Time-touring: a writer's guides to the history of caravanning

19/03/2015
Most people have a dream job, whether it be racing driver, airline pilot or astronaut. But ever since childhood, leading caravan historian Andrew Jenkinson has wanted nothing more than to work with the beloved touring holiday homes.
 

Most people have a dream job, whether it be racing driver, airline pilot or astronaut. But ever since childhood, leading caravan historian Andrew Jenkinson has wanted nothing more than to work with the beloved touring holiday homes.

The 56 year-old father-of-one was introduced to caravanning aged five by his grandparents and family holidays were often spent in his parents’ 1968 Sovereign 3-metre four birth.

And so a life-long love affair was born which has made Andrew, of Bispham, near Blackpool, not only one of the UK’s leading reviewers of caravans, motorhomes and tow-cars, but a respected author with six books under his belt documenting the industry and its history.

The life of a caravan writer

The enthusiast began his career as a freelance journalist in 1992 before finally taking the courageous decision to leave a career in the toy industry and go full-time as a caravan writer and reviewer.

As a keen historian, Andrew had gathered a fascinating archive of brochures, photos and other manufacturer memorabilia which he has used to research books documenting caravans and the rise of the touring holiday.

“I am passionate about what I do,” said Andrew. “And I get a lot of people approaching me for information. I even have requests from caravan manufacturers because often their own archives have been thrown out.

“I just love visiting factories and seeing new prototypes – although some of my reviews have got me in trouble with certain manufacturers in the past.”

Favourite caravan holidays

Andrew’s love for the caravan industry stems from childhood holidays with his family.

He said: “I can remember as a child being on caravan sites and just looking at the different models. One of my favourite memories is of a caravan holiday at an orchard in Hereford in the early 1970s.

“It was just a great time spent outdoors playing cricket and football in this lovely orchard.

“I think the biggest plus with a caravan holiday is they are just so relaxing. My wife and I went away for Christmas and New Year and I took some work with me but hardly got anything done.

“You do get very lazy but my work often pays for my holidays now. Last year I went down to Wiltshire for some reviews and that basically paid for everything.”

Thankfully, Andrew’s wife is tolerant and supportive of his passion for the trade.

The keen caravanner, who tours with a Bailey Ranger GT60, once abandoned a weekend trip to the Lake District and sped down to Weybridge, Kent, to fill his car with old brochures from a caravan sales depot a friend was clearing out.

“My car was literally filled with plastic bags,” said Andrew, “and my wife said, ‘what are you going to do with all this stuff?’, but I said, ‘it will all come into its own.’ And it has.”

The history of Sprite Caravans

Indeed, the vast resource has proved invaluable in his work. His first two books chart the rise of the modern touring caravan from 1919 up until 2001. Others include a history of motorhomes and most recently the story of industry stalwart, Sprite Caravans.

Andrew’s fascination with the industry’s development inspired him to pen his latest work.

He said: “Sprite dominated the market up until the mid-1970s when things started to go wrong for them as more competition flooded the market.

“ABI Caravans started producing the Monza and within three years was really hammering at Sprite, but they are still made today after being acquired by the Swift Group.”

Andrew has also published retro calendars with images taken from advertisements collected over many years evoking memories of family holidays from the 1960s and 1970s.

“I have had some good responses so far,” said Andrew. “People like the images because they capture a different time and allow them to reminisce. Some of them are also quite amusing.”

For information about Andrew and his work please visit his website, Jenkinson’s Caravan World.