The world’s oldest leisure caravan, aptly named ‘The Wanderer’ has made its final journey this week.
The caravan was originally custom made for Dr. William Gordon Stables, a retired author and ship’s surgeon. Dr. Stables had a fondness for the outdoors from childhood and had always been an adventurer having visited many places on various ships over the years. He had retired early due to ill health and his fascination with the Romany way of life led him to believe that if he were to live similarly it would have some health benefit for him.
The caravan was made by the Bristol Wagon Works Company in 1884-1885 from luxurious materials such as maple and mahogany and boasted some typical Victorian finery including a bookcase and a china cabinet. There were even musical instruments on board so guests could be entertained in the event of rain! It even still has all its original upholstery.
Weighing in at two tonnes, it was originally towed by two horses, Captain Corn-flower and Polly Pea-blossom. John, the coachman who looked after the horses, also had a passion for nature, but was far more sensible insofar as he used to sleep in the inns where the horses were stabled! Dr. Stables also employed a man named Foley, the valet, whose job it was to cycle in front of the caravan warning people of its imminent arrival and clearing the road if necessary.
The Wanderer’s first journey was 1,300 miles from Dr. Stables’ home in Berkshire to Inverness in Scotland, and subsequently covered tens of thousands of miles, ending up taking pride of place at Buckingham Palace for the Caravan Club’s centenary in 2007. It may now be viewed at the Caravan Club’s base in Cornwall.