The Dorset Wagon Co. Ltd.
Builders of the Finest Bespoke Showman's Wagons
Traditionally crafted hand-built wagons from our Wareham workshop in the heart of Dorset at the gateway to the Jurassic Coast of the Purbecks.
We choose each and every piece of timber from local independent suppliers, picking only the best pieces from the larger planks which we then cut to size on our own sheet and band saws allowing us to make our own windows, doors and furniture to the highest standards.
We strive to use only sustainable timber and sheet materials. Hardwoods are, wherever possible, from windfall British trees through our local sawmill.
We keep stocks of vintage fixtures and fittings to allow our clients authentic finishing touches to the final build through our extensive supply chain - including marine salvage.
Our team of highly skilled cabinet makers and carpenters have decades of experience in all aspects of fine joinery.
We have also taken on an apprentice cabinet maker whose enthusiasm and natural ability is a welcome addition to the team. As we grow in the future we hope to train up more local talent and share the skills that our senior guys have learnt over a lifetime of experience. If we don't there is a real chance that these valuable skills will be lost forever.
Right from the very start we knew that design engineering was the key to getting it right. The classic lines, iconic Mollycroft windows and especially the curves that set a Showman's Wagon apart from all other living vans.
We were lucky to be able to take on a graduate from the local university who was every bit as passionate about building authentic wagons as we were. As every wagon is bespoke, no two will ever be identical, his skills are just as much in demand now as they were at the beginning.
It doesn't just have to look right - it must also be a practical and useful living van that can be towed on a road and across a field. We designed an elegant and strong structure that also has that little bit of flexibility that allows it to be every bit as useful as its predecessors.
Using state of the art software we can draw in 3D and test every component before manufacture on engineering models.
Nothing beats the quality of vintage hand tools for fine finishing, robust build quality, sheer pleasure of use and the comfort that many decades of use bestows upon a well-made plane or saw.
Traditional skills call for traditional hand tools.
"The 1st wagon I saw was at Gifford's Circus on Minchinhampton Common in the Cotswolds in about 2000. It had an admiring crowd gathered around it and I fell in love with the idea of owning one immediately.
The main problem was that there just ain't many around. Those that were offered occasionally for sale were invariably decrepit, rotten through and through on rusted chassis with daylight coming through the holes in the roof.
I was building extensions in Purbeck for a living and had gathered a team of great craftsmen over the years and the seed of an idea began to form.
We could build our own wagons!
I crowd funded the seed money to take on a small workshop, kitted it out with the right tools and designed a heavy steel chassis to form the base.
It soon became apparent that I'd need a design engineer and put up an advert at the local university and was exceedingly lucky to find someone every bit as enthusiastic as me for the project. He was able to take my ideas and engineer a timber frame that was both strong and light with just the right amount of flex in it to allow it to be towed as a useful living van that could go out on the road.
At this point there was no market for this kind of thing - it just didn't exist! However, no sooner had we started on the frame when a buyer appeared.
It was just what he was looking for - an investment for early retirement. The popularity of Shepherd's Huts on sites like Air B'n'B showed a demand for this kind of 'glamping' accommodation. Showman's Wagons were a logical next step up in comfort and style. Research indicated a return of at least £700 a week averaged out over a year, which was enough to retire comfortably on for him.
Since then interest has been huge. People instantly get the potential - whether as a glamping investment, boutique hotel accommodation, a fishing van that can be towed to higher ground in the winter or just a beautiful place for guests in the garden - Showman's Wagons are simply highly desirable and enormously versatile.
I still don't own a wagon of my own - but I'm loving building them"
Gary Wallace - Managing Director
Quite simply we want to build the finest Showman's Wagons possible.
We don't cut any corners in achieving this. We use the highest quality materials to suit each build. Every build is bespoke, so that means we have to ensure our supply chain is as wide and varied as possible. However, we insist upon using environmentally sustainable sources of timber and sheet material whenever we can - if there is a choice we will strive to choose the greenest every time.
We use birch-face plywood for lining drawers and building furniture bases, Finnish structural plys instead of tropical hardwood faced plywood, British hardwoods sourced through our local sawmill from wind fall trees and European softwoods certified by the FSC.
We build our wagons anticipating many decades of use. The chassis is developed from a heavy agricultural base. The wagon itself is clad in aluminium with a specially specified finish. All exterior exposed timber is treated twice with a solvent based preservative, then Zinnser 'Bin' primer/undercoat, then Dulux oil-based Weathersield undercoat, then 2 coats of Weathershield gloss.
All interior painted timber is primed with Zinnser 'Bin' 1st before getting its final undercoat and finish.
The floors, walls and ceilings are all insulated.
Internal walls have sound insulation.
All furniture is hand-crafted in our workshop - even the doors.
Nothing less than a fully finished wagon meeting our most stringent specifications will ever leave our workshop. We take enormous pride in what we do and only the best will ever be good enough.
Our team is the most valuable asset we have - whether engineering the designs, building the wagons or covering the admin - everyone is a valuable member of a close-knit and happy team.
We strongly believe in training up youngsters and look forward to taking on apprentice cabinet-makers as well as new designers and engineers.
All our team - including the blacksmith who customises the chassis, the specialist electrician who designs and builds the off-grid power system, the team who make the aluminium cladding (including the fiendishly difficult curved corners), and the LPG engineer who fits the special combi-boiler for the heating and hot water - are from Dorset, reducing our carbon footprint wherever possible.