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Vardos of the United Kingdom
Picture Library 8
Vardo History County

Richly painted In red and gold, this ledge waggon is about 10 years old.  It was partly built by Colin Jones on original unders and painted by Nobby Dew of Worcestershire.

A labour of love, it's profusely decorated with carvings of grapes, apples, pears and flowers.  Delicately painted bouquets highlight the kettle box.

Inside has a welcoming Queenie stove, plus fruit- and flower-carvings and paintwork.

Pictures courtesy of John Pockett.


Original Reading- type Gypsy waggon

Thought to have been built in the 1880s, this is believed to be one of the last unrestored examples of this type of caravan left in the country.

Pictures courtesy of David Moody.



Gypsy caravan window and door style. Built on top of a Lingwoods of Leeds dray with bull-nosed wheels. Colourfully decorated, expertly lined out and scrolled, and striking flame red silks inside.

Last painted around 12 years ago by Peter Ingram.  

Pictures courtesy of Tom and Elizabeth.

West Yorkshire


Regal looking openlot, extensively carved inside and out. Prancing gold horses and scroll design. Painted by Jim Brimley. An excellent example and in beautiful condition.

Pictures courtesy of Tom and Elizabeth.

West Yorkshire

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 single axle, braked and 4 jack legs trailer. The waggon is designed to be towed with a vehicle. Recently refurbished, it was won in a competition! You may have seen it at Glastonbury, The Big Chill and other festivals.

Pictures courtesy of Rich.



Richly painted, red window and door style bowtop with horse heads daubed on the bottom door panel; a horse shoe above for luck. On wooden wheels and complete with kettle box and cratch on the back. A very bright waggon!

Pictures courtesy of Bill.



Painted by Gary, this canary-yellow lightweight bowtop fits snuggly between other vehicles. excellent for hilly country and light cob use.

Pictures courtesy of Gary.


Garden Waggon

Beautiful child-sized waggon with 2 beds, fitted cupboards and a little authentic cast iron stove!

The door is stable style with windows and net curtains.  The mirrors come from an original Romany caravan, as does the sign on the back. There's even a fitted corner unit with safety glass doors. 

A charming little caravan.

Pictures courtesy of Kate Kidd.


Dunton Reading-styled waggon

Reading-styled waggon beautifully painted by Frank Lee. Crimson lake body, primrose cream unders and trims, acanthus porch brackets as often seen on earlier Dunton waggons, catherine wheels on the later. Personalised luscious interior. The vardo is adorned throughout with goldleaf and has sweeping steps embracing a climbing acanthus design.  

Pictures courtesy of Frank Lee.


Bowtop on Lambeth Market trolley

Built in 2007, the base of this wagon was a 1930s London Lambeth Market trolley but only the springs, axles, and front turntable lock could be saved.  The chassis is made of hard wood, the top from marine ply and quality pine.  Wheels are 5 stud artillery wheels, approx 1930s.  The panels and woodwork have been painted on both sides before assembly to keep out the rot - two undercoats and two gloss plus varnish.

Inside is a pot belly stove, plus five antique cut glass mirrors with hand painted flowers.  The cupboard underneath the bed has two doors with cut glass mirrors, and there's a large cut glass mirror above the mantelpiece plus a pot bellied stove.  The inside is lined with fine tapestry cloth, behind felt, then outside sailcloth grade canvas.

The front has two doors at the top and one large door at the bottom fitted with green cut glass handles and a cut glass mirror on the inside.

At the rear is a hayrack with inserted twisted brass plus pan box.  The bay window has coloured leaded glass and cut glass corner panels.

The shafts are steam bent ash and oak

This wagon has been to a number of local shows and made the  first page of the West Sussex Gazette in September 2007.

Pictures courtesy of Trevor.


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 built on a trailer chassis. All wood structure on metal frame, felted roof over wood. Varnished stable door to front and to the rear a double glazed opening window.

Inside there is leather and wood U Shaped seating which converts into a large bed.

This waggon has been painted outside by Herwood, the inside was painted by Theresa Davies

Pictures courtesy of James Henry.

