Gypsy Caravans

by Christina Nellemann on August 25th, 2008. 30 Comments
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When I was a child, my favorite book was “Danny, the Champion of the World” by Roald Dahl. Danny and his father live in a gypsy caravan in the English countryside in the 1950s and run a small gas station. Adventure ensues when Danny finds out his father is secretly poaching pheasants on a wealthy neighbor’s land. I loved the story, but loved the idea of living in a colorful gypsy caravan even more.

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Dahl had a caravan in his garden that was the inspiration for Danny’s home. The typical gypsy caravan has been around for over 100 years and they still evoke a feeling of romance and adventure and can be a tiny, beautiful, ornate house on wheels.

Caravans or wagons built to live in were developed in France around 1810. Gypsies have only been using caravans as their main living and working space since 1850. The gypsy name for a caravan was vardo, from the Iranian word vurdon or cart. Newly married couples would commission a coach builder to create their colorful home on wheels. They took between 6 to 12 months to build and were made of oak, ash, elm, walnut and pine. They were then ornately painted carved and decorated with gold leaf.

There are six main types of caravans: the Brush or “fen waggon” which lacks the ornate wooden carvings, the Reading with sloping walls, the Ledge with a narrower floor and more elbow room, the Bowtop and the Openlot, which use a stretched canvas top over a wooden frame, and the Burton which was for more wealthy travellers. Most caravans were, and still are, pulled by draft horses, but you can design and build a caravan to be pulled by a car.

Though few people would choose to travel in one today, you can experience a fully functional caravan on your own property as a romantic getaway or guest accommodations, a creative studio, a personal meditation or healing space, or just an exquisite conversation piece. If you are traveling in Europe, you can rent a gypsy caravan (including the horses) and travel between campgrounds. Some hotels even have gypsy caravan “rooms” that you can stay in overnight.

If you are looking to build a gypsy caravan or have one built for you, there are several builders and plans available. Again, most of these builders are in Europe.

Gypsy Vans

Windy Smithy

Ingham & Fallon

The New Gypsy Caravan

Gypsy Caravan Company

Gypsy Caravan Built by Brian Schmittling

Daphne’s Caravans

By Christina Nellemann

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August 25th, 2008and filed in Tiny House Concept
Tags: gypsy caravan
30 Comments

30 Responses to “Gypsy Caravans”

  1. lori marie says:

    these are absolutely FANTASTIC!! thanks for sharing:)

    smiles
    lori

  2. Michael says:

    I really like this post because it’s a great reminder that living light is not a new idea at all. We are all just rediscovering it and adapting it to modern life. Great post! Great little caravans!

  3. You can still visit the orginal caravan at Dahl´s home near Great Missenden in the UK (and also the shed where he wrote). It´s not open very often though (usually just a couple of weekends during the summer when it´s open for charity) so you have to plan ahead.

  4. Christina says:

    Thanks shedworking! I was in Great Missenden to visit a family friend about 12 years ago. I had heard that the caravan was available for tours, but was not able to go see it. :-(

  5. Susan says:

    These little gems are beautiful and inspiring and well crafted. Thank you, Christina!

    I myself have loved tiny eccentric homes since my hippie days in Marin County, California, where I remember fondly the wildly creative (in both ornamentation and space farming) in handmade houses, buses and trailers of friends, boyfriends and Neil Young’s…

  6. Norman Biddlecombe says:

    The largest collection of Gypsy wagon in the world can be found at the Gordon Boswell Romany Museum Spalding Lincolnshire. You can have a day out on a tradition ‘vardo’ with an open air ‘Gypsy meal”. Open March to October. weekends.
    info@boswell-romany-museum.com
    The museum is run by the Romany Boswell family and is the best introduction to Romany life and history. Well worth a visit and will make you question the racist opposition whenever a legal Gypsy site is proposed.

