In the early 1800's circus troupes first used wagons as a form of living accommodation (as opposed to carrying people or goods). Large transport wagons pulled by teams of horses were first used to combine storage space and living space into one vehicle. By the 19th century wagons became smaller, reducing the number of horses required, and around the mid-to-late-19th century , Romaini Gypsies in Britain started using wagons that incorporated living spaces on the inside, and added their own characteristic style of decoration.
Often furnished with a bed, cabinets, and even a cooking stove, these wagons offered the comforts and shelter of a home while, if desired, travelling to a new place each day. The gypsies often decorated their homes with bright colors and gaudy patterns, adding yet more character to their occupations as entertainers, tinkerers, miscreants, and spiritualists
The English writer Charles Dickens, described a Gypsy wagon in one of his books :
'One half of it... was carpeted, and so partitioned off at the further end as to accommodate a sleeping-place, constructed after the fashion of a berth on board ship, which was shaded, like the windows, with fair white curtains... The other half served for a kitchen, and was fitted up with a stove whose small chimney passed through the roof. It also held a closet or larder, several chests, a great pitcher of water, and a few cooking-utensils and articles of crockery. These latter necessaries hung upon the walls, which in that portion of the establishment devoted to the lady of the caravan, were ornamented with such gayer and lighter decorations as a triangle and a couple of well-thumbed tambourines.'
The Gypsies' smaller wagons were called "vardo" in the Romani language (originating from the Iranian word vurdon) for cart. By the 19th century, the Gypsy Vardo had evolved into the most advanced form of travelling wagon and were prized for their practicality as well as esthetic design and beauty. This form of transportation could be frequently found in England up until the early 20th Century.Vardos were typically commissioned by families or by a newlywed couple from a master builder. Building the vardo took between six months to a year. After an owner's death, Gypsies had a custom of burning the wagon and all belongings. Nothing aside from jewelry, china and money was passed on to family, the rest including the wagon was destroyed. This is attributed to the reason why so few of these iconic cultural treasures survive today.
Vardos can be categorized into six main styles: the Brush wagon, Reading, Ledge, Bow Top, Open lot and Burton. The style of this wagon is Ledger.