Rhondda Cynon Taff

Miniature Bowtop

Newly built, a bright coloured scaled down version of a window n door style Bowtop

Front, back and side panel body colour red, traditionally decorated with black and white stallions heads and surrounding scrollwork and neat finishing white fineline. Yellow trimmings, shafts, steps and kettle box complete with decor. Bay window to rear of waggon with adjustable cratch

Pictures courtesy of Bill Carey.



Traditional openlot waggon, awaiting decor on the outside but finished inside by Linda with green scrolls finelined in white and chamfers painted alternate with the same colours. A very fresh looking vardo

Pictures courtesy of Tom.


Preachers Ledge Waggon 1870

A rare original 1870s Methodist Preachers Wagon built by the 'Bristol Wagon and Carriage Works Co Ltd'. Believed to be built as a an old Evangelical Primitive.

It would have travelled out to the fields to preach to the fruit pickers and of the very few travelling church's that were ever built most were torched and burnt to the ground by hostile villagers. Which makes it even more likely to be the only British Preachers waggon in existence today. There were rumors however that Bristol Museum had part of one which had been chopped about and made into another waggon, it's whereabouts now unknown.

This Preachers Waggon is built very much in the style of a ledge and it stands 3.2m high on 4ft cartwheels. The most obvious difference though is the double arched church like windows on each side.

The Chassis it is built onto is original, a highly ornate southern style axle, the front bogey using an unusual nutcracker spring system. The front axle is stunning, hand carved out of a huge piece of wood with ornate fiddle end carvings. It is believed that the chassis was originally a crimson lake colour which can be seen underneath the grey painted on at a later date

At the front of the waggon there is a large platform with 2 seats either side of the arched doorway, both of which lift up with extra storage space inside and above the seats is a 1.13m overhanging roof. At the back of the waggon the roof only overhangs slightly and it has ornate brackets

Inside features include:- a large built in chest which doubles as seating, a large desk with draws the oak top of which lifts up to reveal  a wash basin inside with its brass plug and there is also a 'Letters of Confession' box.

It has a beautiful high mollicroft running down the centre of the waggon making it very light inside. The majority of the woodwork inside the carriage is Mahogany. It has been painted primrose at a later date of which most has been scrapped off. Originally it would have been bare wood and varnished

There is a framework to the outer sides of the waggon, the walls were double skinned so this is just the framework on which the long flat outer panels were attached. On the inside of these panels you can just make out that it had been sign written with various names of English Towns, perhaps its route

Pictures and text courtesy of Bo.


Childs Gypsy style Bowtop

Made to order, this bowtop makes for a great childrens hideaway. With static wheel base as a safety feature

Pictures courtesy of Richard.



New build window and door type bowtop, a lovely rich red body colour with light coloured scrolls and gold coloured chamfers. Finelined inside the door with white to frame a horses head and neatly boxed out with gold fineline between the ribs on the outside front and back.

Built and painted by Al and Dave Foley, 2 brothers who emigrated to the US 25 yrs ago. All built from memory, they used oak, ash and pine. It took a year to build, and not surprising as everything was done by hand, NO machines. Al said the under carriage was the most difficult, but it turns on a penny and is very easy to pull.

Kept in Daves yard, the waggon will be used for their family visiting for Thanks Giving from Ireland.

With one waggon under their belt the brothers have now began working on a dray.

Pictures and info courtesy of Alan Foley


Accommodation Openlot (detachable top)

Lucy and her boyfriend Robert Cunningham just coming out of Old Ellerby village, out with her dad Les who built this lift off accommodation top in just 5 days so they could all go off camping together with their friends 'Knocker and his son Luke'. The accommodation has no inside furniture, just bare and it sits on an artillery wheeled dray and so frees the dray up for other use. In the early days the romani first vardo was a crudely sheeted two wheels accomodation Cart and from this the Bowtop evolved.

Pictures courtesy of Lucy


Converted Waggon - travellers Art Gallery

Not your normal gypsy caravan but a travelling modern art gallery. On artillery wheels with white unders. Look out for its next show.

Pictures courtesy of Eva Lis

East London

Originial gypsy barrel top window n door type wagon. Undercoated and ready with lots of chamfers to paint.

Pictures courtesy of Sue


New Gypsy caravan built on a dray. With traditional scrollwork and horsehead motif on the rear painted by Jonny Ball. Red wooden wheels with steel rims

Pictures courtesy of Peter

Greater Manchester

An open lot with canvas capes, this waggon has a rich red body colour with bold green scrolls.

