Handmade Wooden Caravans

Fernhills- - The Finest Shepherd Hut and Gypsy Caravan Builders


Wooden Caravan Builders, Specialising in Shepherds Huts and Gypsy Caravans

Email: info@fernhills.co.uk

01684 310959 / 07946 413072

For the past 18 years we have lived on and built new narrowboats and barges, for ourselves, private customers and the holiday hire boat industry.

We first moved onto boats in our early twenties, in a bid for fun and freedom. It was the idea of being able to just loosen the ropes and let go, that captured our hearts. With time, we realised that although the act of escaping had a certain romance, it was where you escaped to that made it special.  

For some, it’s a favourite country, for others it’s a walk down a lane or a garden shed.  For us, in those years, it was our little traditional boatsmans cabin, warm and cosy.  Our sanctuary, that whisked us away to a bygone era, where generations of people, ‘Water Gypsies’, had lived and worked a simpler life, closer to nature. As much as we loved it, the event of children meant a move to land and a new beginning.

It was not until a family day out to a local museum, where we were both launched back to that familiar comforting world.  It was packed to the rafters with Gypsy Caravans of all shapes and sizes and we immediately felt at home and inspired.  

The similarities of the two Gypsy communities, those on land and those on water, jump-started our interest on all things Romani, and with help from our boat building skills, led us to build our first Bow Top Gypsy Caravan . A new life surrounded by the natural beauty of the Malvern Hills, meant the strong, bold colours of the traditional Gypsy style no longer appealed to us. Instead we were drawn to the soft shaded, country hues, that represented calm and relaxation. With kids, we also knew that practicality was essential, so introduced modern conveniences, such as electrical sockets to charge the ever important ‘mobile phones and  game consoles. We decided to fully insulate, to keep in the warmth and use the best quality materials to ensure longevity and keep maintenance to a minimum. Once finished, it was a sanctuary, and a place that evoked the same nostalgic, romance we had felt before. This caravan had captured the essence of the gypsy life of years gone by whilst embracing the modern world for a new generation to enjoy.

Since then, our aim has been to design and built a range of Caravans that embody this idea.

Marc and Rose

A Brief History of Gypsy Caravans

Romani people have been using wagons or carts since the early 16th century for transporting goods and people as they wandered the land. At night they would sleep under the cover of these carts or next to them in tents made from twigs, known as ‘Bender Tents’.

It’s not until the early 19th century when the French circus troops started to build wagons to live in.  These wagons were probably used by travelling showmen in England as they moved between fairs and with the circus.  In around the 1850’s, Gypsies also started to live in them.

These caravans were normally built  for Gypsy families by non-gypsy specialist coach builders. The families would often commission the build of these for newly wed couples to live in. They were usually adorned with intricate carvings and ornate paintings and were highly cherished by their owners.

The romance and practicality of these caravans has stood the test of time and they are growing in popularity once more for many uses. Roulottes in particular, have proved to be the very best in holiday accommodation,  which is why they are so popular on campsites throughout Europe.

There were many different styles and names for these caravans depending on the where they were built and who built them or who they were built for.  

Vardo comes from iranian‘vurdon’ meaning ‘cart’ and was the name used by many Gypsies for their caravan.  Roulotte is the French equivalent and means ‘Caravan’.

In 1885 Dr William Stables asked the Bristol Wagon Works to build a travelling caravan which he called the Wanderer. Unknown to Dr Stables this was to be the start of leisure caravanning and eventually the horses would be replaced by cars.