The caravan as we know it now, started from the humble beginnings of the Gypsy (gipsy) caravan or wagon. Gypsy caravans were made from wood, no longer than 10 foot long and 6 foot wide, despite this the brightly coloured gypsy caravan was deceptively spacious inside with many hidden cupboard spaces to store goods and belongings, with the addition of a stove for warmth and cooking, these little wooden trailers would house a small family and be easily drawn by horse power.
This was just the start, over the next century the evolution of the caravan would change the leisure industry forever. The first leisure trailer was created in 1880 by the Bristol Carriage company; from here the travel trailer grew in popularity. In 1920 the travel trailer set the precedence for the caravan we know today, over the next two decades the travel trailer would become the house trailer, recognised for its home from home comforts.
The caravan industry took a slight hit in wartime Britain when materials for making individual caravans were in short supply, some companies even advertised their caravans as being as good as air raid shelters in a bid to sell them.
Post war bought about more changes for the caravan and as technology improved the industry split. The introduction of the RV happened in America around the 60's, the RV or Recreational Vehicle was a self contained vehicle and trailer in one, perfect for long distance travelling the RV would prove to be a great touring vehicle whilst still remaining a home on wheels, however this did not deter the mobile home industry who still pursued the perfection of the mobile home.
Soon holiday parks would start to cash in on the rise in popularity of the mobile home, and the caravan would then see the coming of another change. The caravan was available in all different shapes and sizes from 2 berth comfortably accommodating 2 adults to 6 berth vans capable of sleeping 6 persons, the interior of the caravan would become more homely introducing separate rooms within the tiny shell which could be used as bedrooms, providing privacy for the adults. Some would even have airing cupboards, toilets and basic kitchen commodities.
Caravan parks started popping up all over the UK and Europe, the early parks would simply provide the ground for a base whilst on holiday, as simple in effect as pitching a tent, however the increase in popularity could not be ignored and soon caravan parks became a hive of activity offering not only space to set your caravan but public amenities, swimming pools, shops, launderettes and club houses where you could meet up with other holiday makers. Caravanning then became a very social pastime.
With the increase in popularity for caravan type holidays the static caravan became a hit and the majority of caravan or holiday parks started to offer static caravan accommodation as holiday homes. The static caravan would be exactly that, static. Anchored to the ground the caravan could now become bigger, more spacious and even become temporary or permanent living accommodation, not only this it could offer holiday accommodation for larger families with the average length of a static being around 32 foot.
Nowadays, caravans even in their most basic form provide families with the perfect holiday opportunity, easier than pitching a tent and far more weatherproof, the caravan offers outdoor living without the inconvenience of damp bedding due to the elements, and with the addition of awnings living space can be multiplied two fold.
Looking back over the years its hard to imagine that the caravan we have today, with running water, gas and electric fittings, heating, hot showers and all the modern day comforts of the home started out as no more than a timber box barely bigger than the average garden shed.
Anna Stenning takes a detailed look at how changes made to the caravan over many years have made the humble leisure trailer now a home from home.