Dunton's Ledge Romany caravan or vardo

Contributed by Reading Museum

Dunton's Ledge caravan at the Riverside Museum, Reading © Sam Frost /Reading Museum Service (Reading Borough Council)

There are several types of horse-drawn caravan including the Reading, the Ledge, the Burton and the Bowtop.Horse-drawn caravans were first built for travelling show people in the early nineteenth century. Romany Gypsies started to live in caravans, which they call vardoes, in the 1850s. Before this they travelled by horse or foot and camped in tents made from hazel rods covered with tarpaulin. Romany culture is the product of many influences but its roots reach back to ninth century India.

Dunton's of Reading were well-known as 'van builders' by 1884 and continued until 1920. Several types of caravan developed in the nineteenth century. This one is known as a 'Ledge' because the body is built out over the wheels. Dunton's also built the 'Reading' type caravan that was very popular with the Gypsy community as it was suited to poorly surfaced tracks. The reality of everyday life on the road for the Gypsies could be hard especially when faced with extremes of weather, and discrimination.

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