We were at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, in 2011. There I met a very nice gentleman, Mr. Malcolm Hemley and we got chatting about his old TEF20 Ferguson tractor. After a bit he just happened to ask me if I knew of anyone that was interested in vintage caravans. So of course I said that we were very keen them and we had our Car Cruiser at the show. He then informed me that he wanted to find someone interested in taking on a couple caravans made by his father just after the war and they had been in storage for many years. Well I told him we would pop over and have a look. ( expecting to find some old box shaped rotten thing just fit for spares ) A couple of days later, after some prompting from my partner to at least have a look. We set off to Poole and managed to find his house and with a torch marched off down across his land, heading for a large clump of trees, brambles and Rhododendrons.
“ well “ he said “ here we are “.
Looking around we couldn’t see anything, until he began to push his way through the jungle and after about 20 yards came to a totally overgrown WW2 nissen hut, the front blocked up with corrugated steel sheets and peeping over the top the roof of a caravan.
After removing one of the sheets to get through and using the
torch, we were dumfounded to see two amazing old caravans, with
lantern roofs. The first was a large old beast and the other a
smaller one. The first had caught a bit of weather and the inside
was somewhat damp but full of potential. The smaller one being at
the back of the shed had survived well and in fact was like
We finally got the story behind these ’vans.
Malcolm Hemley’s farther had a building company before the war and also did a lot of carpentry work. During the war his company did a lot of clearance and restoration work in the bombed out parts of London. When the war finished he had a fair bit of spare cash and decided to branch out and make caravans to fill the growing market for touring and large caravans, for bombed out families to live in. So in 1947 a batch of chassis and other fittings was ordered from Joseph Lea & Sons Trailers & Parts ltd. All the ministry of supply allowed him to order was enough chassis and parts to build four caravans. Three were duly built, one was exhibited at the caravan club
national and won the award for best interior design, one sold and the third and fourth were being built when Mr. Hemley senior, fell ill with mouth cancer, production was halted. He was very ill for about fourteen months. But after a lot of surgery and radiation treatment started to get better and was finally given the all clear. But he decided he wasn’t well enough to continue running the company and the caravan part of his business. So the third caravan by this time was 99 percent finished and the forth caravan had just been started and were put into storage. This was around 1948. The small caravan was used twice for short holidays then they moved from London to Dorset in 1958 and the caravans were put in the big Nissen hut and there they stayed until we saw them in 2011. It was like stepping into an Egyptian tomb. Everything was just as it had been left 53 years ago. The large Hemley "Tudor 20” had been used for storage and had suffered from damp, as it was at the front of the shed. The small Hemley “ Tudor Dormouse” was tucked away at the rear of the shed and was really dry and the interior was nearly as good as new.
The Dormouse, is fully kitted out with all new pots, pans, water carrier, toilet and tent. Everything needed for caravanning in fact and all only used twice and some not used at all.
We mentioned to Malcolm that it was a pity the large Hemley 20
didn’t have a cooker. He smiled and told us to follow him to
another large shed. In which still packed away was the new cooker
that was to have been fitted into the caravan all those years ago
After a hair raising episode of having the roof start to fall in and having to acro-prop it. We managed to get both caravans home safely. After refurbishing the brakes and fitting new tyres, they both towed like a dream. The restoration will be an exciting time !