“Julian Lennon is pleased to hear that the caravan is being restored and wishes the best with the project.”
On a bright sunny summer’s day on July 24th in 1967 the people of Chertsey, England, were woken by the sound of steel horse shoes on tarmacadam. Excitement in the air carried by the voices of the large crowd gathering outside JP Fallon Coachworks in Guildford St; the scene only two months prior to the unveiling of John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls-Royce.
Once again the crowds had gathered for a glimpse into John Lennon’s mystique, but not to see a prestigious limousine with door to door luxury only fit for a rock star of the time. No, this time it was for something far more personal to John, however, no less flamboyant by any stretch of the imagination. John Lennon was expressing himself once again, only this time not for the millions of adoring fans or even sniping critics. This time John’s larger than life personality was on public display for his young son Julian in the form of what has come to be known as the Sgt Pepper’s Gypsy Caravan.
A horse drawn marvel towering at over 12ft tall, and appearing at first glance to be painted the same as his wondrous Rolls-Royce; bright yellow adorned with techni-coloured psychedelia and beautiful floral bouquets. On the back in pride of place the Sgt Pepper’s drum head, the most recognised drum head in the world, all beautifully topped and trailed by two magnificent white Hungarian horses.
In true John Lennon style the effect was mesmerising. Cameras flashed, 8mm cine rolled and folk jostled for position as the wagon rolled on to John’s home in Weybridge ready for Julian’s return from holiday. En route wasn’t without incident, causing traffic mayhem as motorists would attempt to corkscrew their heads round as the clip clop clatter of John Lennon’s dream manifestation rolled by.
Some fans elected not to join the mayhem choosing instead to watch it on Pathe news believing “We’ll see it again, it’s John Lennon, the Beatles, they’re everywhere and almost every day there is something about that Rolls-Royce … why would this be any different?” But what would they have done if they had known that this would be the last time the caravan would be on public display for nearly 50 years?
Martin King, Peacing Together at the Beatles Story
It is always exciting when a missing part of the Beatles story suddenly comes to light, whether that is an item of clothing, a guitar or in this case a Romany caravan! That’s a first for me I really have to say, but it is really exciting because it ties in with the spirit of the time.
The Beatles were going psychedelic; they were no longer the Fab Four of the early sixties. There was that edginess, there was that element of the psychedelia where Rolls-Royces could be painted up, where John was obviously aspiring to have the freedom of the open road with a caravan and was painting flowers and scrolls. And, what did that lead to? Well, that moment in rock and pop history called Sgt Pepper. So, it is an important part of culture and consciousness for the whole world and that is pretty much summed up with a caravan that is currently being worked on.
The Beatles Story is always delighted to look at parts of John, Paul, George and Ringo’s history. Things that have got provenance that were truly part of the story we embrace and we want to make accessible to the whole cadre of Beatles fans worldwide. This fits that category admirably, so we were delighted when we were approached and I am delighted to do whatever I can to reach out to the world for this project.
All of the Beatles were interested in peace and love “All You Need Is Love” they famously said. It fits in very much with the legacies of all four of the lads to actually commemorate John’s legacy with regards to peace and everything associated with that. It is a fine set of objectives that attach themselves to the restoration of the caravan and I think John himself would really appreciate that.
Now, if I can speak directly to every Beatle fan across the world, especially those who enjoyed and visited the Beatles Story, and ask that you look to support this important part of Beatles history, to help bring the Romany Caravan back to life and to support the peace objectives that are associated with it. Can you give generously; we want to support it don’t we, all Beatles fans?
“it is always exciting when a missing part of the Beatles story suddenly comes to light”