The History of

Rudderham & Co, Builders, Leytonstone

The wheel hub provided the name of this vardo's builder from 100 years ago.  John Rudderham was born in Norfolk in 1849.  He married an Essex girl and they had one daughter.  Rudderham classed himself as a wheelwright in Kelly's trade directories for 1896 and 1901.  By then, the family had moved to Leytonstone in East London.

Rudderham advertised as a coach-builder in 1910, based at Acacia Road, a few streets away from where he lived.

At the Acacia Road house in 1901 lived Ellen, who was probably his sister.  She was married to Elijah Salmon, age 50, from Somerset.  Salmon and his two eldest sons, Clason and Harry, were all wheelwrights and worked at home.

We think it must have been around 1900-10 that our vardo was built by Rudderham, Salmon and his sons in the small yard in Leytonstone.  By 1914, when Rudderham would have been 65, he no longer advertised in Kelly's.  Instead, Mrs Edith Salmon (married to Clason) had registered under Carriage and Car Body Builders, still carrying on the family business from Acacia Road.

Forrest Funfair

The wagon was commissioned by Swales Forrest of the well-known funfair family, who still travel in Kent, Surrey and the south-east of England.   Before WW2 their vans would overwinter in Gravesend, Kent.  Eventually, our waggon ended up in Altringham, Cheshire in an antique dealer's back garden.  It then rolled into the efficient painterly hands of barge artist Tony Lewery in 1969/70 and then on to North Wales for further restoration in '79.

Settled in North Wales

After restoration it was sold on to a lady in the early 1980s and travelled another 60 miles further west and up the Vale of Conwy.

The vardo was tucked away in a timber barn on a smallholding, hidden in the mountains above Trefriw. 

The next 100 years

The John Rudderham vardo - Shantilly - is now part of a collection of waggons owned by a family with Welsh Romani and fairground roots.

Before travelling to its new home, the two rear wooden wheels had to be strengthened and braced with steel bars because some of the fellies and spokes had rotted away. 

That being done, the lengthy task of bringing the heavily laden trailer and vardo down the steeply winding mountain track was carried out.


With tight straps, some prayers and a few fancy words the waggon eventually arrived 15 miles back down the river-valley at Conwy.  Unfortunately, the 4 x 4 landcruiser's 4 litre engine was wrecked in the process whilst navigating a steep hill in the final 200 yards.

100 year old Shantilly is now undergoing a complete restoration.

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