Friday 12 June 2009

The Doctor with a Wandering Mind

Spotted in last week's Sunday Times - Richard Hammond explains the origins of caravanning:

A long time ago, before Boeing invented the 747 jumbo jet, goods had to be transported on the backs of donkeys. And when you have people moving cargo around you have people called robbers who like pinching stuff. Very annoying when you've walked for several hundred miles across a desert with heavy bags of spaces strapped to your donkey and some bloke with a sword and an Errol Flynn moustache nicks it off you.

Eventually people got fed up with being robbed and some bright merchant came up with the idea that if traders travelled in groups it might put robbers off. Brilliant. Much of the trade when through Persia (now Iran) where the name "karwan" was given to the groups of travelling traders. And that's where the word "caravan" comes from.

The first caravans seen in Britain arrived in the 19th century and were lived in by Romany or gypsy people. Today Romanies and gypsies use more modern caravans often towed by Transit vans. The traditional Romany is not to be confused with the blokes "who have a bit of tarmac left over from another job" and offer to resurface your drive for six hundred quid.

An old Victorian gent by the name of Dr William Gordon Stables is the most important person in caravanning history because, in 1885, he built the first proper caravan. The doc called the finished vehicle "the Wanderer". Inside, the Wanderer had accommodation for the doctor, his coachman, John, his valet Foley and his dog Hurricane Bob. Oh, and a perch for his cockatoo. Foley was given the task of riding ahead on a tricycle to make sure the way was clear.

It is not known where the dog's name came from, but hopefully he was named Hurricane for his energy rather than for an ability to generate gusts of wind. As any caravan veteran knows, flatulence is the enemy of a happy caravan holiday".

Extracted from A Short History of Caravans by Richard Hammond, published by Orion at £12.99.

Above image courtesy of

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Anonymous Awning Reviews said...

I thought "The Hamsters" only interest in caravans was blowing them up..... I guess he has a bit of a soft spot for them.

26 June 2009 at 11:04  

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