Pictures courtesy of Waggon Owner


Kite Wagon

A half size gypsy waggon, red and yellow theme, painted chamfers and fretted porch brackets, the door adorned with a shamrock.

Pictures courtesy of Waggon Owner


A window n door style bowtop made in birch wood, a copy of an original. A covered veranda with seating leads to the stable door to enter inside.

The Bow Top stands on traditional wooden cart wheels with turning front axle. The roof is lined in 100% cotton gingham, and finished externally in heavy weight, waterproof green canvas.

Pictures and text courtesy of John Pollard


Showmans Camp

Pictures courtesy of Mark Bury


Kept in a dry shed for about 7 years, this window and door type bowtop is now in need of restoration.

Pictures courtesy of Kate Chidley


3/4 size wnidow n door style bowtop.

Pictures courtesy of James Oaks


Built by Peter Green on a caravan chassis and painted by Jonny Ball.

Pictures courtesy of Peter Green



Spectacular openlot bowtop. Built in 1995 by the painter Felix having bought the trolly from Bluey of Swaffham Splashes. The wheels have been re done by John Gap.

The wagon is beautifully painted by Felix, with much gold leaf.

Info courtesy of Paul
Pictures courtesy of Mat


Classic showman waggon in need of restoration.

Pictures courtesy of My Bryan


Newly built bowtop. Built and painted by Sean Penfold

Pictures courtesy of Sean Penfold


Belonging to Rob Young, this ornately decorated bowtop is from the hand of Frank Maughan.

Pictures courtesy of Rob Young

Tyne and Wear


A lovely openlot, unders and lock original. At some point it did have wooden wheels but these were replaced with three stud artillery wheels during a total restoration on the waggon in 2007 

Restored and painted by John Leveridge.  

Since it's restoration this openlot has been pulled over 7,000 miles around Norfolk by horse.

Pictures courtesy of Matty May


Road Bow

This bowtop has come from Jon Snow at Windysmithy who took it off the original horse drawn trolley in 2008. A single old man lived in it for decades and it never had a door! Matt made the door to keep the wife happy and warm.

Kept at their home it really compliments them and their hippy stickered car well.
Pictures courtesy of Matt and Angela Whittaker


Original Showmans Fairground Waggon.Built in 1910 by a known wagon builder in hartlepool. This waggon has spent the last 60 years covered up and stored in a barn.

It has a tow hitch instead of shaft as this was pulled by horse or fairground steam engine.

A restoration project that would be well worth the effort.

Pictures courtesy of Darren



Traditionally hand made by Malcolm in 2006, this window and door style bowtop was built on top of a London trolly and took 6 months to complete. It was decorated by Maggie with scrolls to the front and gypsy scenes on the side panels.

Pictures courtesy of Malcolm and Sonja


Barrel Top

This Victorian English Barrel-Top Waggon was originally restored by Jeff Williams to order for a true Romany family, to live in or go on the road.

Deep green body colour with ornate fruit carvings, gold leafed and painted chamfers.

Pictures courtesy of Jeff Williams


Ledge Waggon 1890

Some wear n tear now on this horse drawn Ledge waggon, which is adorned with carvings and gold leaf. A deep maroon body colour on cream unders. Decorated by an old couple in Suffolk

Pictures courtesy of Henry and Paula Stanford
Romany Life Centre, Cranbrook, Kent



Window and door type bowtop, the body, painted maroon with yellow, green and blue scalloped edges and white lining, has been built on a 100 yr old dray base on iron shod wheels. 

The yellow, cream and burgundy unders are scroll decorated and scallop edged. A colourful interior with a patchwork quilt ceiling.

Pictures courtesy of Julie Cameron


On the way to Stow

This picture was taken as these waggons were parked up near Woodstock, from there they moved on to Charlbury then Churchill, destined for Stow. This waggon has been with it's onwers family 100years

Pictures courtesy of Paul Taylor
Nr Woodstock

' Duke ' - 1940's Showman Waggon

Rescued from a shed in Devon, and brought back to a useful life  during winter of 2008, this waggon is now used as a favourite destination for honeymoon couples

Pictures courtesy of Rick and Kym Finney
Quirky Holidays Cornwall


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Gypsy caravans of the UK