1928 to 1931 Bill Knott Midland Caravan, built by Bill Knott himself. Currently on display in our showroom we have for sale; quite possibly, one of the rarest and oldest caravans in existence. This caravan is a unique piece, built by world renowned caravan manufacturer William Knott (Bill Knott) at the young age of 16 using parts sourced locally.
A brief history to William Knott: is a modern 1950’s self made man, having the largest caravan manufacturing business in the world; Bluebird Caravans. In a video found recently online, we can see William Knott leaving work passing his line of luxury cars, all his before driving off in a red Aston Martin DB3 sports car. He also enjoys time playing golf on his own 18 hole golf course and touring the Dorset coast on his luxury speed boat. He is quite the man and looks to have been a hugely successful businessman.
The story of our 1928 Bill Knott Caravan: this wonderful piece of caravan history is a rare 2 berth cravan built by Bill Knott, the founder of Bluebird Caravans. Unlike many caravans of this period which had a rear entry door, this is one of the very first designed with a door at the side as with caravans today. Our caravan weighs 900kgs and converts into a 2 berth by way of the rear seat sliding out creating a double bed. A running restoration by the current owner, the current livery is Cream and Blue to co-ordinate with their existing 1928 Hillman 14 that towed it. We were the representatives in the sale of the 1928 Hillman 14 some time ago. The caravan also features its original Rippingillies paraffin stove, steel artillery wheels and external contracting brakes.
This caravan has been shown at many local rallies over the years and admired by all.
To accompany the caravan we have a framed letter from Shirley Pippin; world remowned caravan historian from the Historic Caravan Club. Shirley has given further detail and clarification of our caravan.
“Dear Dean (current owner)
Bill Knott (born 1915) began building caravans at the age of 16, using old car axles which he found locally. By the mid 1930’s, he was producing in some quantity which capital of £10,000 given by his father, a Parkstone auctioneer. These later caravans were quite possibly stylish but the workmanship was poor. However, they sold in large numbers because of the low prices. These caravans were marketed through his father to anyone who would resell but there were no catalogues and the caravans bore no name plate or transfer and were ‘sold as seen’. If asked, the sellers said they were ‘Midlands’ but never gave the location of the factory. In advertisements at this time, buyers were invited to apply to ‘Knott, auctioneer, Parkstone’ or ‘Knott, liquidator, Parkstone’.
Because Knott made the marketing of caravans look so easy, many ex Knott employees, and others, started up in the Bournmouth area, making caravans of any old rubbish they could find – worn out tyres, flour sacks stitched together instead of canvas on the roofs, walls lined with lino and hessian covers folled with straw for the mattresses. Because of this, it is not surprising that recognised dealers shunned them and the leading magazine of the time (The Caravan) refused to carry any ‘Midland’ advertisement as they did not wish to be seen to endorse such poor quality products to their readers.
After the war, things gradually improved and the ‘Bluebird Caravan Company’ was formed but it was not until 1952 that The Caravan would accept their advertisements.
The club has nothing on early ‘Midlands’. It is doubtful that anything exists given the information above. I have one photograph of a ‘Midland’ with no date and a catalogue for a ‘Bluebird’, probably 1948/1950. The dealer A S Jenkinson had some ‘Midlands’ for sale about the same time.
I first saw your caravan at the Dorset Steam Fair about 17 years ago. It was in a poor state at that time but one of the visitors to the show spoke to me and said he recognised it as an early Bluebird as he had worked at the factory. He might have been correct or he could have been mistaken and there is no way it can be proved either way. If it is an early Bluebird (Midland), it can’t have been made earlier than 1931 in spite of it being a 1920’s shape. one explanation for this might be that this style would have been easier to make than the streamlined caravans that recognised manufacturers were producing from 1930 on wards. The side door is also a feature of caravans from the 1930’s. very few caravans has this in the 1920’s.”
Signed: Shirley Pippin, Somerset.