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The caravan as we know it today is a staple part of the holiday industry in the UK. It is popular with families and couples, offering freedom and the perfect space to relax. 2019 marks a hundred years since the first caravan was towed by a car and there are many things that have changed over the years.

At Hanley Caravans, we’ve dedicated our blog this month to this milestone, the history surrounding the caravan, and where it’s heading in the future.

Early Developments

The use of caravans can be followed back for thousands of years. During the age of the Silk Road, an ancient trading route between the east and the west, goods were towed using horses. Some see this as the earliest use of a caravan. However, most people see the Romany community as the first real users.

Romany Gypsies lived in Europe and used horse-drawn caravans to live and travel in. Known as a Vardo, this wagon would last for around 70 years and were colourfully decorated. Even though these aren’t used as often today, Vardo’s are seen every year at the Appleby Horse Fair.

In the 1880s, Bristol Wagon & Carriage Works built the first luxury caravan. This was designed for popular author Dr William Gordan Stables and used to travel around the UK. After this, those in high society started to buy into the trend and The Caravan Club was formed in 1907.

The Very First Modern Caravan

It was actually Eccles Motor Transport who designed and built the first model to be towed by a car. In 1919 they began to produce this in Birmingham, attempting to rebuild British infrastructure following the catastrophic Great War. The first models were 5 ft 7 inches wide and 9 feet long.

These also had two berths, a fitted wardrobe, as well as a Primus stove to cook on. Alongside this, Eccles invented the first awning in the 1920s adding more space. In today’s money, it would have cost around £5,000 to own this yourself.

After this the popularity of caravans began to grow at a rapid pace. They have since become a key part of British culture and the holiday industry. As a result, more and more adaptations have come about. There was a change from using paraffin to gas for lights and cooking in the 1930s. After the Second World War, there was an increase in the production of cheaper models giving people more options regardless of their budget.

20th Century Developments

In the later part of the 20th century, caravans started to be produced at a rapid rate by a number of firms. The 1960s marked a massive change, seeing bright furnishings and dining spaces that could convert into extra sleeping space. By the end of the decade, electricity was added providing much needed safe lighting.

In the 70s and 80s even more developments were made, including the use of twin axels. Better materials were being used to make caravans, ensuring that they lasted for a long time. This era also saw the addition of toilets and small bathrooms to tourers, adding luxury and ease. With fridges, fully functioning kitchens and running hot water, the leisure industry had changed forever.

Modern Day Caravans

From luxury fittings to exterior wrap around decking, caravans have become more than just a portable home. As well as tourers, today there are lodges and statics for more permanent stays in a location. These can be styled to your tastes and have all of the mod-cons added.

With more options and a difficult economy, holidays at home have become increasingly popular. The Camping and Caravanning Club has seen a dramatic increase in their members, rising from 755 in 1919 to 720,000 today. Around half a million families in the UK own a caravan and in 2017 £1.64 billion was spent on caravan trips in the UK alone.

It seems that if anything the use of tourers and statics will continue to grow. At Hanley Caravans we have sites located in Lancashire, Cumbria and the North West. To find out more, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.