The Caravan Club and the Suffrage Movement.


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The Caravan Club was formed of one third of women members before the First World War.

SOURCE: Angela Willis – Curator, Caravan and Motorhome Club Collection.

In 1907 The Caravan Club of Great Britain and Ireland was formed (today known as the Caravan and Motorhome Club), with an aim to represent the interests of the rapidly growing number of horse-drawn leisure caravanners. Unlike the many clubs of the Edwardian era which only admitted men, this modern and progressive organisation was made up of around one third of female members in the years before the First World War.

An extract from The Caravan Club’s 1913 list of members.

The formative years of The Caravan Club coincided with the growing momentum of the suffrage campaign which sought to gain equal voting rights for women. I have been keen to discover whether suffragists (those who campaigned using peaceful methods such as lobbying) or even suffragettes (who used militant and often unlawful campaign tactics) sat among the third of women listed in the ranks of the Club. As pioneering leisure caravanners these women broke social moulds, they often toured the country in female-only parties and enjoyed outdoor pursuits more traditionally reserved for men. Surely it would stand to reason that some would be involved in the most significant political movement of a generation?

At the Club’s Collection of historic material held here at the National Motor Museum, there are two hugely significant documents which have been key to unlocking the stories of our early Club members. Two printed lists from 1910 and 1913 contain the names and addresses of each member including writers, artists, eminent surgeons and heroes of the First World War. I recently set about uncovering if supporters of the suffrage movement also sat among them and I made several fascinating discoveries.

A WSPU Hunger Strike Medal presented to Louise Lilley. Courtesy of the Museum of London.

The most remarkable story springs from a listing for Miss Louise Lilley of Holland House, Clacton-on-Sea which appeared in The Caravan Club’s 1913 List of Members. Daughter of co-owner of the Lilley and Skinner shoe brand, Louise was Secretary of the Clacton branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and was therefore a ‘suffragette’. As such, she was to become central to the militant campaign tactics promoted by the founders of the organisation Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters. On the 9th March 1912 Louise, along with her sister Kate, appeared in court at Bow Street charged with breaking windows at the War Office – one of many similar attacks which took place on the same night. The hearing was reported in Votes for Women, the official organ of the WSPU, the following week:

‘Miss Kate Lilley and Louise were charged with breaking windows at the war office, and a constable produced some flint stones as big as a man’s fist. Counsel for the defence stated that his clients were the daughters of a well-known Essex gentleman, and they felt they had a deep grievance against the government. Defendants were each sentenced to two months hard labour.’

Imprisoned in Holloway, like many other suffragette prisoners they suffered a short period of hunger strike as a protest that they were not being treated as political prisoners. On their release the sisters were presented with a Holloway brooch and hunger strike medal from the WSPU, with their homecoming being reported in the Chelmsford Chronicle: ‘A big crowd has assembled, and the appearance of the Misses Lilley, who looked none the worse for their novel experience, was greeted with loud cheers’.

Caravan Club member and suffrage campaigner Lady Denman. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

In contrast to the exploits of Miss Lilley, fellow Club member Lady Denman of Balcombe Place in Sussex belonged to a group of suffrage supporters who were deeply opposed to the increasing militancy of the WSPU. In 1908 the young Lady Denman was elected to the Executive of the Women’s Liberal Federation who took a constitutional approach to campaigning. They were shocked at the WSPU’s tactics of targeting Liberal politicians, including keen anti-suffragist Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, yet they worked tirelessly to promote the cause for voting equality amongst their own party.

However, Lady Denman’s involvement with the campaign ended abruptly when in 1911 her husband was called to become Government-General of Australia, a country which has granted votes for women nine years earlier. Although her role in the British suffrage campaign was cut short she later returned to the UK and in 1917 was elected as the first Chairman of the newly formed National Federation of Women’s Institutes for which she is best known.

Research has also uncovered Caravan Club members who took active roles in local branches of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), another non-militant organisation headed by Millicent Garrett Fawcett. These include suffragist Miss Susan ‘Susie’ Hardy who became Secretary of the Salisbury branch of the NUWSS when it was founded in 1909. Also, Miss Amy Sharp, Chairman of the Ambleside and District NUWSS branch who achieved great success in gaining support for the cause in her area.

I was delighted to uncover these women’s stories and discover that both suffragettes and suffragists formed the ranks of The Caravan Club. Despite these women representing different organisations with varying opinions on how the vote should be won, all worked to achieve the equality at the polling station which we enjoy today.

