A selected history of Bailey caravans

A diagram of the 1947 Maestro caravan

It’s been over 75 years since the first Bailey caravan was built and leisure vehicle technology has come a long way in the intervening years.

Now, caravan specialist Ropers Leisure has taken a look back at some of the milestones the manufacturer has seen since Martin Bailey built the Maestro in 1947 and sold it for £200.

James Roper at Ropers Leisure, said: “Seeing how far they have come over the past 75-plus years is astonishing. From humble beginnings as simple mobile shelters, caravans have transformed into sophisticated, modern homes on wheels, reflecting technological advancements, design, and consumer needs.”

Back in the beginning…

It all began back in 1947 when the UK was still recovering in the aftermath of the Second World War and caravans were basic models with limited space.

After creating the Maestro and selling it at Ashton Gate market in South Bristol in 1947, a year later F G Bailey Ltd was established and produced two caravans every week.

By the 1950s, Bailey was ready to extend the range of caravans on offer, with the Minor and Maritza both offered to the holidaying public.

It was the introduction of the 18-foot Maison that was the introduction of a caravan as a home in response to the post-war housing shortage.

A change of hands

In 1977 Martin Bailey sold the still relatively new company to Patrick and Stephen Howard, who have continued to own the business right up to the modern day.

They’ve overseen plenty of innovation in their time and in 1982 the first Bailey Pageant was produced. This model would go on to be the company’s most successful product line and stay in continuous production for 25 years.

Five years later, it was decided the Pageant needed a sister and the Senator was introduced, complete with blown air central heating and an integrated cassette toilet system as standard.

Weathering the storm

By the late ‘80s, the economic backdrop was tough, but that didn’t stop Bailey from expanding. It was during this time that the South Liberty Lane site was tripled in size.

This coincided with a large investment in advanced digital production machinery to take caravan manufacturing to the next level.

In 1996, the market was in need of an affordable caravan and the Ranger was introduced at less than £10,000 to meet the demand.

Innovating into the new millennium

The 2000s were all about innovation for Bailey, with more robust, durable and lighter caravans rolling off the production line, thanks to the Alu-Tech construction system.

In 2011, Bailey branched out, launching its first motorhome, the Approach SE, featuring an Alu-Tech body shell on an AL-KO chassis with a Peugeot cab.

Royal approval came the next year when Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Bailey at South Liberty Lane to celebrate its 65th anniversary.

Big Adventures

Since 2015, Bailey has been hosting its Big Adventures, with trips to Australia, Finland’s Arctic Circle, Istanbul and most recently, the Sahara Desert.

The Sahara Challenge was originally begun in 2020, but the leisure vehicles only got as far as Sagres in Portugal before turning back due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Three years later, they would set off from Sagres once more and finally make their ultimate destination in Morocco.

Modern challenges

Having become a carbon-neutral business in 2022, Bailey celebrated its 75th anniversary the following year, which was marked with the introduction of the Endeavour campervan.

Environmental initiatives and sustainable growth are at the forefront of Bailey’s plans, as it looks towards the future.