The Cheltenham Owners Club
A Members History
The Unique Caravan Owners Club
How it all began, The Cheltenham Caravan Company..……….4
Formation of the Cheltenham Owners Club in 1950 ……….8
The early days…………………………………………………… ……………..….. 10
Owners Club events and notes 1975 onward…………… ……...16
The Winter Luncheons……………..…………………………………………….29
The Meets………………………………………………………………………… …….30
Cameos from John Bradley……………………………………………………30
2.The Club Subscription through the years………………………32
3.Winter Luncheon Venues……………………………………………………33
4.Cheltenham Weekend sites through the years…………….34.
5.Rallies of the North and volunteer Hosts………………………35
6. The Scottish Meets……………………………………………………………37
7. The Midland Meets………………………………………………………….…37
8 Service to members, an Unofficial Roll of Honour…...…38
This booklet has been prepared as an aid to celebrating the
developments, events and friendships made during the 60 years that
have passed since the formation of the club in 1950.
These notes have been prepared using text and comment taken from
postings on the club website, and from articles published in early
Cheltenham Owners Club Newsletters. Much of the text was originally
compiled by two past Chairmen, the late John Jones (1993-95) and by
Rupert Pilkington (1983-85), and was published in the 2000 and 2006
Newsletters. We have added to that by re-examining both the early
and more recent Newsletters for further points of interest.
Looking back through the Newsletters , it is surprising how many
members in the 1960‟ and 70‟s towed their caravans far and wide, all
over the Continent, from Scandinavia to Portugal, from France to
Russia, and to all countries in between! Many regularly attending the
FICC International Rallies, wherever they were!! Clearly the club
members in those days were able to find both the funds, and the time,
to be away from the UK for weeks or months at a time, no matter how
young or old they were!. One brave couple, on retirement, took their
Cheltenham to the United States, and toured for a year!
With the current economic crisis and high fuel costs, and the youngest
of our vans now 30 years old, the days of very high towing mileages may
be behind us. However we must hope that club members will continue
to take their lovely old Cheltenham caravans far and wide, and will
enjoy their unique character while on holiday in future years.
We hope you find the contents interesting and informative.
John Bradley and Richard Wheeler, May 2010
How it all began…The Cheltenham Caravan Company
Firstly we need to be aware that for some 30 years before the
Cheltenham Owners club was born, (in 1950), the Cheltenham Caravan
Company was busy designing and building caravans.
The first caravan to be built by Mr Arthur Gardner has been variously
reported in the COC Newsletters as either in 1919, or in 1920, but the
earlier date seems more likely. Both reports state that it was
converted from an army ambulance of World War 1 vintage. Arthur
and his wife Joyce are reported to have spent their honeymoon in the
home made “motor home” caravan! It is reported that the vehicle had
a number of shortcomings, which included a petrol tank high up in the
caravan part, as the engine was gravity fed, and even a fairly gentle
slope had to be taken in reverse…the van also included a coal fired
range for cooking, no ideal with petrol about..! . The caravan had to be
packed up just to go shopping for a loaf of bread…; So Arthur felt that
if there was to be a future in caravanning, it most surely lay in trailer
Convinced of this he set about building a trailer caravan from scratch,
including the chassis! in a shed in Maida vale, Cheltenham. This was the
beginning of what, through the pursuit of an ambition to produce the
ideal touring caravan, ultimately led to the Cheltenham caravan models
bearing antelope names that form our owners club models today.
These familiar antelope model names were first introduced for the
1938 production year. For the first 17 years of production, from 1920
to 1937, a numeric system was used. For example the 1937 model year
offered a three berth model, the 37P, several four berth versions,
(47LD, 47 M and 47MD) and two super de luxe models, the 57SD and
the 67SD. I am not aware of any of the Cheltenham Caravans from
the pre-war days that survive in roadworthy condition, so all current
members possess caravans with a selection of the antelope names that
have been used from 1938. In that year the models offered were the
Gazelle, Reindeer, Antelope, Stag. Moose and the Eland. The Eland was
fitted with a 16 gallon under floor water tank, and also a 4 gallon hot
water tank, so it came with hot and cold running water!!
Arthur Gardner, like William Lyons of Jaguar cars, was not only
interested in engineering but also had artistic flare and imagination.
These qualities are manifest in the caravans he built. He designed the
substantial chassis and the beautifully proportioned bodywork. From
1921 when he built his first touring caravan, he was in the vanguard of
quality caravan production. The only serious contenders before the
Second World War were the Winchester, the Car Cruiser, and Eccles.
By the 1960‟s Winchester and Car Cruiser had gone, and Eccles had
been taken over and was no longer a contender.
Cheltenham were one of the first to have a ball hitch, wind down
corner steadies, a damper on the towing hitch, an integral jockey
wheel, a triangulated chassis and independent suspension, double wall
panelling, gas installation and even a bath in the floor and built-in
wireless in some early models!! Since the war developments included
use of two doors to help when travelling abroad on the Continent, an
emphasis on see – through vision to aid safe towing, and attractive
interior lay-outs and furnishings, with both end and mid section
kitchens , and built in toilet and washing facilities. The interiors were
always bright and light, with large “Morelite” fittings in the roof
Early prototype caravans were taken abroad on trials to help in design
and development, even travelling to Marrakech in 1933! and as far as
Israel. In 1939 the Gnu was offered, with an all steel body like a car,
but it proved difficult to build and use, and so was dropped. The onset
of war killed the market, and the factory was taken over for aircraft
Production resumed in 1946, but the first years were beset by material
shortages. Production of the Gnu was restarted but using beaten
aluminium sections for the roof. This proved successful, but was too
expensive. So experiments were carried out using glass reinforced
polyester resin (GRP) and Cheltenham became pioneers in using GRP for
caravans. The GRP roof of the Stag had its own moulds and wishing to
build a larger van, (the 1956 Springbok) but without the expense of
new moulds it was decided to use the Stag moulds with a large gap
between them, covered by a very large roof light. It was so popular the
company decided to use large rooflights in all models.
Cheltenham eventually introduced GRP fibreglass for front and rear
panels, to help cure water ingress problems. They were the first
caravan maker to do so. It was also used for the wheel arches and
spats... To ensure the caravans were lighter than competitors, curved
side walls were introduced, covered in 18 gauge aluminium. This gave
four times the strength, with half the framework weight of straight
sides. It also gave good looks. The framework was made of hardwood
glued and screwed, and with a tongue and grooved floor, these were of
a substantial caravan build by any standards.
