What is a Vardo?The site goes on to say that the Vardo has only been around for 150 years or so. Before which Gypsies traveled on food, slept in simple tents, and use carts to haul their belongings. It says "Waggons built to live in developed about 1810 in France and were soon used in England by showmen travelling between fairs and circuses. Gypsies only began living in them about 1850. They called their home a "vardo", and it became their most prized possession."
For the person new to the subject it's Romani chib for living waggon, or, in plain English, it's a Gypsy caravan.
Generally speaking there were some distinct types of Vardo. There was The Burton Wagon, The Brush Wagon, The Reading Wagon, The Ledge Wagon (or Ledger), The Bowtop, and The Open Lot. Wikipedia has this to say about the different types (not that I consider Wikipedia to be the most reliable source out there, but....well, it's quick and easy, and will at least let me copy'n'paste information unlike many other sites on Gypsy Wagons):
Popular with Romanis, as well as Showmen families, and circus people, the Burton wagon is the oldest example of a wagon used as home in Britain. Originally, with its undecorated van, the Burton wagon evolved into an elaborate Romani vardo, but due to its smaller wheels it was not suited for off-road use.
The Brush or fen wagon as it was also known, consists of a standard Romani vardo, with straight sides and the wheels located outside the body. The Brush was similar in construction to the Reading vardo, but unlike other styles, the brush wagon had two distinct features: a half-door with glazed shutters, located at the back of the vardo, with a set of steps, both set around the opposite way from other wagons and lacked the mollycroft (skylight) on the roof. The exterior is equipped with racks and cases fitted on the outside frame and chase of the wagon allowing the owner to carry trade items like brushes, brooms, wicker chairs and baskets. Additionally, three light iron rails ran around the entire roof, and sometimes trade-name boards, used for stowing bulkier goods. The wagons were elaborately and colorfully painted.
The Reading or kite wagon is so named due to its straight sides that slope outwards towards the eaves, high arched wheels, and relative light weight; there is no other vardo that epitomizes the golden age of Romani horse travel. It dates from (1870) and is synonymous with the original builder Dauton and Sons of Reading where the vardo takes its name. The wagon was highly prized by the Romanies for its aesthetic design, beauty and practicality to cross fords, pull off road and over rough ground, something smaller-wheeled wagons like the Burton were unable to do. The Reading wagon is 10 feet long, with a porch on the front and back. The rear wheels were 18 inches larger than the ones on the front. At the start of the twentieth century the design incorporated raised skylights. On either side of the bed space, quarter-inch thick bevelled mirrors were common, and were lavishly decorated. Cupboards and locker seats were built in to prevent movement whilst travelling. Side and back windows were decorated and shuttered, and the body of the vardo itself would have originally been made from beaded tongue-and-groove matchboard, painted red picked out in yellow and green. As with other vardo, the extent of the elaborate decoration reflected the wealth of the family, boasting carved lion heads and gargoyles; these would have been painted gold or extensively decorated with gold leaf. Today, surviving Reading wagons are prized exhibits in museums or private collections.
The characteristic design of the ledge or cottage shaped wagon incorporated a more robust frame and living area that extended over the large rear wheels of the wagon. Brass brackets supported the frame of the wagon and solid arched roof usually 12 feet high, extended over the length of the wagon to form porches at either end and panelled with tongue in groove boards. The porch roof was further supported by iron brackets, and the walls were highly decorated with ornate scrollwork and carvings across the length of the wagon.
Based on the design of the Ledge wagon, the Bow Top is significantly lighter, and less likely to turn over in a strong wind. The design incorporated a light weight canvas top, supported by a wooden frame: a design reminiscent of the older “bender tents” used by the Romanichal. Both back and front walls of the wagon were decorated in scrollwork and tongue and groove and the wagon was painted green to be less noticeable in woodland. The inside of the Bow Top also contained the same high scrollwork or Chenille fabric, with a stove, table and double bed.
Almost identical in size and construction of the Bow Top wagon, the Open lot or Yorkshire Bow featured the same design but with a curtain instead of the door characteristic of other wagons. The wagon's entrance was covered by a curtain for privacy.
So, if you are portraying a Romanichal in the 16th or 17th centuries, you would not have had a Vardo. Something to keep in mind for historical accuracy. If your event is set in the 1850's or after then you are in luck. I mention this before for MANY years, Gypsy Caravans have appeared at local Renaisance Faires putting them fully 250 years out of place. So while a Gypsy Vardo is quite an anachronism at a Renaissance Faire, a Bender Tent it perfectly at home in that time period, which we will discuss in another thread.....