A Brief Look At The Old British Gypsy Caravans
Gypsy caravans are a staple of the community’s nomadic heritage. The Romani people can trace back their origins to NW India some more than 1,000 years ago when the Muslims invaded the region. Since then, these peoples were on the move, and over the course of a millennium, they’ve managed to spread all across the world, adopting some of the local culture, adding some of their own and changing depending on the region.
And while they gave the Spanish the Flamenco, in Britain, they made use of the gypsy caravans, also known as vardo. But while they made use of them pretty much everywhere they went, almost none were more decorated and intricate as the ones in Britain. The Romani culture alway had a knack for overbearing detail, probably from their own Indian heritage, and this is also evident here.
These gyspy caravans are part of their cultural and artistic design, as well as masterpieces when it comes to woodcraft. These vardos here were a common sight for nearly 70 years during the mid 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th. They hold plenty of symbolism and ornaments. Some of the better-known vardo artists from that period are Jim Berry, John Pockett, Tom Stevens, Tommy Gaskin, John Pickett
And while the outside is striking even from afar, the interiors are even more so. They have built-in seating, wardrobes, drawers, china cabinets and even stoves. They are, literally, houses on wheels and every bit of space is used in the most ingenious way possible with many objects serving more than one purpose. And as is the gyspy custom, they don’t shy away from showing off a little bit of ‘bling’ now and again. Some of the more expensive gyspy caravans were even encrusted with gold leaf. Many of the designs and features are a direct representation of their nomadic lifestyle, showing horses, dogs, bonfires and even birds, lions, or elaborate scrollwork. Looking at them, it’s no wonder people were drawn to their magic.
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