Throughout their development, all new models were road and site
tested extensively before production commenced, by the Gardner
family themselves, and once on the market, every opportunity was
taken to obtain feedback from the new owners in order to identify any
design faults or where there might be room for improvement.
The Sable design, with a large kitchen work-surface area, was the
result of trials by Cecil Gardner, who had found cooking in his early
Deer model very difficult as there was little space to put down his used
pots and pans!!!.
The reason the Cheltenham Caravan Company walked away with most of
the Awards presented after the Caravan Club Road Rally and Speed
trials in the 1960‟s was clear. It was due to Arthur Gardner‟s design
expertise. What contributed to the best towing characteristics of any
caravan ever built were the short A frame, streamlined bodywork,
lightness, and most of all having the axle set back from the centre of
the chassis producing a nose heavy stance, approximately 1 cwt ,
depending on the model.
At this time Cheltenham caravans were twenty years ahead of their
competitors, and they remain an advanced design. They will be around
after the others have gone! It is the most popular make among the
classic car fraternity because of its integrity and style, and ease of
repair, and to this day Cheltenhams are among the best looking
There are a surprising number of Cheltenham caravans to be found
abroad, and a number were exported new from the factory.
Cheltenhams are known to have been in Andorra, Canada, Finland,
France, Holland, South Africa, Spain, the United States of America.
and even in the Cayman Islands!
Some have visited the UK for restoration and modification work, and
other owners have had parts dispatched to them, with for example
£500 worth to Helsinki!
Associations with other makes
In the late 1930‟s Arthur Gardner may have advised the now well known
caravan manufacturer “Airstream”. It is understood that Arthur and
Joyce used to be invited to their annual dinner.
In the late 1960‟s a Mr Bennett, who had a greengrocers shop in
Sherborne in Dorset and who knew Arthur Gardner, asked him for
advice as he decided to sell the shop and to take over a workshop in
the town with the idea of making caravans. The caravans he built were
called “Castletons”. You may have noticed the similarity in design and
quality; however, he never got the walls to curve!
Formation of the Cheltenham Owners Club in 1950
At caravanning events, particularly International Rallies, The Gardner
family generously entertained all the Cheltenham Owners on site and
invited them, and indeed encouraged them, to make candid comment
about their vans. A close relationship with the owners developed, and
among owners, with each other. This gave Arthur and Joy Gardner the
idea of starting an owners club, which would be unique as there was no
other in existence at the time.
The Gardners spread the word that they would be starting up an
owners club, and that there would be a free “meet” for owners at
Southfields Manor Farm, (which adjoined Southfield Manor, their
family home) , in September 1950.
This was successful in gathering together a number of owners, and a
total of 55 vans presented themselves at the farm gate. It had rained
for most of August and the entrance to the field had become a
quagmire. The prospect was grim, but any misgivings were soon
dispelled by the arrival of Cecil Gardner, son of Arthur, who arrived
with a Landrover to tow them in. It was not long before all were
settled and chatting.
A marquee had been erected and the Gardner family entertained the
owners with a splendid dinner, at which the Mayor of Cheltenham and
the local MP were guests.
At the meet dinner, a proposal was made that a club be formed, The
Cheltenham Owners Club, and the proposal was carried unanimously!!
Although the Cheltenham Caravan Company Ltd had organised the
meet, future activities were to be organised by a committee appointed
by the members. Mr Garner offered the new Club the use of a site at
Southfield farm for an annual Rally. This first gathering in September
1950 is now recognised as the first Cheltenham Owners club rally.
(That held in June 1970, was hailed as the 21st Annual Rally)
The first Officers and Committee members were duly elected.-
Chairman Mr Ralph Lee
Secretary Mr C.H.Gardner
Treasurer Mrs J.K.Gardner
Committee:- Mr R.J.Frost, Mr F.Gurney, Mrs Majorie Nest and Mr
Mr. Arthur Gardner agreed to be the first President of the Club
It was decided to have the next meeting of the club the following
June, (June 1951) and since then successive committees have held what
became known as the “Cheltenham Weekend” annually in June.
The Early Days…1950 to 1974
Over the years the annual meetings at Southfield Farm continued, with
gradually increasing numbers, and carried on until the Cheltenham
Caravan company ceased trading in 1975, with the owners club then in
its 26th year.
As a reminder, the fuel crisis in the early 1970‟s led to a major
recession in 1973/1974, and in the budget of 1974 it was decided to
classify caravans as luxury articles and the Purchase Tax rate was
doubled overnight. As a result of this huge increase in tax, the Gardner
family decided to close the company, and production in Cheltenham
ceased in 1974.
However during that 26 year period attendance at the annual June
rallies rose to a peak in excess of 200 caravans. In fact the
gatherings became so large that a second field was brought into use,
and eventually two large marquees had to be used for the on site
events, one for children and teenagers, and one for the adults!!
For example, at the 21st party Rally, in June 1970, a total of 570 people
attended, a Friday evening party, and somehow the organisers managed
to sit 470 people at the dinner on the Saturday night!
It was not long after the club was born that it began to develop into
something quite special. An anonymous contributor to an early
Newsletter wrote – “There exists among us a fellowship, a family spirit,
a feeling of belonging, a responsibility toward each other. It is almost a
marriage between owners, who stick together “in sickness and in
health”, as those who have been unfortunate enough to experience ill
health will testify”.
A significant factor in the development of such a club was the early
appointment of our very own Chaplin, and the willingness of the
Reverend Charles Peers, Vicar of Holy Apostles Church, Cheltenham, to
take the Office. He wrote the Owners Hymn, and his services at
Cheltenham Weekends were set at just the right level to be
appreciated by a very mixed congregation. He always brought with him
the choir from his own church. He was followed by the Reverend
Patrick Walton, our own George Frew, and the current Chaplin David
Daniels. Our Altar with the Arthur Gardner Memorial Furniture, and
the beautiful altar cloth made by Mrs Dollie Pearce, Mrs Helen
Johnson and Mrs Milner, upon which it rests during our Services, must
surely be unique.
