Gypsy wagons are one of the abodes that make up our range of glamping retreats. Offering something a little different and a step back in time, a break away to one of our romantic wagons will be a real treat, from the intricately detailed outer shell to the homely and kitsch style of the interiors and the stunning locations in which they are set. These are one of our most popular choices when heading off on a glamping holiday, so we thought we would share a little about their history with you!
Gypsy wagons have been around for a very long time, having once been used to transport showmen and their families around. Gypsies themselves only, in fact, adopted them around 170 years ago! The wagons were first created not to transport goods around, but as mobile homes, drawn along by the power of horses. They are said to have originated in France around 1810, and first came to the UK in the 1820s, having primarily been seen with travelling circuses, before being adopted by gypsies around 1850.
These wagons were highly cherished possessions that the gypsies would call ‘vardos’. It was rare for the gypsies to build their own wagons, instead opting to commission one. This was usually done following a special occasion such as a wedding or the birth of a child. This cost around £50-150 at the time and would take somewhere between six months to a year to complete. Popular materials for the wagons included oak, ash, elm, walnut and pine.
There are typically six styles of wagon including the Brush, the Reading, the Ledge, the Bowtop, the Openlot and the Burton. Each of these styles has their own distinctive features, and it was said that the style that the gypsy couple owned would say a lot about those who owned it, as well as their wealth. The outer decoration of gypsy wagons is typically very decorative and over the top, with beautifully engraved carvings and paintings, as well as ornately designed wheels – these wagons certainly did make a statement!
Here are the six main types of wagon and their distinctive features:
This was typically one of the most standard styles of wagon; it had two very distinctive features which were: a half door with glazed shutters, located at the back end of the wagon, accompanied by a set of steps (the opposite of the other styles) and lacked a skylight in the roof. Brush wagons were one of the most elaborately decorated of the six styles and were otherwise known as ‘Fen’ wagons. These wagons were designed to carry goods, primarily on the exterior, as well as for a mobile home.
These are amongst some of the most prized wagons in today’s society, partially due to the lavish nature of their decorations and classic colours. The more elaborate the decorations of the Reading wagon were, the more wealthy the family was likely to be, for example, those with carved animal heads and mystical creatures painted in gold were owned only by those with a lot of money.
This wagon was traditionally cottage shaped, designed to reflect a living space more than a mobile home. The roof was arched and offered a much more robust and spacious living area than what the other styles typically offered, the design features were slightly less lavish but more homely instead.
The Bowtop wagon is possibly the most recognisable, and certainly the lightest of the styles. The classic curved design is one of its most distinctive features, alongside the fact that it was often painted or camouflaged with materials made from tones of green. This meant it easily blended into the woodland and could be hidden away when necessary.
The Openlot was incredibly similar to that of the Bowtop, however, rather than having a door at the entrance it featured a simple curtain.
Burton wagons were particularly popular with people of the circus and the families of showmen. This is known as the oldest wagon to be used as a home within Britain, and its characteristically small wheels meant that it did not travel all too well off-road. These were much less lavish and more plain than most other styles of wagon.
Typical features of the interior of a gypsy wagon in general include built-in seat, a wardrobe, a bed/bunk bed, a china cabinet and a cooking stove of some description. This was seen as all that was needed to live happily as a couple!
The gypsy wagon has inspired many designs over the years, including those of the more modern alternatives found today, including motorhome versions of the classic gypsy wagon. Although there are very few people that still live in the historic structures, that doesn’t mean to say that they aren’t still well loved, cherished and used. Today, the surviving gypsy wagons are held dear to the hearts of many, offered up as a location for a romantic retreat in some beautiful locations all across the UK. We have plenty of gypsy wagons that are available to book this summer including our glamping in Wales and many other areas, so why not take a look today!