The search for a gypsy caravan had certain aesthetic parameters; originality and lack of restoration were the main ones, yet it still needed to be in a serviceable and usable condition. It was to be used as an exterior spare bedroom to our house, plus as an escape pod for anyone needing time alone.
After much searching and finding over-restored freshly painted vans, sold as perfect examples but in reality, over-restored horrors in garish fresh colours, a proper candidate was found. This 1920 gypsy bow top caravan had rust on the axles, slightly wonky wooden wheels in need of repair, and the faded glory of flaking paint and brittle wood. Inside, all was originality and atmosphere. Although the stove was missing a part, the pull-out bed walls and roof, spoke of a life in times gone by. They worked, the van rolled, now all that’s missing is a pony to pull it.
The vendor asked if I would like it repainted in the traditional colours and decorations….no thank you. Well how about repainting the wheels and pinstriping them? No thank you! I really do like the look as it is, so please leave them alone.
It has clearly been in a gypsy family for a long time. Sometime in the past the traditional paint has been touched up and parts painted to keep the wood sound. Now it’s flaking and faded and therefore looks fabulous.
The one item that slightly sticks in my throat is that the canvas has HAD to be replaced on the bow top – it was a necessity that even I had to concede…the old canvas was rotten, full of holes and beyond repair. To keep the van in its ‘oily rag’ condition, water had to be stopped from getting into the interior. Therefore, new Bright Green british canvas was used. Not ideal because it’s really BRIGHT GREEN. The green canvas will fade down if I leave the caravan to the elements over the winter. Meanwhile we sit and marvel at the original beauty and craftsmanship of the thing, struggling to come to terms that once, this was home for a (possibly) quite large Gypsy family. With a bit of imagination, you can still hear the chatter and laughter of the children and the clucking of the hens…
- Adrian Cole