There is insufficient space here to write a comprehensive history of
the club, but we have selected from the Newsletters and other sources
some particular events and stories that we feel should be recorded,
and that current members may find of interest. If any member feels
that particular events or happenings have been unfortunately omitted
then our apologies in advance, such items can be perhaps be included in
a future Newsletter!
The club members entertained the Gardner family at a Luncheon at the
Chateau Impney, near Worcester, and presented them with an
illuminated address signed by most of the members. This was an
expression of appreciation for the generous hospitality extended to
Cheltenham owners for many years, from long before the Club was
formed. This was the first of the now familiar and ever popular Winter
Club members Ron and Dilys Wheeler started their Cotswold tours at
the Cheltenham weekend. (The places visited were listed in the 1986
A total of 15 Cheltenham caravans attended the FICC International
Rally in the Vercors, south of Grenoble in France.
Saw production of the first Newsletter. It consisted of four sides of
A4, in it the president wrote that the membership was in excess of
1,000, and that since the Club had started in 1950, a total of 36,000
members and their families had attended the annual rally at
Southfield. (A more likely number is 3,600! - Ed) Also in 1961 the Club
obtained , after an uphill struggle, a Certificate of exemption from the
Ministry of Housing and Local Government under the 1960 Caravan Act.
We were the first Club to obtain such a Certificate. This allowed us to
hold rallies without the need to obtain planning permission on each
In 1962 an Owners Club Rally was held in the autumn, at Hexham,
Northumberland, which was the first of the excellent “Rallies of he
North” that have continued ever since. (They were recently renamed as
the “Autumn Rally”).
Club membership was reported as 1,291, and 150 vans attended the
Cheltenham Weekend at Southfield Manor.
Out of 8 English Caravans at the International Rally in Israel, 4 were
Cheltenhams. (Mr & Ms Becketts, Mr & Mrs Deway, Mr & Mrs Gardner,
and Mr & Mrs McLoughlin.
Mr & Mrs Freeborn, newly retired set off on a 5 year trip. They had
traveled over 23,000 miles in the United States and in Europe by
The first caravan across on the new Mull ferry was a Cheltenham of Mr
Fletcher, and the first caravan across the New Forth Bridge was a
Cheltenham. but .the owner was not recorded.
An Irish Division of the Owners Club was formed at a Rally on the site
of the Orchard Caravan Co, Donaghee. Its aims were the same as the
parent club and a rally was planned for 1965. But we can find no record
of its subsequent success or otherwise.
A total of 189 vans, with 440 people attended the Cheltenham
Weekend Rally at Southfield Manor Farm, almost filling the second
field at the farm, and 400 people, (including guests!) sat down for
dinner in the Marquee. This was a record attendance at the Cheltenham
The overseas travel allowance was cut from £250 to £50. , but Mrs
Joy Gardner reminded members that £50 can stretch a good way in a
A total of 56 Cheltenham caravans visited Hungary for the
International Rally at Lake Balaton, 80 miles from Budapest.
Death of Mr Gardner:-
The President, Mr Arthur Gardner, was unable to attend the Winter
Luncheon as he was recovering from a serious operation. Sadly he
suffered a relapse and died before the Cheltenham Weekend in June.
Caravan production continued at Cheltenham under the control of his
son, Cecil Gardner.
Wide ranging travel by club members:-
Member Ernie Lovering helped to organize an Artic Circle Caravan Club
Rally, which followed on after the International Rally at Norrkoping
near Stockholm. A total of 86 caravans in all made it to Roveneimi, on
the Artic Circle in Finland of which 18 were Cheltenhams!! The group
of 18 Cheltenhams were filmed as they crossed over the Artic Circle in
convoy!! Members Mr A Hadfield, Olive Harvey and Mr H Wright all
produced articles for the 1968 Newsletter, (Number 8) describing
their experiences on the way to and from the Artic Circle.
Restrictions in funds for overseas travel:- In 1968 two people were
allowed only £155 to take abroad! Mr Wright traveled for 6 weeks on
the continent, with his Fawn and Rover 95. He took lots of food, and
towed for 4,000 miles, went solo for 500 miles, and only spent £75 on
petrol and £20 on site fees!! He still had a few pound left on his
return. (I suspect you could easily spend £75 in 2010 for fuel just to
and from a channel port! Ed).
The year of the 21st Cheltenham Weekend. (with the inauguration
meeting being counted as the first). A total of 470 people attended
the Saturday night dinner! The distributors of Cheltenham caravans
wished to mark the anniversary, and presented the Club with the
Chairman‟s‟ Badge, which is now worn by our Chairman on formal
A Cheltenham Caravan won the Concours D‟ Elegance at the Caravan
Club Road Rally, and a Cheltenham was outright winner of the Yorkshire
Member Mr HR Wright reported on a visit to Turkey via Germany and
Bulgaria with a Fawn towed by a Rover 3500. He left after the June
Rally, and towed over 2,000 miles within Turkey itself, spending 3
weeks on the return through Greece, Yugoslavia and Austria .His total
journey door to door was 10,000 miles, of which 7,500 ,miles was
towing, and his only problems were one puncture and a flat battery! .
He suggested other members go, but to travel to Turkey in May or
June, as he recorded a shade temperature of 124deg F (that‟s 51 deg
C!!) inside the van with all windows open and the awning up! (Clearly
members were tough in those days).
A difficult year for caravanners with a recession, and petrol shortages,
but the Cheltenham Weekend went ahead as normal. Caravans were
then classified as luxury items in the 1974 budget, and the purchase
tax on them was doubled. The Gardner family decided that this was
“the last straw”, and they would have to shut the company and cease
trading. The Cheltenham Caravan Company was no more.
Owners Club events and notes 1975 onwards.
The Cheltenham Caravan Company had ceased trading, but the Gardner
family agreed to continue with their offices within the Owners Club.
(Arrangements were made for the Stephens and West at Cirencester,
makers of Stirling and Cygnet caravans, to take over manufacture, but
this operation ceased in 1976).
The Cheltenham Weekend was held as usual at Southfield Manor, but
this was to be the last time.
It was reported that Mr Len Benson, (Chairman 1958/1959) and then
74, was the only club member to have attended every Cheltenham Rally
Members Arthur and Sadie Beckett attended the International Rally
at Santo de Andre in Portugal. There were 41 caravans from England,
10 of which were Cheltenhams!!
