Wagon Collection

The Doddington Wagon Shed houses a fascinating collection of English farm wagons, collected by Antony Jarvis, Claire Birch’s father, since the 1960s.

Very few other countries developed any four-wheeled wagons, and none produced such an extraordinary regional diversity, making this collection even more special. These magnificent English farm wagons were a universal feature of the countryside and we hope that a visit to the Wagon Shed will offer an introduction to a little-known aspect of our farming heritage.

The History of the English Farm Wagon

In 1700, farming in England was still mediaeval in its techniques and could do little more than feed its local communities. 1760, however, the industrial revolution was beginning to draw farm labour to the cities, and landowners began to seek more efficient ways to farm. In a short time, their small 2-wheeled farm carts became inadequate. The carts were replaced with much larger four-wheeled wagons copied from the local road haulage wagons. The innovations spread rapidly and, by 1800, throughout there were about 25 county or regional designs of the new wagons. Heavier draught horses were needed to pull these wagons and two main breeds were developed – the preeminent Shire and the more compact Suffolk punch. For the next century, farming techniques developed steadily but wagon designs hardly changed. Only with the arrival of cheap tractors in the post-war era (1945- 50) were farm wagons finally abandoned.

The Farm Wagon in the rural community

From their beginnings, farm wagons were an exciting innovation for farmers and they became the symbol of 19th century farming. Farmers were proud to show off what was a very large investment in their business and a signal of their success. The makers of the wagons were quick to respond, producing wagons to the highest standards of workmanship with eyecatching paintwork and decorative carving. There were a number of key characteristics that made farm wagons so elegant and attractive.

  • Painting in bright colours, decorative lining and ‘branding’ – the details of maker and owner were often put in decorative panels on wagons (although not in all regions)
  • There are numbers of photographs of large Lincolnshire wagons and others, full of children and covered with flowers, setting off for the annual village or church picnic.
  • In Gloucestershire a wagon with four kitchen chairs in it would take the family to church.
  • A farmer would take his daughter to her wedding standing in his wagon, with her on his arm.
  • His coffin would be carried to the church by his wagon.


The Doddington Wagon Collection is a unique and important collection regionally and nationally. It has been built on the site of a long-derelict Sawmill with support from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

Mr Jarvis photo of wagons
Wooden Wagons

Have you discovered the Doddington Wagon Shed yet? It’s free to access and is located in our Stable Yard