Caravan Design: The Open-Lot

An ongoing series of caravan designs to aide the modern builder.  A little history goes a long way to solve our design problems. 

The Open Lot is about the simplest of the true living wagons (properly “waggons”) of the 19th century.  Of course any covered wagon or cargo trailer can suffice when necessary but once these become real homes, some forethought in design goes a long way.  It is worth remembering that the caravans we know and love evolved in the cool, temperate region of northwest Europe and this influenced their design.  If these had originated, as we know them now, in hot, windy deserts or steamy jungles of southeast Asia, other considerations would have prevailed.  For instance, the near universal inclusion of a wood stove would not have occurred.  Better ventilation would have certainly been key.

Illustration by Denis E. Harvey in The English Gypsy Caravan, by Cyril Henry Ward-Jackson.

Some of the earliest truly purpose-built living wagons in our lineage are the Open Lots.  Essentially and early covered wagon with closed ends and built-in furniture.  To maximize living space, the bed slides out for sleeping.  There is ample floor space, a built-in chest of drawers, cupboards and under-bed storage.  The massive cabinet under the base of the bed was used for storage or for children, as need arose.  The example above is essentially the pinnacle of this design whereas some were far simpler.

Illustration by Denis E. Harvey in The English Gypsy Caravan, by Cyril Henry Ward-Jackson.

The Open Lot is almost the blank canvas for later designers to expand upon and improve.  On possible drawback to this design was and is the curved walls, limiting the ability to build upon and essentially eliminating the possibility of side windows.  The positive feature of this design was it’s light weight.  Note that even in this era, side walls were built up, out of normal reach from outside for safety and security.

From Gypsies and Gentlemen by Nerissa Wilson.
From Gypsies and Gentlemen by Nerissa Wilson.

The Open Lot remained the base-level caravan and saw wide popularity until recent times amongst horse powered travellers in Britain and Ireland.

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