  7. alex says:

    Hi,

    theres a photo of the wheels on some sort of frame. I would love to d.i.y my own caravan. Can you tell me where you purchaced the wheel gig photoed above and where i could get the same type of set-up from. So that i can build my own caravan.

    thanx

  8. Ben Brown says:

    This site becomes more interesting the more I read. Vardo, is derived from an Iranian description given to Gypsy housing originating from India?!. The elaborate Vardos are very similiar to the original “painted ladies.” I know painted ladies as derived from the religious revival tent meeting shelters, that over time became permanent camp housing, then regular public housing. Some of our painted ladies became huge behemoths 3,000 square foot and more from the turn of the century as people progressively tried to outdo oneanother… Perhaps the contemporary Vardos can bring us back to scale. This too much reminds me of tiny reptiles becoming huge dinosaurs, only to die off, leaving the smaller more efficient reptiles and mammals to survive. Is this a case of the golden mean, biomimicry or Fibonacci repeating itself??? I hope not, or if so I hope we learn to quickly adapt rather than hold on rigidly to our present system of bigger is better until it is too late.

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  10. Anguskirk says:

    alex –

    Gregs Gypsy Caravans in Bristol builds gypsy style bowtops on an Alko caravan chassis. Their website has a photo of the wooden framework.

  11. kalojuk says:

    hi like the sheds and things, some interesting stuff, if you love romani caravans worth a visit wwww.gypsywaggons.co.uk has loads of colourful waggons etc.

    parruka tu boro bokti /best luck my friends
    thanks

    • Kent Griswold says:

      Thank you for the link, those look really neat and we may need to do another post sometime in the future…Kent

  12. GoPiano says:

    GoPiano…

    Hello :) I bookmarked this site. Thanks heaps for this!… if anyone else has anything, it would be much appreciated. Great website Super Pianoforte Links http://www.en.Grand-Pianos.org Enjoy!…

  13. Brittany says:

    just wondering how much a gypsy caravan would be

  14. [...] then, upon walking back out into the world, this killer rig pulls up right in front of me. As the Tiny House Blog put it, these artistic homes-on-wheels “still evoke a feeling of romance and [...]

  15. amy says:

    My husband is wanting to build my father a bow top wagon,does anyone know where we can find the plans to build it?

  16. danny says:

    luv da caravans do ya there fab

  17. Dr Paul says:

    I would like to travel across the country (India)n the Nations all over the World, I am looking for a caravan (Bus).

    pl help me with the design,15 people will travel with us,for a period of 3 years,all in one caravan i m looking for,

    this trip is to create awareness among the youth and the society,

    CRUSADE AGAINST HIV AIDS,DRUG N ADDICTIONS.

    PL SUPPORT AND HELP US,

    THANKS,

    Dr Paul

  18. Lea R says:

    I would love to know of any manufactures of these beautiful caravans here in America thanks

  19. Ashley H says:

    Hi im trying to buy a gypsy wagon/caravan…
    i have know idea where to find one if anyone can help contact me at lovecantsaveyounow@yahoo.com

    • Ann Featherstone says:

      Hi,

      We are looking to purchase a gypsy wagon. If anyone knows where in Ontario I could buy one that would be greatly appreciated.

      Thanks,
      A

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  21. liliana says:

    salve,vorrei sapere,ma dove si possono comprare queste bellissime carrozze gitane? grazie

  22. Lisa says:

    I really like your blog, but can you please stop tagging posts with & using the word “gypsy”. I am a real ethnic Romani “gypsy” woman & that word is a slur. It’s not a lifestyle, but a hurtful word for our ethnicity. It’s a pejorative that has been used to demean, oppress, enslave, and murder us for centuries. I would really appreciate it if you could refrain from using the term. Najis tuke. But baxt thaj sastipe.

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  24. […] designed and often beautifully appointed; perfectly suited for adventurous living.  My favorites? Gypsy caravans and sheepherder wagons make my heart beat fast, but this little cottage-on-wheels makes me […]

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