Thankfully, the closing of the Cheltenham Caravan Company in 1974 was
not the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning! . It
was possible to obtain spares from Messrs Stephen and West of
The Cheltenham Weekend moved to the Frogmill Inn, near
Andoversford. (During the period following the closure of the
Company Membership fell steadily until 1980 when it began to pick up
A number of Owners Cub members own and cherish “Ferndale
Cheltenham” models made from 1978 onward.
From 1978 until 1982 Roger Lander (who had joined the Cheltenham
Caravan Company in 1963, and had been Works Manager) manufactured
new Sable and Puku 2 caravans at Frant, near Tunbridge Wells in Kent.
These were marketed as “Fernden-Cheltenham” models and were very
well built caravans with useful modifications. He re-introduced one of
the characteristics of the Cheltenham, being the use of fine oak
grained wood for the interior paneling and furniture. (Regrettably this
feature had been dropped from the 1972 to 1975 models, with the
wood replaced by photofinished plastic covered panels). The
lengthening of the A frame to support a box containing gas bottles ,
and in some cases a primus water heater, was a mixed blessing as it
increased the already heavy weight on the hitch. It was regrettable
when Roger could no longer sustain this enterprise. Sadly he died
prematurely a few years later, in 1989.
Owners Club members were supported by John and Tina Bradley who
had set up a cottage industry at Bransgore in the New Forest, where
they restored and modified Cheltenham Caravans for many years.
They were responsible for restoring and modifying around 900
Cheltenham caravans from 1981 until they retired in 2003. Their work
included all aspects of maintenance from replacement of shock
absorbers, brake linings and hitch dampers, sourcing and fitting new
tyres, to fitting mains electrical systems and water heaters. Both
framework and furniture repairs and new soft furnishings were
offered, together with coachwork sealing and respraying.
John has been caravanning since a child in 1928, and Tina has
participated since her honeymoon in a Cheltenham in 1961. Their
interest and enthusiasm, which included distribution of membership
application forms, led to a many new members joining the club, and has
kept on the road many vans that may otherwise have been exchanged
for another make of van.
Roger Lander bought the Cheltenham Caravan Company and took
premises at Cricklade, at Stirling Caravan Services, where he carried
out maintenance and repairs until his death some 5 years later in 1989.
At the AGM it was announced that the President, Mrs Joyce Gardner,
and the Secretary Mr Cecil Gardner, and the Treasurers Mrs Joyce
and Mrs Pat Gardner, having held office for 36 years, did not wish
their names to go forward for re-election. Members heard the news
with dismay but received it with understanding. However, it was
proposed that Mrs Joyce Gardner be appointed Life President, with Mr
Cecil Gardner as Vice President. Mrs Jean Etheridge was elected
Secretary and Mr Rupert Pilkington became the Treasurer.
Jean Etheridge was a great success as Secretary and the general spirit
of the club was considerably enhanced during her time in office. -
twelve years. Approximately seven years earlier when Jean and Al
(Jeans late husband) joined the club the committee at the time learnt
that Al had established a very successful Dance School and Club in
Redditch. As the COC funds had reached a low ebb the committee did
not consider the Club could afford a band for future dinner dances.
They tentatively approached Al asking whether he would consider
running a dance with his professional disco experience. Al said he would
only agree on the clear understanding that he would undertake the
roles as a fellow club member- without any remuneration. In the
circumstances the committee were delighted and could not believe
their good fortune.
Members loved Al‟s laid back style, his spontaneous humour but his
professional expertise always shone through during his performances.
He had members on the dance floor from after dinner until nearly
midnight. There were hilarious times for example when Jean would
attempt to teach us Line-dancing. Al‟s discos was very very special – we
enjoyed it for no less than 16 years. A second car had to be taken to
the rally to transport the necessary disco equipment!
The Cheltenham Weekend moved to Hatherley Manor Hotel. After
leaving the Frogmill Inn it was difficult to find a suitable home for the
Club to settle. Hatherley Manor was not as successful as was hoped and
yet another search for a suitable site lead us to Norton in 1988, where
we stayed until the move to Eastnor Castle in 1999, in anticipation of
the Club‟s 50th Anniversary in 2000.
Members in trouble-
Having overheated on the M%, Jim Bradley had to leave his car at a
garage overnight for a new water pump to be fitted the next day. He
wondered where he could go with the van for the night, when he
realised he was not far from Jean and Al Etheridge who would be able
to suggest somewhere. A phone call brought Al to the scene and he
soon hitched up the van on, and they were accommodated at Al‟s place
for the night. This prompted the suggestion that other members might
be pleased to offer similar assistance to fellow members in an
emergency. Members responded well to the idea and the first
Emergency List bearing 13 names was published in the 1987
Newsletter! (There are 21 names on the 2010 list).
Marjorie Nest wrote about her 50 years caravanning with Cheltenhams!
She started with hiring a Cheltenham for a holiday in 1938, then
bought a three berth the following year, which cost £68, (possibly
secondhand) together with a car for an extra £36 !! Altogether she
had the experience of 5 Cheltenhams over the years!
The Rally at Norton attracted 63 vans, and had good weather for a
change! Eighteen members were on the Emergency List.
The 40th Anniversary year. A total of 80 caravans attended the
Cheltenham Weekend celebrations at Norton. Ralph Lee gave one of
his legendary slide , and two coach-loads of members visited
Gloucester Docks as part of the Ron Wheeler Cotswold tour.
Sue and Fred Gregory‟s van caught fire at Norton, but this was quickly
extinguished by members, and was later found to be due to a corroded
gas pipe to the fridge.
Later 18 members vans went to the FICC International Rally in July , at
the Club site in Wincanton, near Shepton Mallett, where they arrived in
convoy, causing a quite a stir.
The Rally of the North at Wrelton was big success, with a Wild West
hoe-down in the marquee and lots of members in western outfits, and
visits to Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley. The oldest van to attend was a
1946/47 Eland, brought by Steve Morley, which caused great interest!
(Where is it now ? Ed)
The Newsletter that year contained a fascinating brief history of the
Cheltenham Caravan Company (1919 to 1974) written by Cecil Gardner.
