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Vardos of the United Kingdom
Picture Library 6
Vardo History County

Thomas  of  Chertsey   - Showman

A neat solid showman's waggon built by
F J Thomas of Chertsey, Surrey. He was noted for his excellent craftsmanship on the unders. Thomas also made swingboats, roundabouts and other fair ground equipment. His waggons were extremely practical, very robust in design, yet somewhat plain with few decorations - apart from the usual chamfers and carved porch brackets. As you can see, Alan J echoed this fact some years ago in his restoration of this Thomas vardo - with beautiful unders and plainer body, a great example of a Thomas of Chersey waggon finished in striking red and cream.

Picture courtesy of  Alan J


- fit for the Taj Mahal ?

With looks of emperor India - a small elephant in the shafts of this scrollous waggon would nt look much out of place in any scene from "Alexander the Great " as the war lord marches back along the silk route home to egypt.

No expense was spare when this striking bowtop was reconstructed . Completely rebuilt its was eventually finished in 2002 using the original unders and ironwork, keeping where possible to all the original pattern, modern ash, & maranti pine was used as timber replacements and a full set of wheels was made up by a local wheelwright.

Frank and his friend Arthur both work in there spare time in the theatre and film industry , they wanted to stamp there own curvasious identity on this bowtop and they certainly succeeded - the waggon displays unusual carving on the exterior body boards and the bay windows and kettle box are shapely and styled different to.

There's a nicely featured cratch on the rear and brass coach lamps to the waggon front and back,

The interior has cut glass handles imported from india, poppy red and green stained glass windows and elegant floral patterned ceiling, There's a spindled bed rail and mirrored cupboard doors, pleated primrose silks drape the both sides and window and the queenie stove sits amongst heavy well executed curlicues,

Frank used a special type of high quality oil based paint on the waggon and though the manufactures pigment are slightly muted the colours and artwork work do create an almost asian feel about the waggon and this bowtop could park comfortably next to the Taj Mahal.

Pictures courtesy of Frank



Traditional Tommy Gaskin Bowtop - Openlot

Originally built by Tommy Gaskin he was one of the few romani waggon builders of his day . he made simple bowtops often constructed on redundant 4 wheeled drays mainly to serve his fellow travellers - they were nothing over the top or elaborate yet ornate enough to catch the eye, this is typical of a dray conversion and has excellent traditonal unders.

The bowtop was in storage for  some years before being restored and brought back from the brink of firewood again by frank and his friend.

Picture courtesy of 



Bowtop - window an door style built on a Norfolk Dray by Alan Jamieson. The waggon was later sold on and horsed to Appleby from Scotland, but now believed to be down the south of England.  Very neet construction, body colour in primrose yellow with red scroll work, chamfers in green and red, and beautifully lined out.

A single gold-leafed lion head peers from the porch at the prancing horse on the door.

Picture courtesy of  Alan J


Info to Follow

Picture courtesy of 

Bowtop Openlot

A new build openlot - quality craftsmanship and materials have gone into the construction of  this bowtop, and on closer inspection you would clearly see what these photos can't show.

At first glance the waggon just looks like a normal quality build, but what becomes apparent when you look closely is the waggon has very few unstyled straight edges left - instead it oozes throughout with sweeping curves and deep soft chamfers, including the felloes of  the wheels.

The waggon's now presenting itself for the "artist's hand" - a quality decorator, nothing less.  If decorated to a high standard, this vardo could look rich and vibrant, and it will be good to see what it looks like finished.

Picture courtesy of Gary

Co Durham

Bowtop - Openlot

On the drom - a practical rubber tyre openlot sways along a summers lane pulled by a dark feathered cob.  Red body, cream unders, on white artillery wheels.  Artwork includes unusual leaping hare motif on the body panels darting through an intricate fine floral design.  Plenty of butterfly chamfers throughout in green and red.

Picture courtesy of Jay R



Window n door style - built and decorated around 20 years ago on an Irish trolley by Alan Jamieson.  Crimson red and pale cream.


Picture courtesy of  Alan J



This little wanderer of the drom is awaiting restoration.  Believed to be originally from the north of England, this waggon finally ended up in the south amongst the rosebuds of a garden, where sadly it  began to deteriorate.

Now rescued, it is finally awaiting a full restoration.  The faded and dimmed decoration peels away in lifeless time but not before giving away its creator - the late Vardo/Rai Artist Tom Stevenson, whose fine delicate whispers of enamel burst out into floral scroll before tapering back into a fine stem, only to burst out again, again and again.

Picture courtesy of  Glenn


Bowtop in Memory

A typical example of a bowtop without the canvas.

This particular waggon has been under going extensive restoration work - the body is completely new  - reconstructed on original unders.

Once owned by a family of Romani - "Loveridges" - it travelled the West Country Gloucester region. At some stage it was sold on to a family of  "Smith" travellers, believed bought in Sussex.

This waggon was currently undergoing a new lease of life from owner Alf with some excellent quality assistance from his professional cabinet maker friend. However whilst working on the project the cabinet maker sadly passed away and Alf could no longer face the project - so he reluctantly decided to sell the waggon/project on to be finished by a third party.

