Search
  • Rachel Francis

The Bow Top


The Bow Top or Vardo is a traditional nomadic home pulled by horse.

Many skills grew up around the construction of the vardo... from the steam bending of the shafts and the construction of smooth running wheels, to the ornate carvings and artwork that made each home unique.


Bow tops were made of wood, with typically four wheels for a family wagon, the top was curved slats with canvas stretched over. The home had to be strong, waterproof and not easy to tip over and yet light enough to be pulled up a hill by a horse.


Inside the family bed went across the back of the wagon, with a tiny living area at the front, a wood burner for winter cooking and a place to dry out your socks.


Nomadic people are, out of necessity, incredibly self sufficient. They are hardy, outdoor living people and the horse travellers carried with them the tools for survival ... axe for chopping wood and pans for carrying water, washing line and smoke black kettle ... everything you need, nothing that you don't.

At the rear of the bow top, you might see a goat tethered and a spare horse, below the steps, a box of hens, who would be allowed to scratch about the camp on arrival.

At the rear of the wagon is the traditional cratch, a rack to feed the horses, although I've seen it used to dry clothes and also pots and pans.

Gypsies were multi skilled like the farmers. I have met travellers who still feel claustrophobic in a house, refuse to lock the door, who still light the fire outside, who miss the sound of horses grazing at night. Not everyone longs for a house, not everyone wants a mansion, some long for the open road and a new horizon, some still have the outdoors in their blood.


Credit "Drive On Vanners" by Mark J. Barrett for video.

This blog is an alternative to a traditional glossary, providing background to The Long Acre.

30 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All