This was the last year that Ron Wheelers‟ “Cotswold tour” took place
at the Cheltenham Weekend in Norton, as he died at the end of
August that year. The tours took place every year from 1959 to 1992,
33 years of exploring the area!! These were run firstly with many cars
in convoy, then with up to 4 coaches, but dropping back to a car tour in
the 1980‟s. The tours took members to interesting places all over the
Cotswolds and the surrounding areas.
Ron and Dilys Wheeler were founder members of the club, being
designated as member number eleven in 1950!
Des and Margaret Hallett organized a “Midland Meet” at the Caravan
Club site in Chirk, near Oswestry, to coincide with the musical
Eisteddfod at Llangollen. These gatherings, or meets, were run
successfully for another 5 years, with last in 1997.
Three Cheltenhams had set off in convoy for the 54th International at
Pulversheim in Alsace. These were COC stalwarts Hugh and Mary
Jackson, George and Ruth Moutrey and Richard and Jill Smith. But
when in France, Hugh Jackson suffered a back injury while moving a
van, which gradually worsened while they drove further East, and he
was eventually taken to hospital in Gerardmer in Alsace. The Moutrey‟s
and Smith‟s stayed with him until his condition was assessed, and he
and Mary were eventually flown back to the UK in an Air Ambulance,
(organized by the Red Pennant Service), before going on to the Rally.
The club membership was fairly stable in the 1990‟s, and stood at 260
Club membership was 270, and 68 vans attended the Cheltenham
Weekend rally at Norton.
Des Hallett retired from the Cheltenham Caravan repair and servicing
service he ran in association with Nigel Curry.
Jim Bradley organised a COC Rally in Ireland in conjunction with the
FICC Rally at Millstreet near Killarney. Fourteen Cheltenham caravans
attended, joining the Caravan Club contingent, a big proportion of the
around 100 UK vans present. Over 1,000 caravans were there, from 37
The Life Vice –President, Mr Cecil Gardner, announced that he did not
wish to continue. He had served as Hon Sec for 36 years from the
founding of the Club until he was elected Vice President in 1986. He
said he had enjoyed the hospitality and friendships of the club but it
was time to make room for others. Also ill health prevented the Hon
Sec from 1986, Mrs Jean Etheridge, offering herself for re-election,
and Mrs Sue Gregory was duly elected to the office.
Richard and Jill Smith reported in the Newsletter on their trip to the
FICC Rally at Leba in Poland, and proudly noted that they had towed
their Puku, bought new in 1966, for over 66,000 miles in the 32 years
to 1988, with their trusty Citroen BX RD with 150,000 miles on the
clock. This was their 10th FICC Rally! . (Sadly, it was to be their last, as
Richard died the following year).
Ralph Lee, our Vice President, was awarded the MBE, in recognition of
his 68 years service to caravanning, in the New Years Honours List.
He was of course one of our founder members and the first club
Chairman. He had towed over half a million miles, and crossed the
English Channel 74 times!!
The Cheltenham weekend moved to the Deer Park at Eastnor Castle,
near Ledbury, (where unfortunately the weather was extremely wet )
after 11 years at Norton.
Jim Bradley arranged for the COC to attend the FICC International
Rally at Lincoln. Thirty four Cheltenham caravans arrived in convoy
with COC pennants flying causing a great deal of interest. The caravan
Club allotted us our own lines within their section and all had a
The Club‟s 50th Anniversary year. At the Winter Luncheon at Blunsden
House, The Chairman, Mr Roger Papworth, announced that our
President, Mrs Joyce Gardner had written to say that as she was now
95, she was standing down as President. It was very sad that Mrs
Joyce Gardner, who with her husband Arthur, was instrumental in
founding the Club, died shortly afterwards, just before the 50th
Anniversary Celebrations in June at Eastnor Castle.
The Cheltenham Weekend at the Castle, complete with a formal Ball
(that required long dresses and welly boots for the ladies ...it was very
wet that weekend,) proved to be a great success.
This was the terrible “Foot and Mouth” year, when many caravan rallies
had to be cancelled, as areas of countryside were closed off. However,
we held our Cheltenham Weekend at Bibury, between Cirencester and
Burford, for the first time. The weather was good, and members
enjoyed a river trip from Abingdon to Oxford. Club membership was
reported as 207, down somewhat from the 1990‟s.
Rupert Pilkington retired after 15 years as Treasurer, handing over to
The Rally of the North at High Melton included a visit to a working
Steelworks in Rotherham, courtesy of Mark Clothier.
The Newsletter included the first of now regular articles on
maintenance of our caravans, by Jack Salter.
Ralph Lee MBE, founder member and our first Chairman, died in the
September aged 99. He had started caravanning in 1930, and he and
Muriel were first caravan visitors allowed unaccompanied by Russian
Officials into the USSR in 1960! He carried on alone after Muriel died
in 1992, and had taken his van to France when he was 92 years old.
A total of 47 caravans made it to the Rally of the North at Cartmel
Racecourse. A spectacular site, but we had plenty of rain. A guided
tour of the old Priory was a highlight. Members also enjoyed the coach
trip to the Lake District, which included a stop at Sellafield Nuclear
The rally at Bibury attracted 50 vans, and was blessed with fine
weather. The Rally of the North at Seahouses, Northumberland,
arranged by William and Margaret Nesom, will be remembered for
many years by the 45 van owners who attended, because of the very
strong winds directly off the sea that caused havoc with awnings and
the barbeque arrangements, and led to the cancellation of the trip
planned to the nearby Farne islands. Despite that a good time was had
by the members.
After three years at Bibury, we had found that the catering facilities
were not ideal, so we prepared to move again.
We moved our Rally Equipment to Ledbury Rugby Football Club, where 3
million pounds had just been spent on a splendid new clubhouse and
facilities, and have returned each year since that time.
The second meet at Ledbury enjoyed good weather, and 54 vans
attended. The Rally of the North at Harperley POW camp in August
was also well attended, and had good weather, Members enjoyed
themselves dressing up in 1940‟s outfits for the dinner!!
After the suggestion by Tony Parks that Cheltenhams make an
appearance at the RCCF Rally in France in early May, five members took
up the challenge. The International Rally was held by the Retro
Camping Club France in the Vosges area of Alsace in Eastern France.
Around 200 vans from many countries attended, and the prize for the
longest journey traveled to the rally was won by our own Margaret and
Ken Daniels, who had towed all the way from Aberdeen.