Alfred's photos are dedicated to his cabinet maker pral!

Pictures courtesy of Alfred



Window and door style bowtop built by Mike Fisher last year (2006) over the months of April and May. Having already built a dray, he then decided using this as a base to build on.

On top of the deep red body colour a beautifully painted gyspy waggon cameo adorns the door, with wild bird pictures standing guard either side. The side panels also carry cameos of Gypsy waggons, whilst a bird swoops in on the back. The stunning artwork was painted by Lawrence, a canal boat painter - and the scrollwork and chamfers were painted by a young lady art student, Jo.

Possibly making a debut at Appleby this year for a sale. A very nice wagon fitted out inside, bunk bed, side seats, etc. Pan box, shafts and new tyres.

Pictures courtesy of Mike Fisher



This window n door style bowtop was built around 1993-1994 by Nick Bastable of Dorset on some underworks he bought. It took a year to complete. The paintwork on the waggon is still the original decoration Nick put on, nice to see it's lasted a good few years - a rich deep red body and splashes of colour from the scrollwork and chamfers. This waggon sits proudly on cream unders and artillery wheels.

It was bought by it's present owner from an auction in the mid 1990's

Info courtesy of Sam
Pictures courtesy of John


Romany Bowtop Living Wagon

This window and door style Bowtop is standing on a John Willy dray which is 30yr old. Majestically painted in colours of green, gold and cream and decorated with intricate scrollwork and dancing horse motif on the door, horse head motifs intwined with scrollwork adorn the side panels. Beautifully lined.

In fantastic condition and ready to roll. A real eyecatcher.

Pictures courtesy of Billy Dunn


Irish Holiday Waggon

This is a typical example of a Gypsy style caravan built in Ireland specifically for the holiday trade and is over 50 years old. It has been in constant use since the 1990's for the holiday business by White Horse Gypsy Caravans.

Pictures courtesy of Polly Carson
White Horse Gypsy Caravans



Bowtop Gypsy Caravan

This window and door style bowtop originally started life as a 1930's Birmingham Co-op milk float. It was believed to be converted around the 1940's by a Romany gypsy family who went on to bring up their 7 kids in it.

The present owner Phil experienced an amazing coincidence when the canvas roof was replaced about 3 yrs ago. Phil was put in touch with a professional, by word of mouth, to do the job for him. Who as it turned out, happened to be the original gypsy owner from all those years ago, with photos to show of when he owned 'Primrose' 

In need of a bit of touching up, 'Primrose' has a vibrant red body with playful scrolls and an Elizabethan looking, intricately cut front n back weatherboard

Pictures courtesy of Phil


Kite Waggon body

Only the body of this old gypsy waggon remains - placed on a trailer, it's probably been a while since this waggon was rolling the roads. Up until recently it has been used as a garden shed.

Pictures courtesy Martin


Bowtop - Openlot

Lovely deep plum body colour, broken up with green and red coloured chamfers running round the edges. Elaborate scrollwork fills in the spaces on the front and sides, entwined with licks of reds and green and fine lined in white, the open lot posts are cream with gold leaf chamfers, the whole lot sits on cream unders with wooden spoked wheels and the kettle box displays horse head motifs on the doors.

Pictures courtesy of Carl B

West Yorkshire


Beautifully hand painted inside and out, window and door style bowtop. With horse head motifs on the side panels and a scene of galloping horses on the door. Decorated with green scrolls and grape carvings, fined lined throughout.

Courtesy of JP



Red window n door type bowtop with green scrollwork, this colourful waggon was professionally painted in 2006. it has been neatly fine lined and has dancing horse motifs on the door and side panels

Pictures courtesy of Shaun


Unusual Wooden Sided Gypsy Waggon

Original gypsy waggon, restored to past glories, this wooden sided waggon sits on gun carriage wheels and is finely decorated, with its green body colour broken up by over 200 intricate carvings of grapes, horse's head and small flowers. Each one skillfully painted in crimson and gold leaf.

The front door shows off a rearing horse engraved and painted in gold leaf . The windows are draw shuttered and display etched detail including horse shoe and full horse's head on the centre windows, whilst the corner window panes are etched with grapes.

No expense has been spared inside either, richly coloured with red paintwork and adorned with gold leaf carvings. Beautiful gold satin bed hangings finish it off nicely.

Pictures courtesy of  Unkn



Exquisite cream scrolls decorate the door and side panels of this crimson and lime green bowtop. Skillfully fine lined to finish off . Recently restored and on three stud artillery wheels. Unders are ash and the floor is maple.

Pictures courtesy of  Unkn



Deep burgundy window and door style bowtop, with cream scrolls running down between the ribs. Chamfers and fine lining add to the decor and the door is a blank canvas awaiting its paintwork.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn

North Yorkshire

Bowtop - Openlot (as featured on BBC)

Featuring in a film, this decent little openlot wagon can also be used as a dray with it's accomodation lifting clean off.

Nick was approached by a film company to supply a wagon and a dray for a new film about the stealing of the Stone of Scone in Scotland in the 1950's.