Throughout 2018 the Caravan and Motorhome Club Collection will be commemorating 100 years of votes for women by exploring the theme of the caravan and the Suffrage campaign in a series of blogs. Keep up to date with the Collection on Twitter @CAMCCollection


Crawford, E. 1999. The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928. London: University College London Press.

Huxley, G. 1961. Lady Denman. London: Chatto and Windus.

Stone, J.H. 1913. Caravanning & Camping Out. London: Herbert Jenkins.

Christopher Macgowan


Note: This research was carried out by Angela Willis who is the Curator of the Caravan and Motorhome Club collection at Beaulieu. The Club has a display stand within the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu where many items of historical interest are on show.


The Alpine tour continues at Lake Konigssee.


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The Bavarian Alpine trip continues to amaze and Lake Konigssee is stunning. It is a natural lake near Berchtesgaden and it lays claim to being Germany’s deepest and cleanest lake.

I am flip flopping continually between Austria and Germany and mostly the temperatures are between 25 and 29 degrees. Loving every minute!

When I started the relationship between myself and my AutoSleeper motorhome Myrtle some fifteen years ago I spent a lot of time in France because, as we all know, it is arguably Continental Europe’s most motorhome friendly country. Whilst that is still the case, I notice I am spending more and more time in Germany. Everything works here; the roads and the transport infrastructure, there are far fewer sites of course but they are mostly of a high or very high standard. It’s all very easy.

Christopher Macgowan


The Bavarian Adventure continues.


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I continue to be enthralled by my Alpine tour between Lindau and Salzburg. The scenery is beyond delightful and the standard of the sites for motorhomes is exceptional. Totally enjoyable.

Christopher Macgowan


500,000 T6 vehicles manufactured. The home of the California.


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Hannover, 01 June 2018: Just three years after production of the sixth-generation Transporter began, the 500,000th T6 has rolled off the line in Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ main Hannover plant. The 500,000th vehicle is a Multivan with two-tone paint finish in Candy White and Curcuma Yellow. In total, since production of the series began in Hannover on 8 March 1956, around 8.8 million Transporters have been made.

Dr Eckhard Scholz, Chairman of the Brand Board of Management of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles said: “This milestone is, above all, the result of consistent customer focus. We are gearing our production more than ever to the wishes of our customers and with intelligent solutions we are creating added value for their everyday routines and leisure activities.

At the same time the excellent production figures are indicative of committed employees and thus of a highly efficient site. This story of success is one that we will continue to write together!”

Plant Director Udo Hitzmann commented: “The sixth generation T-series has been thrilling our customers ever since production began three years ago. Continually modernised, more flexible working processes and a top team performance are the stand-out features of this ongoing ‘Made in Hannover’ success. Throughout this time the Hannover plant has repeatedly coped with changing challenges. That benefits both the T-series and our customers.”

Bertina Murkovic, Chair of the Works Council, explained: “The T is the core of our brand. The consistently high production figures underline its importance to Hannover: we are the Bulli site! Thank you to all our colleagues, who have made this fantastic growth possible.”

The T-series is produced on a three-shift basis both in Hannover-Stöcken (Multivan, California, Kombi, Caravelle, Transporter) and at the Poznań plant in Poland (Kombi, Caravelle, Transporter, pick-up). In the past year alone, 208,427 T6 vehicles were produced at the sites in Hannover (175,290) and Poznań (33,137) – in total the highest number of vehicles of this series produced for 44 years. Compared to last year, which was itself a record, the new figure means an increase once again of 4.5 per cent.

About the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles brand:

“All around the globe we offer the best transport solutions for our customers.” As a stand-alone brand within the Volkswagen Group, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is responsible globally for the development, construction and sales of light commercial vehicles, producing the Transporter, Caddy, Crafter and Amarok ranges. In consultation with its customers, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles draws up appropriate vehicle concepts, telematics and logistics solutions for the sparing use of resources at the highest possible level of efficiency. In 2017, the brand sold around 498,000 light commercial vehicles, which were produced at its sites in Hanover (D), Poznań (PL), Września (PL) and Pacheco (ARG). Globally, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles employs over 21,000 people, including around 14,000 at the Hannover site.

Christopher Macgowan


Club Selects Top Five Campsites In The South West.