Ledbury saw 49 vans attending, with 7 outfits using classic cars to pull
the classic Cheltenhams, perhaps a sign of the future direction of the
club?! The Rally of the North at Woodhall Spa, complete with visits to
the Battle of Britain Memorial flight, was enjoyed by all. The COC
spirit was shown once again when many members buckled down to catch
the marquee before it took off completely in high winds
Although the ground was very wet at Ledbury, 50 vans arrived and
were sited safely. In contrast the Rally of the North at Thornhill
Stirlingshire had very good weather, with easy access to and from the
field. Members were able to visit a private vintage and classic car
collection. 25 members squeezed into 7 vintage vehicles on the Rally
site, before setting off for the visit, the common view was that people
were thinner in the old days!
Leslie Barr produced a brief history of the Cheltenham Caravan
Company for the Newsletter.
The Winter Luncheon at Reyden was well attended, and organizer Sue
Gregory was presented with a memento recognizing her 10 years
service as Club Secretary.
The Scottish Meet saw 18 vans gather at Glamis Castle and at the
Ledbury Rally the vans were moved to a new area, and also enjoyed
better weather than in 2008. It was noted that membership had
dropped down to 176.
However, 45 vans attended a very successful Rally of the North at
Nawton near Pickering in Yorkshire. The Rally quiz drew lots of
interest; with 3 matching top scores…there was fierce competition to
win the final!
The Cheltenham Weekend.
The first COC Rally was held on Southfield Manor Farm, near
Cheltenham, and members were the guests of Arthur and Joy Gardner.
The Rally was held there every year until the Cheltenham Caravan
Company ceased trading in 1975.
These early rallies are described elsewhere. Attendance at these
meetings rose to in excess of 200 vans in the 1960s!
In the late 1970‟s after the closure of the company, there were much
lower numbers attending, with around 30 to 40 vans at the Rally, but
this increased to 80 or more in the 1990‟s.
After the 1970‟s the club seemed to become less formal. communal
barbecues became popular and sometimes were followed by a
“singalong” afterwards. Mass sausage sizzle parties, with all the
trimmings, were produced, some 300 sausages each time from two hot
Springboks. It was a time when wine began to flow from large cartons,
rather than dispensed from elegant bottles, perhaps the club was
becoming slightly less conservative. - it depends on your age!
The Cheltenham Weekend Rally is the responsibility of the Committee
and volunteer marshals. It is customary to fly the COC pennant, and on
the Sunday, the Salvation Army is frequently invited to holds a service
on the site.
This Rally, which includes the Club AGM, is always held at the end of
May, or in early June, and is a full 5 day programme of events. A
religious service is held prior to the AGM, and a collection given to a
good cause at the discretion of the committee.
As noted earlier the 50th Rally was held at in the Deer Park at Eastnor
Castle, near Ledbury. Roger Papworth was Club Chairman at the time,
and he organised the special event. There was a formal dinner and
dance in the castle, and the following day an “Old Tyme Music Hall” was
performed in a marquee on the Rally Field. This was staffed entirely by
volunteer club members! Jean Etheridge managed to coerce members
to perform their various acts on stage. There were many hilarious
moments and the audience showed their appreciation. Mrs Joyce
Gardner had paid all the caravan site fees for members, but had sadly
died just before the event.
The Rally of the North, or Autumn Rally
In 1962 the first “Rally of the North” was held at Hexham in
Northumberland. They have usually been held at the beginning of
September and have continued ever since sited at a different venue
each year. Leslie Clarke and his son Mark have played a big part in
setting the standard, frequently arranging country music dances, fancy
dress dinners and interesting excursions. This event has recently
(2008) been renamed the “Autumn Rally”, so that they may take place
anywhere in the UK. The hard work of sourcing a suitable venue each
year is carried out by volunteer COC members, though with help from
the committee, and volunteer member “Marshals”, on the day.
The Winter Luncheons
At the end of February each year, there has been a Club Winter
Luncheon. The venue can be anywhere, depending on the location of the
volunteer member who arranges the event. Most members stay at an
adjacent hotel, but in recent years some members have used their
caravans their base. More caravan sites are open in the winter,
particularly CL‟s, and most have an electricity supply to help keep warm.
Recent attendances at the Winter Luncheons have been close to 100.
Meets can be arranged by any member in an informal way without
calling on the Club‟s assistance. It is another opportunity for members
to meet –up and enjoy the company of friends. Two meets that have
proved popular have been the Scottish meet and the Dulverton meet on
Exmoor. They usually have around 15 to 20 vans attending and enjoy an
informal get together. A Midlands meet was also arranged for July
each year, starting in 1992, and that was well supported, but the last
was held in 1997.
The Scottish Meet, which started in 1996, is usually held in late April
or early May and this has encouraged members to explore the glorious
mountains of Scotland which they may not have seen otherwise.
The Dulverton Meet, first held back in 1983, is held in October and is
most probably remembered for the “Car treasure hunt” which was run
on 14 occasions. It was good fun, and surprisingly there was not one
accident on the narrow, winding roads, or any “drowning” in the fords!
Cameos from John Bradley-
In 1999, Club members were very proud to learn of the award of the
MBE to the club‟s first chairman, Ralph Lee, awarded for outstanding
services to the Caravan Industry. His talks on caravanning will be long
remembered… “We are going on a journey……..”
Attending an International Rally in Mid- Europe in the 1970‟s George
and Ruth Moutrey lost their way in the capital city….they had a
personal Police escort which guided them straight to the site…
A contingent of COC members attending the FICC Rally in 1997 in
Ireland were embarking from Pembroke dock. As the gang plank was
about to be raised Peter and Hazel Davies‟s Puku was seen racing
across the Quay….Members cried ..”Here comes Hazel…..”
At the 1980 COC weekend at Frogmill Inn, after a communal BBQ, Jim
Bradley led a “conga” through the various vans ..through the front door
and out of the rear door..until the conga entered a Waterbuck!!!
Every Winter for a number of years the Frews and the Moutreys led a
party of vans to spend 2 to 3 months on the Costa …they reckoned to
beat the Germans to the best sites… !!
At a COC Weekend at Norton in the 1990‟s Sue and Fred Gregory‟s
Sable caught fire….they were invited to camp the night in Leslie
Clarke‟s awning, together with their lovely old dog Sam.