Pictures courtesy of Nick Dow


Burton/Reading style Gypsy Wagon

Extensive restoration work was done in the early 1990's on this Burton/ Reading style waggon, it was purchased around the mid 90's as a birthday present for a little girl, who used it on a regular basis as a glorified Wendy house.

The waggon is thought to date back to the late 1800s, with various original features e.g. the Mollicroft and concealed gutters removed at the time of restoration. 

This walls had been built using much deeper tongue and grooved boards and not the original 'Pennyboards', that would have been used around the Victorian era. The wheels fitted to this wagon are not standard wagon wheels, nor are they artillery wheels, they are believed to be a hybrid called Sarven wheels.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn


Bowtop - Openlot

Plain at present, this lovely little, newly built bowtop is just waiting for some fancy paintwork to make it a real eyecatcher.

Pictures courtesy of Unkn



Recently constructed in 2001, it's nice to see this horse drawn Romany caravan being used as a home.

In 2006 this window n door style waggon was renovated and restored by its present owners, Ann and Jessie, which took them just over a year.

With its new coat of fresh green body paint, the yellow scrollwork really stands out against the vibrant red lining and wisps of a paler green dashed within.  Beautifully finelined throughout.  A lovely job.

Pictures courtesy of Ann and Jessie.


William Wheeler Showman

Wheeler Built 1924.

Classic example William Wheeler showman awaiting final restoration and decoration.

Pictures courtesy of  Roger and Richard


Jones of Hereford?

Ledge Waggon 'The Painted Lady' - Circa 1910

Reputably built by Jones Hereford -. initially restored in the 1990s this vardo requires re-paint externally and further restoration.

Shafts, steps, carriages lamps, pan cupboard and numerous carvings adore the waggon.

A well preserved interior includes a reproduction Queenie stove, bed, cupboards, decorative mirrors, swivel lamp, etc.


Pictures courtesy of AQ


1901 Burton Romany Caravan

Bright and colourful straight sided waggon - finished in Yellow and red once seen at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2004. personalised interior for any artist.

Pictures courtesy of  Bernard



Small solid and neat bowtop window n door style on artillery wheels ready to go

Pictures courtesy Unkn


Bowtop  'Primrose'

Built from a 1930/40s Birmingham Co-op milk float!

Bits of woodwork need doing but nothing too serious.  In need of paint, tyres and shafts.

Pictures courtesy of  Phil

Child-size Openlot

As new condition.  It is a new openlot built onto an old pony dray.  Can be used as you would a full size one as it is built to a traditional style and quality.  You can judge the size by the one beside it, which is full-size bowtop.

It has wooden wheels with rubber channels; a pull-out bed; cupboards; rack and pan box at the back; pens on the sides; shafts and shaft props.  awaiting decoration

Pictures courtesy of  owners


Read and yellow Bowtop on artilery wheels large unusual scroll design on the door.

Pictures Unkn



Bowtop Built to a very high standard with very strong wood.  Painting has been finished beautifully with many different artwork such as cockerels, birds, horses, etc.

Wooden wheels, a braking system, and steps

Inside are a log burning stove, double bed, and storage space.

Waggon used many times by the builder-owner .

Pictures courtesy of Steven


New Bowtop

New bowtop built to a very high standard using strong good woods.  Beautifully painted with lovely details such as birds, horses, etc. note the wood varnish finish to the waggon - traditionally many early waggons were decorated in this manor and it good to see one in the gallery. Would be good to see more finished in this way.

Inside are a double bed, log burning stove, and lots of storage space with plenty of cupboards.

Has to be seen to appreciate the fine work that has gone into building this wagon.

Pictures courtesy of  Steven


Traditional bowtop waggon fully restored about three years ago.

Good unders, wooden wheels with iron tyres. Beautifully decorated. Stove and cupboards inside. Insulated and fabric lined roof. Bow window, pan box and spindle cratch on rear.

Pictures courtesy of Martin


A Artist - Writers Waggon

This garden waggon was purchased by the current owners grandfather many years ago and then skillfully lowered down a steep bank into it's present position in their garden overlooking the estuary at rock in Cornwall.

Its now awaiting spring 2008 where Mex a local cabinet maker will be undertaking the lenghty task of restoring this waggon to its former glory , the wheels are steel spoked and rubber lined probably from an old roadarail waggon or early vehicle. Has all the feel of an artists writers domain.


Pictures courtesy of Mex and Poppy

Burton Showman

This relic showman a straight sided waggon was hidden away on a farm for years up in the hills of South Wales- then Sue rescued it . The wagon had a precarious journey up the motorway one windy dark night and its now at the bottom of her garden wrapped up in plastic and now awaiting restoration

.Pictures courtesy of  Sue



Beautiful bowtop on easyclean wheels tastefully decorated finished in red and cream and golden yellow , Theres horse motiffs on the front body and leaded front door windows - traditionally not often seen waggons yet it does add a fresh dimension to the already rich look of bright colour - professionally painted

Pictures unkn



Purpose built steam drawn bowtop waggon. Originally built to be pulled behind a steam roller. Double bed, sink and cupboards. note the "A" frame tow bar.Could there be a real waggon under all that panelling?

Pictures unkn

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Gypsy caravans of the UK