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With green rolling hills and the longest coast line in England, the South West is a region made up of panoramic views and stunning scenery just waiting to be explored. The Caravan and Motorhome Club has 45 sites spanning the seven counties of the South West and has handpicked its top five sites, ideal for a UK staycation:

Start Bay, Devon
For those looking for a quiet countryside escape, Devon is home to one of the Club’s hidden gems. The private and intimate setting of Start Bay Club Site offers a peaceful stay in a quintessential English meadow. For holidaymakers wishing to explore more the local surroundings, the picturesque town of Salcombe, known for its sailing and freshly caught crab as the local delicacy, is only just over a 30 minute drive away. The Site itself is located on the edge of Start Bay beach which is a popular place with anglers for a spot of sea fishing.

Price: From £18.40 per night (based on two adults sharing a standard pitch with electric hook up).

Treamble Valley, Cornwall
Deemed one of the prettiest sites on the Club’s network, the site is located within 36 acres of woodland. With views across the Atlantic Ocean on offer from the hardstanding pitches, it is easy to see why this is such a popular spot for a UK staycation. Nearby there are extensive walking trails directly from the site, Truro is only a 25-minute drive away and Newquay is only five miles away. Truro, the UK’s most southerly city, is full of history and is home to the Royal Cornwall Museum and the world-renown Truro Cathedral; Newquay offers more of a modern vibe playing host to surfing championships each year and is considered one of the nation’s favourite seaside holiday spots.

Price: From £18.40 per night.

Cheddar, Somerset
Located in the heart of Somerset, the quaint English village of Cheddar is a haven for lovers of the great outdoors. The surrounding countryside of the Mendips is a walker’s paradise with many walking trails and hiking routes just waiting to be uncovered. The Club’s Cheddar Site is located right on the edge of Cheddar village and is only a short distance from world famous Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, the producer of authentic Cheddar Cheese matured in the local caves. The Site is also only a 25 minute walk from the spectacular natural landmark of Cheddar Gorge with its awe-inspiring cliffs and stunning subterranean show caves. The area is also well-known for rock climbing and caving too, perfect for adrenaline junkies!

Price: From £23.90 per night.

Crossways, Dorset
Set in 35 acres of woodland, Crossways Club Site provides the ultimate south of England retreat. The Site is only a short drive from Dorchester which is home to the Teddy Bear Museum and the Tutankhamun Exhibition, making it a great day out. The coastal town of Weymouth is also only a twenty minute drive away and is the perfect place for a sunset dinner made up of local seafood delicacies. Crossways Site is easily accessible if not driving too and is only a five minute walk away from Moreton, the nearest train station.

Price: From £19 per night.

Penzance, Cornwall
The most westerly major town in Cornwall, Penzance is well known for pirates (of the singing variety), palm trees and excellent beaches. The nearby Marazion Club Site, close to the town of the same name, puts visitors within easy reach of the beautiful Cornwall Coastal Path and everything you could want from a UK summer holiday. A fish and chip van even visits this site from time to time. Marazion boasts a stunning beach ideal for families, some of the best windsurfing in Britain, great sailing with easy launching facilities, the warmest mean climate in the country arguably the most famous view in Cornwall across to St Michael’s Mount.

Price: From £15.10 per night.

Christopher Macgowan


Sledmere House CAMC National 2018 enjoyed by all.


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The Caravan and Motorhome Club National 2018 is at Sledmere House in East Yorkshire and I have to say it is an impressive setting – certainly yesterday and today Sunday bathed in continuous sunshine. We visited the house and the wonderful walled garden and loved every minute of it.

It is an astonishing event put together almost entirely by volunteers headed up by Vice-Chairman of the Club and Events Committee Chairman Rodney Lambert. During the event the small village of Sledmere goes from a population of 300 to 5000 with all of the electric, water and waste infrastructure demanded by a population of that size. It is quite an undertaking and yet to all the attendees like myself it seems to work like clockwork which in turn makes a visit to the National such an enjoyable experience.

Christopher Macgowan


Warwick Racecourse CAMC site – a motorhome must go to site!


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Pitched against the racecourse railings.A little light watering outside my window.

As I am sure everyone knows, Warwick is a gem of a town and is in such easy walking distance from the CAMC site you could quite happily spend more than the three days I was here this week.

A very warm welcome from the wardens and typical immaculate site maintenance made it a very enjoyable stay.

Christopher Macgowan