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Home > News & Information > Camping and Caravan Guides > The Evolution of Caravanning

The Evolution of Caravanning

The Evolution of Caravans

The Evolution of Caravans

Do you consider yourself a regular caravanner? If so, you are among the 1.5 million who take regular caravan trips every year in the UK. The caravanning industry is a robust one, contributing roughly £6 billion to the economy and employing more than 115,000 individuals. Nevertheless, it has not always been this way. Caravanning used to be a lot more primitive than what we are currently used to.

Let's take a look at the evolution of caravanning to see just how far we've come over the years. We will start with the earliest camping holidays that began appearing just before the turn of the 20th century. That's where it all began.

The Early Years

Camping has been around as a manner of living since the dawn of man. It wasn't until the Industrial Revolution started moving people into cities that camping became a holiday activity. Here in the UK, one of the earliest records of a camping holiday is one offered by an all-male camp that opened on the Isle of Man in the 1890s. The Cunningham Camp incorporated the idea of a secluded holiday with the idea of 'male bonding'. Every camper had to participate in maintaining the camp by way of daily chores.

By the 1920s, the idea of camping as a holiday option was becoming more popular. Camps began opening across the UK, marketed as a way to enjoy a holiday while also improving one's well-being by spending time in nature. By the 1930s, holiday camping had become a family activity.

Introduction of the Caravan

While men were enjoying the camping experience on the Isle of Man, the Bristol Carriage Company was designing the first luxury wagon intended for spending time in the great outdoors. The company's first named model was the 'Wanderer', a custom-built wagon designed for a fairly wealthy customer in the 1880s. By the turn of the century, the idea of caravanning with luxury wagons was a very popular way for the wealthy to take a holiday.

Caravanning was made even more popular by the establishment of 'The Caravanning Club' in 1901. A second club, named 'Caravan Club', followed in 1907. Within the next 15 years, the founding of a number of similar clubs established the practice of caravanning as a legitimate UK holiday. It was at that time that the idea also began spreading to the US and other parts of Europe.

The Post-War Caravan

Motorised caravans and car-trailer combinations were not uncommon in the late 1930s. However, the war brought production to a near total halt. With labour, factories and materials all diverted to the war effort there was very little production. However, after the war the caravan industry came bag strongly, benefitting from the skills and better production techniques learnt from making equipment for the war effort.

The 1950s saw some revolutionary changes in caravan design and manufacturing. Among those changes was the idea of mass production. By manufacturing caravans on the assembly line, just as was done with military tanks and planes, manufacturers were able to produce many more units at a fraction of the cost. This opened the door for the caravanning lifestyle among the average UK consumer. Thanks to mass production, caravanning was no longer limited to the wealthy.

More efficient manufacturing also meant designers had more money to spend on research and development. They began looking at using lighter materials, larger floor plans, and amenities that included awnings, fully equipped kitchens, and lavatory facilities. By the 1960s, the typical caravan had become a home on wheels. The only thing standing in the way of progress was the escalating fuel prices of the 1970s.

Caravanning in the Modern Era

After a significant slump in the 1970s and early 80s, caravanning made a strong comeback thanks to improving economics and an increased desire to get out and see the countryside. Under this new Renaissance, visionary business owners began opening the modern caravan parks we are familiar with today.

The 1980s and early 90s introduced more luxury without making the lifestyle out of reach for the average, middle-class family. A number of new manufacturers also got into the game at that time. Caravanning was quickly becoming the holiday lifestyle choice, with an emphasis on more relaxed family holidays.

Since the turn of the 21st century, the popularity of caravanning has expanded even more. Today it is all about size and amenities. The modern caravan includes bump outs that increase living space substantially. They also feature energy-efficient windows and appliances, high-quality furniture, creative storage options and, of course, all of the electronic gadgets you could think of.

The options available to the modern caravanner are almost limitless. Purchase choices are determined largely by budget and preferences rather than just settling for whatever is available. Today's caravanners can choose everything from trailer tents to full-size motorhomes fit for the wealthiest of celebrities.

Caravanning Parks

As for the places we visit, there are plenty of options there as well. If you prefer a bare-bones camp where you can be alone with nature, that's not a problem. Such camps are readily available within easy distance of most major UK cities. However, if you are looking for amenities, these are easy to find as well.

For the ultimate experience, choose a caravan park near one of the popular coastal areas. It's not hard to find parks offering swimming pools, sporting fields, water parks, golf courses, and so on. Most of the luxury parks are reasonably close to metropolitan areas for easy access and day trips. And of course, most, if not all, include full hook-ups and Wi-Fi access.

The caravanning industry has definitely come a long way since the 1800s. It is something you should look into if you have never tried it before. As they say, once you caravan, you will never want to spend your holidays doing anything else.


Sources:

  1. NCC – http://thencc.org.uk/Our_Industry/statistics.aspx
  2. Wombrose – http://www.wombrose.co.uk/the-history-of-camping-and-caravanning/
  3. Hub Pages – http://ukcaravanning.hubpages.com/hub/A-Brief-History-and-Introduction-to-the-Caravan
  4. Glenns Motorhomes – http://www.glennsleisurevehicles.co.uk/news/history-caravans/