I started this website as there was no information anywhere that I could find anyway, dealing with Travellers old style trailers. Also known as 'showmans' they are not to be confused with the huge ungainly caravans built for circus people and showkeepers, they were known as 'showmans' because that was how the builders described them. Most people, even non Travellers, are familiar with the horse drawn waggons or 'Gypsy caravan' and ironically information about them and the notable builders is well documented and yet very few, other than middle aged or older Travellers have any recollection of 'flash' trailers or the men who built them.


The 1950's and early 60's saw the greatest change in the lifestye of Travellers ever as the majority gave up their horses and waggons in favour of motors and trailers. Of course there had been more affluent 'go ahead'

Gypsy people who had taken to motorisation from the start but they were a very small minority. However after the 2nd ww the wealthier families took to trailers and motors, and they enjoyed luxury and comfort a far cry from Travellers still in waggons.  For a large number of Travellers the first trailers they obtained were second hand gorgio (non-Gypsy) 'tourers'. With hard work, determination and luck, most Travellers rapidly improved their trailers and lorries and many families 'came up' to enjoy a lifestyle undreamed of by their parents or grandparents. In the early years a few caravan makes became popular but none were specifically built for Travellers other than 'Eccles' who had been building 'specials' for many years, and some small independent caravan builders who produced coachbuilt 'specials' to order.  A few manufacturers finally realised that there was a market to be tapped and vans were built to suit Travellers tastes and requirements. It was these first builders that deserve to be remembered just as much as the Duntons, Wrights, Tongs etc. of 'waggon times'.


By the 1970's, which decade was the one of the 'ultra flash' trailers, there were a handful of builders catering exclusively for Travelling people offering vans from the 'basic' to the splendid chrome encrusted and cut glass masterpieces, each one hand built by master craftsmen and staggeringly expensive. These latter trailers were literally palaces on wheels, filled with expensive china, crystal and silver, proclaiming clearly a mans success and wealth.................everyones trailer was 'the best one' !!  

The 'cheaper' trailers too are equally as iconic to Travellers of the time, different to 'tourers' being permanent homes, the solid fuel stove, glass fronted display cabinets, cut mirrors etc. set them a world apart from the ordinary caravan. The 'Welsh' Gypsies in particular were renowned for their love of the 'ultra flash' trailers and their turnouts were easily recognised by other Travellers. By 1980 the demise of the huge heavy trailers was complete, new builders emerged offering smaller, lighter trailers and a new era began.


Through until the late 1980's trailers remained 'flash', certainly internally and some exquisite vans were produced, Welsh Gypsies were still ordering beautifully ornate trailers but many people scorned the over flash as 'too Gypsy' and preferred much plainer trailers.  The late 80's saw the general transition from 'ornate' to plainer less 'Travellery' vans. The 90's saw some very sterile and 'cold' feeling trailers, plain both inside and out but they were still a recognised 'Travellers trailer' despite that. With the fashion for cheaper, lighter German vans the builders felt the strain and one by one closed down until Roma at York, was the last remaining builder. In 2004 due to both dwindling orders and personal circumstances, they too closed.

The end of an coincidence, each of the 'major' trailer manufactures businesses remained viable for an average of twenty years!

Until recently, other than the French built 'Val de Loire' there was not a trailer built specifically for Travellers, Tabberts and Hobbys reign supreme, however in late 2009 trailer enthusiast and businessman Mr Dan Sullivan

resurrected the 'Roma' brand and new 'Roma' trailers  are now in production. Offered as individual coachbuilt vans, traditional but built to the latest specifications, they commence a new era of proper 'travellers trailers'.


The following pages celebrate the glory days when these splendid vehicles proclaimed unashamedly a lifestyle and culture. As Dominic Reeve wrote,

"shining out in a rather oppressed way of life". Sadly, when the 'flash' trailer went out of fashion many ended up in the hands of people who had no respect for them and many have been lost or ruined beyond repair. Many were scrapped, some were burnt, but thankfully there are 'survivors', far more than I imagined I am happy to say. For those people familiar with old style trailers I hope you find the site of interest, for those unfamiliar I hope you are as impressed as you should be !!!


enjoy the site...........Ken Mayhew.                       site created November 2006  


***  All texts and images on this website copyright to Kenneth J.Mayhew unless stated to the aknowledged copyright holder or unknown 'unkn'  ***






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