real traveller themes about it.

Internal height 6ft, width 5ft 8", length 11ft.
Total height from floor to top of canvas 8ft 8" plus another 18" for the chimney.

Pictures special thanks to Doug and family.



Nice window and door style bowtop decorated in dark green. Bought 20yrs ago. Fitted with new tyres about 10 years ago (not used on road).

Picture courtesy of Terry


Unknown Showman's Waggon.
Once lived in by two circus dwarfs?

Does anyone recognise this waggon!

Burton showman's waggon circa 1910? which is now undergoing lenghty restoration work since the photos.

The waggon was in a very poor state when it first arrived - now trevor and his good lady are painstakingly rebuilting the old waggon back to its former glory . Located in Cornwall the previous owners brought it down there from a farm in Dorset or Hampshire many years ago.

Its once was adored with very distinctive carvings especially the interior as you can see though sadly some of the carving have been stripped out of the van and are decorating someones house in spain! Rumour has it that the waggon was once owned many moons ago by two circus dwarfs.

A reknowned south england vardo rai examine the waggon and although there is 'Hoad & Sons of Kingswood, Portsmouth on the hub caps he says he believed Hoads only made the

Do you recognise the waggon?
if so can you enlighten trevor if you know any of its history.
  Please email gypsywaggons- he would be extremely greatful.

Picture courtesy of Trevor & good lady


Bowtop - Bill Wrights Style

Fine example of a Bill Wrights Bowtop Painted by the hand of Nick Dow its beautifully finished in dark coach enamel, light green points and lines, cream unders with red trims and richly worked throughout in gold leaf.
Note the coach lamps - isn t it good to see them on a finished waggon - "a vardo without lamps is like a gundog without ears"!

Picture courtesy of Nick Dow
Ingham & Fallon

North Of England

Shepherds huts and Road Workers Waggons?

We thought we put this waggon on the site just to show the different contrast between what a shepherds hut / roadworkers waggon may look like against a gypsy waggon as we ve had a few enquires over this recently from waggon owners new to the subject. Anyway Jims about to give it a new lick of coach enamel to capture the spirit of the van once more!

Picture courtesy of Jim


Openlot Bowtop - R W Hodgson of Halifax

The top was re-built in the 1960s by late maestro waggon decorator Jim Berry.
A typical tradition style openlot

Picture courtesy of Tom & Elizabeth


Pollitt Showman Waggon

Circa 1905 & built for the showman Holmes of the North of England with the initials JH in the glass

The wagon has a front entrance into the living room, a full size bedroom beyond. At the rear is a pair of double doors to a separate packing area. The canvass tilts and the games and swag would be carried in here. The frame of the stalls would be carried on the outside of the wagon on 3 brackets that slid out from under the van on each side, This style of wagon was built by several Northern wagon builders.

At one time the fore carriage was moved to the rear of the wagon, and a fixed kitchen extension built over the entrance door. The extension has since been removed and the fore carriage returned to its original position. The horses head porch brackets are classic to Pollitt waggons, The exterior was originally woodgrained, with painted and gilded panels and carvings on the front end.

The waggon has spent several decades in Shropshire and is now part of the Harris & Scrivens collection.  Restoration work currently in progress.
Picture courtesy of Simon Harris
Harris & Scrivens Collection

Showman's Waggon

Surrounded in unison by a bright colourful blue bed of "forget me nots" this cheerful looking little showman is far from forgotten - for Clare keeps her vardo well oiled and glossed up against the Cornish sea breeze of the summer months on her beach car park field.

Imagine the "forget me nots" carrying on "painted" up the side of the waggon, if you coloured the waggon green you'd never know it was there!

Be a job though trying to find the waggon in the dead of night, especially after a few jars of local potent scrumpy! But then youv'e got the bushes to sleep in.

Perhaps best keep it white. --- either way, cute van!

Picture courtesy of Trevor n Jackie and appreciation to Clare!


Burton Waggon, c.1910

A well travelled Burton style Showman’s van .  The showman-Burton is characterised by its under body wheels rather then the wheels running outside of the body like the reading style vans, This example has nicely carved porch brackets and its original paint work. It has very little carving to the body. Broad waistboard in blue and green.

This waggon was acquired by Luton Museums in 1983 in poor condition, having travelled between Luton, Leighton Buzzard and Aylesbury before the Second World War.

Picture courtesy of Luton Museums.


Burton Style Waggon

A rather unusual and plain Burton type waggon, the makers unknown, circa probably early 1900s. It has a distinct flat plan roof rounded to the body, adorned with a small mollicroft to finish. Brightly decorated in cream/yellow and red with spot floral motif decoration to the lower body and more traditional decor to the unders.

