Caravanning for pleasure began in the 1880s, a time when leisure activities were increasingly enjoyed by the wealthy.
The world’s first touring caravan, The Wanderer, was inspired by traditional Romany ‘vans. Made to order for Scottish born sailor and author Dr William Gordon Stables, this caravan’s first journey was taken in 1885. Touring an incredible 1300 miles from Twyford in Berkshire to Inverness in Scotland, the luxurious Wanderer was met with great curiosity by the people she passed en-route.
By the early 1900s a growing number of men and women took to the road in a caravan. Their horses towed at the leisurely pace of two miles an hour across unsurfaced roads, often dusty and riddled with pot holes.
Caravan pioneers were sometimes known as ‘Gentleman Gypsies’ as the cost of custom-built ‘vans and tow-horses made the pastime too expensive for the masses. Servants often accompanied their caravanning employers on tour, preparing meals and undertaking chores.
In 1907 eleven caravanners met at the home of barrister and journalist J Harris Stone. They formed The Caravan Club of Great Britain and Ireland. In a time before managed caravan sites, early Club members worked to organise and produce lists of suitable camping grounds.
Membership numbers soon grew. The Club’s first social gathering of members and their caravans took place the following year at Ockham in Surrey. This was the first ever Caravan Club Rally.
Horse-drawn caravanning quickly became threatened by the growing popularity of the motor vehicle. Traditional caravanners voiced concern that fast and noisy motor caravans conflicted a hobby where the leisurely journey was part of the enjoyment.
The First World War brought a halt to the idyllic caravan holiday. Many members were called upon to supply their ‘vans to the Red Cross. As the war ended in 1918, developments in technology began to change the future of caravanning.
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