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A Brief History and Introduction to the Caravan

Updated on October 19, 2012

History of Caravans

Caravans have been around for a long time and were not the typical family trailers, installed with kitchens and showers, we know today. Having been round as early as the 15thCentury, caravans have progressed a great deal in both use and design.

The term caravan, from the French word caravane and the Persian wordkarwan, was in fact once a term used to describe a group travelling across the desert and at first, used as a method of transporting goods. It wasn’t until later in the 19th Century that the caravan’s use extended to a portable house. Rather than using tents, the caravan became a type of travelling home, which could be towed by horses.

It wasn’t until1880, that someone developed the idea of creating a luxury caravan. This leisure trailer was created by the Bristol Carriage Company and was around 5.5 metres and designed similarly to a Bible Wagon. It was built for Dr. W. Gordon-Stables and named by them as, “Wanderer”. After this, caravans started to become seen as a form of ultimate luxury for the upper class and continued to increase in popularity amongst the wealthiest of society. They became so highly regarded in the UK, that a club was created in 1901, dedicated purely to caravanning; this was called, ‘The Caravanning Club.’ This was followed a few years after in 1907 with the inception of the infamous, ‘Caravan Club’ (which some younger readers may be familiar with due to popular TV show, The Inbetweeners).


The caravan started to become popular in other countries, such as America round the 1920s and by the 1930s the caravan, which was once predominantly used by the upper class, became more affordable and consequently, popular with middle class families as well.

However, the 1940s brought a pause to caravan production, as manufactures has to focus their skills and attention to the war. It was not until eight years later, that caravans truly became popular again, when one of the biggest names in caravanning was created, Eccles Enterprise.

Types of Caravans

Following on from this, caravans have continued to grow in popularity and today, are still seen as a vehicle of leisure. Developed onwards from the simple wooden box-like trailer to the luxurious vehicles which can be found today, equipped fully with kitchen utensils, multiple rooms and showers, caravans have advanced momentously through the years.

Having developed from this simplistic wooden form, caravans now come in various levels of luxury, from the ultimate travelling complex to the more basic one room kind. From static and non-static, caravans come in a wide variety to suit all needs and tastes; and for camping enthusiasts it has now even become somewhat of a niche trend to decorate their caravans with wild paintings or create, using ‘trompe l'oeil’, caravans that represent other forms.

Most caravans are about 3 to 6.5 metres in length, with a single axle and can generally sleep between 2 to 6 people. However, other forms of caravans are available also; the twin axle, tiny teardrop, pop top, tiny GRP, folding, T@B, American airstream and fifth wheels.

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The Twin Axle

The twin axle makes a good touring caravan, as they are more stable and therefore, easier to tow. However, this type of caravan, unlike the single axle, is harder to pitch at a site.

Tiny Tear Drop

This type of caravan is very dainty and is normally seen being towed by smaller vehicles. With quite a cute and stylish appearance and a small interior, this particular design is generally for one or two people.


Pop Top Caravan

The pop top literally has a ‘popping top’. With the capability to expand its height, this caravan can be extended to store more (height wise that is). The expanding top also means the caravan has a smaller front, resulting in less drag and ultimately, means the caravan is much more fuel and environmental friendly.


Tiny GRP

Tiny GRP’s are a more affordable option for caravans and are very good as an introduction into the caravan scene. They are small in size and consequently, have a much more basic interior; however, their body is made of fibreglass and as a result, are a good investment as they are much more likely to last.

Folding Caravan

It does what it says on the tin. The folding caravan can, similarly to a tent, be compressed and folded, making towing and storing a lot easier. However, these types of caravan have to be unfolded every time you wish to use them and folded back when not in use.


A suitable caravan for retro lovers, due to its design and style, however, the nature of its curved body makes its interior smaller and therefore, more basic.

American Airstream

A very luxurious caravan, that is more like a travelling home, than a caravan. Popular with celebrities and fully equipped with a wealth of utensils, rooms and comforts. A very pricy option for a caravan, but certainly worth it if you seek style and luxury.

Fifth Wheel

These caravans, which were created originally in the USA, can only be towed by pickup trucks (which have a tow connector). These types of caravan have now transgressed in the UK. Large in size, with an idiosyncratic design. (But unusable for those without pickup trucks!)


An Affordable Holiday

Caravanning is somewhat of an alternative to a tent (except it’s complete with electricity and an actual bed) and has grown in popularity over the years amongst all ages. Predominantly seen as more of a ‘family or older thing’, caravans have now transgressed onto young adults and couples, as it is not only a more affordable holiday, but holiday sites now hold host to a whole new era of activities, suitable for a much larger audience than before.

With such an array of different caravan vehicles and holiday types, campers can now tailor their camping experience to suit their acquired tastes, from a drinking holiday, to a nature getaway, to a family fun-filled trip. Caravanning is also a much more affordable and environmentally friendly way to enjoy your well-earned days off (if ‘staycationing it’ as you do not have to fly anywhere).So what are you waiting for? Take that well-deserved holiday andstaycation it!


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