This vardo probably started its life with travelling showmen moving about a local fairground circuit, then swopping hands with gypsy travellers, and eventually ending its travelling days to retire in the Luton Museum - one of the luckier waggons!

Pictures courtesy of Luton Museums


Bow Top body

This cheerful Bowtop body is unfortunately minus its unders and on loan to Luton Museums from the Luton Hoo Estate.

Pictures courtesy of Luton Hoo Estate and Luton Museums.


Early Classic & Traditional Bowtop

One of the few old boys left !  A very authentic and classic example of a traditional early bowtop, unders in cream and body in dark and light green. The exterior decoration is of acanthus design, and the waggon is lined out in cream and finished in gold leaf.  A horseshoe motif adorns the bodyside between the florals.

Age has to be respected, and the ash hoops and laths have seen better days in the middle of the Bow - nevertheless this is a piece of history on wheels. It would be a sad day if every old bent piece of timber on these old waggons was replaced by fresh and new just because it was ageing.

These classic waggons really are timeless museum relics.

It looks the part and is without doubt a piece of old nostaligic magic! 

Pics special thanks to -  Jane



Openlot in the Black Mountains

This Openlot Bowtop was lovingly restored by Irish Gypsies.  It is now used as a holiday caravan and has settled down in a field on a sheep farm, with views towards the Black Mountains of Wales.

Inside are a Queenie stove, pull-out double bed, and a cupboard-bed beneath for a small child.

Pictures courtesy of Greg of Under the Thatch.


1924 Wood Brothers Bowtop

Bowtop build by Wood Bros of Wingate about 1924 on existing dray and restored in 2006.

Now a holiday caravan nestling in an acre of riverside meadow.  Traditional interior includes a pot-belly stove, double bed, seating and cupboards.

Pictures courtesy of Greg of Under the Thatch.



Window and door style bowtop, Pulled in the picture by a piebold cob , Beautiful red body decorated with lovely bold acanthus scrolls finelined. A Horses head within a horseshoe motif adorns the side middles and door of the bowtop. Newly built 3 years ago - built to original specification.

Pictures courtesy of Mr Ian Horstwood.


Bowtop - New build

A blank canvas and ready for decoration this little fellows iching for some colours and then the Drom, window and door style bowtop . on artillery wheels.

Pictures courtesy of Bill Smith.


Showman 1920s - Burton Style

Hidden amongst the green stuff - Semi Panelled with mollicroft roof and ready for restoration.

Great restoration project, In good condition for its age! .

Length: 12 ft.
Width: 6ft
Height: 14 ft

Pictures courtesy of cedric



cream unders and on artillery wheels, interior shows off the interesting lath roof construction to a light florel patterned fabric and the woodwork finished in woodstain.


Pictures courtesy of UKN


Modern Build - Showman's waggon

A solid example of a recently built showman by carpenter Ben - this waggon project is nearly completed.

The waggon's base and wall frames are  constructed of Latvian redwood.
with walls insulated with Celotex and clad with 9mm exterior ply on the exterior and 6mm ply on the interior.

Floor boards are of oak cut into an interlocking wavy pattern. The first level of roof is of 9mm ply laid on oak ribs at 450mm centres
which are tenoned into oak beams these carry the mollycroft windows which are also constructed of oak.
The upper level of roof consists of 50mm wide oak tongue and groove which is laid on oak ribs set at 450mm centres. It has bay windows (in oak) at either end. All internal and external joinery is also constructed in oak.

The interior of the waggon is now completed but the exterior clearly still requires its final finishing touches.- weatherboards, porch brackets Belly boxes, Wheel arches and the maestro artists brush for decoration. buts its a bold attempt for a modern reproduction and when finshed will make a lovely waggon.  - Kushti Booti Ben!

Pictures courtesy of Ben & Polly


Early Reading - Kite Waggon

Supposedly the earliest know vardo of its kind in existence today , the top photo of this aged kite waggon (no mollicroft ) was taken at greenfield, in North Wales in the early 90s whilst under restoration.,

The waggon - believed to have originated from  Lincolnshire can now be seen back in its homeland where it rests in peace at Gordon Boswells Museum. 

It still has its original rare brass cowled
"Colchester" Stove - aka "dozing Policeman",

The vardo is of simple decoration in crimson lake and primrose theme with flashes of green and bright reds,  porch brackets again plain for the period with heavy acanthus leaf design laid on.

An icon of all Vardos!

Top photo courtesy of Janet Davies Holywell.
Bottom courtesy of Gordon Boswell /Museum .


Bowtop- Openlot

Newly completed open lot Built by Frank. B early 2007 and ready for trip to appleby , the interiors finished nice and light with flash mirrored doors and the traditional queenie stove. Waggons on artillery wheels. Great build.