Ken Boaden never ceases to entertain us…One day at a Dulverton Meet
he could not join us on our walk, explaining that “ I am going to
Minehead to be measured for my new walking stick “ !
After taking part on a pony trek on Exmoor, “Burt” Pearce (A splendid
Yorkshireman) standing in front of the Saddlery shop on Dulverton
announced.. “eeh – I‟ll „ave to get all the gear now!”
The look of glee on George Frew‟s face as he struck the big base drum
at a Salvation Army service at a Northern Rally in the 1970‟s.
A Puku arrived at a Northern Rally wreaking of petrol – a can inside had
leaked. The member announced “First I shall brew my wife a cup of
tea” - we all ran !!
1950-52 Ralph Lee 1985-87 Arthur Everett
1952-54 R.J.Frost 1987-89 Jin Cunningham
1954 W.M.Whiteman 1989-90 J.MacCoughlan
1955-57 A.Wiffen 1990 acting ch Jim Bradley
1957-59 L.C.Benson 1990-93 Jim Bradley
1959-61 Hugh Jackson 1993-95 John Jones
1961-63 Dr N.Leask 1995-97 Roger Loads
1963-65 Fred.N.Woodham 1997-00 Roger Papworth
1965-67 George Shirley-Smith 2000-02 Peter Johnson
1967-69 Arthur A Wilshaw 2002-04 Mark Clothier
1969-71 Alf Quimby 2004-06 John Bradley
1971-73 Douglas F Whalley 2006-09 Bob Bruce
1973-75 Jack.G.Ford 2009-11 John Howard
1975-77 Jack Orr
1977-79 David Gibson
1979-81 Richard Felstead
1981-83 Leslie Clarke
1983-85 Rupert Pilkington
Club Subscriptions over the years:-
1950 2/6; 1962 5/-; 1967 10/-; 1972 £1.00
1976 £2.50; 1994 £5.00; 2001 £10.00………
WINTER LUNCHEON VENUES and ORGANISERS
1951 Chateau Impney near Worcester
1961 The White Swan Stratford Mr & Mrs Humphries
1962 The Mitre Hotel Hampton Court Mr G Shirley- Smith
1964 University Arms Cambridge Mr & Mrs A. Hadfield
1965 Hotel Leofric Coventry Mr K Montgomery
1966 Skyways Hotel London Airport Sqdn Ldr A Wilshaw
1967 Randolph Hotel Oxford Mr W.E Burton
1968 The Welbeck Hotel. Nottingham Mr A Quarmby
1969 Fort‟s Restaurant, Bath Mr & Mrs Nest
1970 Toll House Restaurant Stratford Mr P F Bush
1971 Bury Barn, Cheltenham Mr G Shirley-Smith
1972 Skyways hotel London Airport Sqdn Ldr A Wilshaw
1973 Wessex Hotel, Winchester . Mr Jack Orr
1974 333 Banbury Road , Oxford Mr G Shirley –Smith
1975 Springfields Restaurant, Spalding Mr A.Quarmby
1976 Fort‟s Restaurant Bath Mrs M Nest
1977 Europa Hotel, Bromwich Mr N Southall
1978 University Arms, Cambridge Mr A Hadfield
1979 Weston Manor Hotel Oxford Mr R. Felstead
1980 Green Dragon Hotel, Hereford Mr J Fitzmaurice
1981 Weston Manor Hotel Oxford Mr R Felstead
1982 Hotel Leofric Coventry Mr R. Renolds
1983 Cross ways Inn North Wooton Mrs M Nest
1984 Cherry Trees Hotel Alcester Mr & Mrs A Etheridge
1985 Oxford Masonic Club Mr R J Pilkington
1986 Claverley Hotel Tunbridge Wells Mr D.C Gibson
1987 Cherry Trees Hotel Alcester Mr & Mrs A Etheridge
1988 Blunsdon House Hotel Swindon Mr R J Pilkington
1989 St Johns Swallow Hotel Solihull Mr R J. Loads
1990 Queens Hotel , Bournemouth Mr Jim Bradley
1991 Cherry Trees Hotel Alcester Mr & Mrs Etheridge
1992 Blunsdon House Hotel Swindon Mr R J Pilkington
1993 St Johns Swallow Hotel Solihull Mr R.J.Loads
1994 Pine Lodge Hotel Bromsgrove Mr & Mrs A Etheridge
1995 Hilton Castle Donnington Mr & Mrs R Papworth
1996 Greswolde Arms Hotel Knowle Mr & Mrs A Etheridge
1997 Queens hotel Bournemouth Mr Jim Bradley
1998 The Falcon Hotel Stratford Mr & Mrs R Papworth
1999 Dumbleton Hall Hotel Evesham Mr M Eddington
2000 Blunsdon House Hotel, Swindon Mr R J Pilkington
2001 Royal County Hotel, Durham Mr & Mrs P Johnson
2002 The Cliffside Hotel, Bournemouth Mr P J (Jim) Bradley
2003 Commodore Hotel , Kewstoke R Felstead & B Flavell
2004 LeStrange Arms Hotel Old Hunstanton F Shenton & M Markham
2005 Stone House Hotel, Stone, Staffs Mr John Lay
2006 The Cliffside Hotel, Bournemouth Mr Jim Bradley
2007 Hatherley Manor, Nr Gloucester Mr D Daniels
2008 The Craiglands Hotel Ilkley, W Yorks Mrs S Pickett
2009 The Randolph Hotel, Reydon Suffolk Mrs S Gregory
2010 The Lincoln Hotel, Lincoln Mr R Papworth
Cheltenham Weekend Sites
1950 to 1975 Southfield Manor Farm, Cheltenham
1976 to 1981 The Frogmill Inn , Andoversford
1982 Cheltenham Racecourse
1983 to 1986 Cowley Manor, Cowley, Cheltenham
1987 Hatherley Manor, Down Hatherley
1988 to 1998 Norton, Near Twigwoth
1999 to 2000 The Deer Park , Eastnor Castle
2001 to 2003 Bibury Football Club , Bibury
2004 to 2010 Ledbury Rugby Club, Ledbury
RALLIES OF THE NORTH AND HOSTS
1962 Hexham, Northumberland
1963 Bridge of Allen, Stirlingshire Mr J Kirkwood
1964 Ullswater, Cumbria Mr & Mrs R Atkinson
1965 Kelso, Scotland Dr and Mrs H R Wright
1966 Penrith Mr & Mrs R Atkinson
1967 Dalbeattie, Scotland Dr H R Wright
