ROMANY GYPSY TRAILERS
built at Holme, near Penrith
builders Mr Alan Dent & Mr Ted Sear
distributor/dealer Mr John Heath
Westmorland Star caravans were known almost universally by Travellers as Westmornin' Star. The company was started in 1961, one of the partners having previously worked at other companies building for Travellers, Vickers and Lonsdale caravans. W.Star no. 1 was built in June 1961. The first trailers were 22' x 7'6" and 20' x 7'6" they had triple front and rear windows and were single axle. Interiors were fench polished oak. From the very start it was decided that Westmorland's would be the highest quality trailers possible. When legistlation changed and 3 ton lorries were permitted to tow wider vans, in May 1966 the first 8' wide trailer was built, the length was increased to 23' and thereafter this was the 'standard' size. However as the trailers were built to commission, other lengths were also produced twenty eight 21' trailers, one 19' and three 18' 'specials' in September and December 1971 and one in January 1972!! seven 25' long vans were built. In August 1973 a 26' trailer was built with two end bedrooms, the largest and only 'end bedroom' Westmorland ever produced. Only one trailer was ever built with a sink and toilet compartment, commissioned by a client to be based on a holiday camp!! When the trailers became larger and heavier twin axle was introduced. In May 1971 the body shape was altered very slightly by the implementation of a large slightly curved (very expensive!) single window at the front and rear, thereafter becoming the very distinctive 'trademark' of these vans. As with the other makes, the increase of 'flash' built up over the seasons until by the mid 70's superb glittering trailers were produced, each and every one slightly different. In 1977 the 'star' feature was introduced on the roof of the vans. From 1978 the 'mark III' furniture style was implimented. Interiors were opulent, more sleek and less 'fussy' than Vickers trailers but superb nevertheless. With the huge windows and less overpowering fittings they tend to feel more 'airy' than the other makes of the time. The windows were generally brilliant cut with a basket of flowers and flowing garlands design. Likewise the interior cupboards and surfaces were mirrored. All of the fixtures and fittings were of the very highest quality and the company employed only the best craftsmen. The solid fuel stove used was the 'Courtier' made in Scotland, Westmorland used 'bronze' and 'silver grey' finished ones. These trailers were considered the 'Rolls Royce' of vans and for many Travellers a Westmornin' Star was the ultimate status symbol. By the late 1970's as the market for the huge heavy trailers was diminishing, the company produced 3 vans they called 'Comets', these didn't 'take' and Mr.Dent does not class them as Westmorland's !! The last two trailers built were called Westmorland Starlights, lighter versions of the usual trailers, in attempt to meet the new requirements of Travellers, however business slowed and Mr. Dent decided to retire and close down while still 'on top'. The last trailer ever built was number 266. However the three 18' 'specials' were numbered 1, 2 & 3 and there were the three 'Comets' making a total of 272 trailers in total. Over the years Mr. Dent dealt with many of 'the best people' as he described them, and Romany families were often 'repeat customers' dealing with him direct at the works.
Another character very well known to Travellers was Mr. John Heath, who had premises at Eamont Bridge near Penrith. John Heath was the sole distributor of Westmorlands and also dealt in part exchanged vans, repairing and refurbishing them. Mr Heath also dealt in other makes of trailers and he was probably the man 'best known' in that era by Travellers, regarding trailers. Very often a new trailer was delivered to the client at their property, but a well known and used meeting place to deliver to, or 'swap' trailers if a part exchange was taking place, was a large car park in Tewksbury, Gloucestershire, a 'half way point' for many. The vans were towed with a landrover. Mr Heath tried to take a 'show trailer' to Epsom every year.....................as the photo below.
Mr Alan Dent (left) & Mr Ted Sear with an early trailer under construction
A 'show trailer' at Epsom. 1978
over the years the furniture designs were altered
slightly, just as with any vehicle, slight modifications
were introduced so that those 'in the know' would
want to be 'up to date'. Such tiny details as groups of
dots around a flower petal on the cut mirrors and
windows would be noticed by the discerning !!!
The star feature on the lower body of the trailers came about through an accident in the workshop.......a ladder
was knocked over and dented a newly completed trailer awaiting collection. This disaster was overcome by Alan Dent 'making up' a decorative star and covering the damage, matching ones were produced to balance the design........ however this costly accident had its reward, thereafter other customers demanded the feature on their trailers.......... at a cost of course !!!
Its easy today to forget just how exclusive these trailers were.................................
below is a photograph from 1965 which would have been fairly typical back then. the Westmorland on the right would have been far 'out of reach' of the average
family, a bit like the difference between owning a Ford and a Bentley !!!!
"quality never goes out of style"