Pictures courtesy of Frank



A Quality traditional built waggon - window n Door type , finished in a rich crimson red and cream unders

This lovely classic vardo shows off some stunning decoration , tastefully balanced with light floral scrolls and curlicues to each panel, its got excellent inter-ribbed carvings finished in gold making the front of this waggon stand out above most!

The rest of the bowtops of the same nature, with bunches of  grapes and leaf  design on the side ribs and chamfered fellow on the wheels.

Lovely example of UK Vardo.!


Pictures courtesy of Ukn


'Bill Wright Pot Waggon? 

Under construction is this Pot Waggon, all hardwood timbers carefully handcrafted and that's a lot of ribs! Not many people today attempt building these unusual pot waggons - with so much "tapestry of wood" you can sense why. Wooden wheels would be the icing on the cake.

Usually shaped like a boat - in days gone by they were used by gypsies to hawk around pots from the potteries before the canals arrived. The traditional openlot waggon were so familiar with today developed from these early carts and very few of the original pots waggons now exist - being extremely rare.


Pictures courtesy of Steven



Window and door style bowtop with a wood finished front and rear - deep burgundy red body sides and richly coloured yellow unders this waggons on easy klene wheels. Bought from a gypsy family in Peter Lee and with one trip to Appleby horse fair last year under its belt is ready for more of the drom.

Pictures courtesy of Martin

South Yorkshire


Full size waggon - window and door style, fully restored and freshly decorated in deep burgundy, creams and greens with an interesting well decorated minty interior.


New shafts and steps in matching paintwork on original drey chassis, Queen Anne Stove,
Pull Out Bunks,New Canvas Roof ,Fine Artwork Inside & Out, Coach Lines with Colts Heads Fighting Cocks on the Exterior and Fruit Bowls on the interior . A Quality built waggon.

Pictures courtesy of UnKn



This waggon is truely a little gem - an outstanding example. 

Crimson lake body with cream unders, and the art decoration is beautiful and balanced, two tones of red make this waggon cherry & fruitful to the eyes.

Excellent scroll work throughout, inter ribbed carvings give it some subtle and physical depth. All the waggon is nicely lined out .

Its has a great shaped rounded bay window , twin colt heads on the kettle box, and bowls of fruit on the inner front doors panels.


The interior equally embraces a style but one of dare we say " victorian" design - William Morris type fabric and brush grained light wood panels meeting darkwood grained well chamfered framework.

The lucky queenie stove is perhaps feeling well and truely at home in this little travellers waggon. A brass trimmed fender squares the hearth off amongst the red carpet and the interior woodwork shows off classic Acanthus scrolls on every panel with flashes of green to break up the reddish tones and its all rustically tied together by subtle light finelines.

With a glowing evening sunset shinning in through the tiny panes of the bay window you would I'm sure feel like you were in a cherry and and chocolate heaven. Quaint little waggon if ever there was one.


Pictures courtesy of UnKn





The 4x4 Bowtop?

Built approximately 8 years ago on a farm dray and perhaps not as dainty as a bill wright bowtop, a waggon of this build has some really great advantages for the tougher "day to day " practical use . Much more suited for standing out in all weather on rough grass fields where wooded spoked wheels would deteriorate in a fraction of the time, These tyres were specially moulded for the waggons rims. Deep porched for extra protection and shallow sided panels - the "bows water" will do little harm to the sides of the waggon. Simply decorated for easy maintenance and no " watch my goldleaf" worries , this vardo would brush off any hawthorns!

Deep blue-red body with decorated chamfers, a solid practical waggon for road and roughground !

Pictures courtesy UnKn



A Stunning  bowtop waggon, one of a few in scotland - window and door style. Built and decorated by Alan Jamieson 5 years ago its simply quality craftmanship throughout , the traditional unders are based on a Bill Wrights potcart he once owned and the decoration is equally breathtaking especially when you see it close up.

Alan (once a signwriter) definately made his mark decorating this vardo - body in Crimson lake , delicate inter ribbed scrolls weaving up the front and rear panels in cream n greens, chamfers in goldleaf, cherry and greens.  Cherry red scroll work on the door - dashed with whispers of  white surrounding the prancing goldleafed horse.
Token green floral carvings lightly adorn the waggon with two bunches of grapes by the top door corners. Side Panels neatly boxed out and scrolled around a colts head - this vardo is tastefully settled down with fine lines throughout.

The spindle cages speak back in cream with bands of red to match the swan neck steps and equally enchanted unders.  Some Vardo!

Pictures special thanks to Alan

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Gypsy caravans of the UK