1968 Whitley Bay, Northumberland Drs Thomson and Wright
1969 Pooley Bridge, Penrith Mrs Lilian Atkinson
1970 Lucker, Northumberland Mr Ken Lloyd
1971 Hawick, nr Selkirk Dr H R Wright
1972 Pooley Bridge, Penrith Mrs Lilian Atkinson
1973 Taddington. Buxton Bert and Mollie Pearce
1974 Thorpe Hall, Greta Bridge,Yorks Mr J E Hartley
1975 Rockcliffe, Dalbeatie Mr Jack Orr
1976 Bolton Abbey, Yorks Leslie & Margaret Clarke
1977 Rudding Park, Harrogate Bert and Mollie Pearce
1978 Ullswater , Cumbria Mrs Lilian Atkinson
1979 Thoresby Hall, Barnby Manor Mr Bob Lees
1980 Taddington, Buxton Bert and Mollie Pearce
1981 Woodhall Spa, Lincs Mr G H Fuller
1982 Bardon Tower,Bolton Abbey Leslie & Margaret Clarke
1983 Meols Hall, Southport Leslie & Margaret Clarke
1984 Charnwood Forest Loughborough Mr & Mrs L Shebroke
1985 Woodhall Spa, Lincs Roger & Betty Papworth
1986 Kendal, Cumbria Leslie & Margaret Clarke
1987 Bishopthorpe , near York Bert and Mollie Pearce
1988 Gatehouse of Fleet, Galloway Leslie & Margaret Clarke
1989 Walesby, Lincs Roger & Betty Papworth
1990 Wrelton , Yorks Mark & Joanna Clarke
1991 Ripon , Yorks Ken & Jean Waghorne
1992 Copmere, Eccleshall, Staffs Derrick & Elaine James
1993 Buckden, Yorks Mark & Joanna Clarke
1994 Bishop Auckland, Co Durham Peter & Peggy Johnson
1995 Woodhall Spa, Lincs Roger & Betty Papworth
1996 Waddington, Clitheroe Dennis and Cath Read
1997 Grimsthorpe Castle, Stamford Michael Eddington &
Bernard Scott- Frost
1998 Snettisham, Norfolk Frank & Pearl Shenton
1999 Clapham Common, Yorks Leslie & Margaret Clarke
2000 Askham Bryan College , York Mark & Joanna Clarke
2001 High Melton, Doncaster Mark & Edie Clothier
2002 Cartmel Racecourse, Cumbria Dennis and Cath Read
2003 Seahouses, Northumberland Mr & Mrs W Nesom
2004 Stilton, Peterborough Michael Eddington
2005 Harperley POW Camp, Crook Peter & Peggy Johnson
2006 Woodhall Spa, Lincs Roger & Betty Papworth
2007 Thornhill, Stirlingshire Bill & Pat McCreath
2008 Welbeck, nr Worksop, Notts Mike Eddington
2009 Nawton Beadlam, Pickering John Marsland
2010 Hole Park, nr Tenterden, Kent Alan & Veronica Johnson
SCOTTISH MEETS VENUES AND ORGANISERS
1996 Gibson Park, Melrose. Bill & Pat McCreath
1997 Yellowcraig site, Dirleton, East Lothian Bill & Pat McCreath
1998 Newcastleton Alasdair & Sylvia Robb
1999 Garlieston Site, Newton Stewart Bill & Pat McCreath
2000 Maragowan, Killin Alasdair & Sylvia Robb
2001 Bunree, Onich Alasdair & Sylvia Robb
2002 North Ledaig, Oban Alasdair & Sylvia Robb
2003 Invernahavon, Newtonmore Alasdair & Sylvia Robb
2004 Invercauld Club Site, Braemar Bill & Pat McCreath
2005 Culzean Castle, Maybole, Strathclyde Bill & Pat McCreath
2006 Kinkell Braes Site, St Andrews , Fife Bill & Pat McCreath
2007 Ullapool Alasdair & Sylvia Robb
2008 Arrochar, Ardgarten, Alasdair & Sylvia Robb
2009 Drumshademuir Caravan Park, Forfar Alasdair & Sylvia Robb
2010 Morvich Site, Sheil Bridge, Kyle Bill & Pat McCreath
MIDLAND MEETS VENUES AND ORGANISERS
1992 CC Site, Lady Margaret Park, Chirk Margaret & Des Hallett
1993 CC Site, Lady Margaret Park, Chirk Margaret & Des Hallett
1994 CC Site,Ilam Hall, Ashbourne, Margaret & Des Hallett
1995 CCSite,Presthope, Much Wenlock Margaret & Des Hallett
1996 CCSite,Round Plantation, Mildenhall Margaret & Des Hallett
1997 CCSite, Blackmore, GreatMalvern Brenda & Joe Heeley
Appendix 8 The Richard Wheeler totally unofficial
“Role of Honour “ !!
1) Long Serving Club Officials ….
Over the sixty years of the club, only three people have acted as
Cecil Gardner , from 1950 to 1986
Jean Etheridge , from 1986 to 1998
Sue Gregory , from 1998 to 2009
And now Jean Hamilton 2010 on (the same Jean!)
And only three people have acted as Treasurer!!
Cecil Gardner, from 1950 to 1986
Rupert Pilkington, from 1986 to 2001
Judy Sibley, from 2001 to 2010
That must be unique for any 60 year old organization!
2) The Maintenance and Repair Experts
Those who have worked hard for club members to help them keep their
beloved “Cheltenhams” on the road over the last 35 years, by offering
a commercial service and repair facility after the closure of the
original Cheltenham Caravan Company….. What would we have done
without them ???
In alphabetical surname order:- .
John and Tina Bradley
And also, those club members who have given their advice and
expertise on repairs and maintenance freely in recent years, in
particular: Bill McCreath and Jack Salter.
3) The Unsung Heroes
Finally, many thanks to all those who have given their time to act as
Rally Organisers or Meet Organisers; and last but not least, to all
those who have acted as Rally Marshals or helpers over the years.
REWheeler May 2010