Parts & Accessories

50 years on... Revisiting the Bailey of Bristol Factory

03rd April 2024 | Bailey of Bristol
As the longest-standing leisure vehicle manufacturer in the UK, Bailey of Bristol's roots began over 75 years ago. In 2024, Bailey welcomed Kay Taylor (formerly Bailey), the daughter of Martin Bailey, the founder of Bailey of Bristol. For Kay, this visit marked her first visit to the Bailey factory in almost five decades. Her husband, Phil, and their friends and Bailey owners, David and Margaret Young, also attended the visit for a factory tour of our leisure vehicle product facility in South Bristol.
Craig Webber, Bailey Motorhome Production Manager (far left), and Rob Scriven, Bailey Operations Manager (centre), guided David and Margaret Young (middle left) and Kay and Phil Taylor (Middle right) around the Bailey production facility in South Bristol.

Martin Bailey started his career as an apprentice cabinet maker at A. G. Farmers in Bristol, where he trained to become a fully qualified carpenter joiner. Following World War II, he was then seconded to the Bristol Aeroplane Company, where he learned new sheet metalworking skills working on planes such as the Bristol Blenheim and Bristol Beaufort. After the war, Martin returned to his trade as a cabinet maker and set up his own joinery business producing furniture. His career path took a different turn when a neighbour asked for his assistance in building a caravan in his backyard. After this successful trial, Martin quickly realised that he had all the engineering skills necessary to design and manufacture caravans on a commercial basis and the premises in which to build them.

The Bailey team in the 1960's.

South Liberty Lane, the home of Bailey of Bristol, in the 1960's.

The Bailey production facility on South Liberty Lane grew enormously between 1960 and 2009,

He built the first Bailey caravan, the Maestro, in 1947 and sold it at Ashton Gate market in South Bristol for the sum of £200. A year later, F. G. Bailey Ltd was formed and went into operation, initially producing two caravans per week. Growth in car ownership in the 1950s meant demand for caravans increased rapidly, and the company continued to expand, eventually outgrowing its original premises, and relocating to its present address on South Liberty Lane in 1960.

Like all iconic family businesses, Kay actively participated in her father’s business from a young age. Initially helping her mother, Joan, with administrative tasks, such as arranging money in the pay packets, putting stamps on envelopes, and making tea during school holidays, Kay later progressed to being involved in major exhibitions in Earls Court and Olympia. In addition, Kay would also visit dealers and sites with the marketing manager to promote the caravans and even venture abroad to visit International Bailey Distributors across countries such as the Netherlands and Canada. As a lifelong caravanner, Kay fondly remembers her early experiences working at Bailey and travelling with her parents in their Bailey caravan to their favourite site at Shaldon in South Devon.

A recovered and colourised photo showing Martin, Joan and Kay Bailey on holiday one of the first Bailey caravans.

During the early Bailey photoshoots, Kay (right) and her friend would pose beside the caravans. They can be seen in this picture from the 1970 brochure modelling outside a Bailey Maru.

Reflecting on her fond memories of working at Bailey since her last visit before her parents sold the business, Kay recognised how much things have changed. The last time Kay visited, there was one main building that was attached to the office block. From employing 20 to 30 individuals and manufacturing approximately 100 caravans annually, the company has evolved to employ over 650 employees across three separate sites, constructing over 1,500 caravans, motorhomes, and campervans, combined annually. Most notably, Bailey’s manufacturing process has transitioned from manual labour and everything being ‘done by hand’ to sophisticated machinery designed to make the production process easier, faster, and built on a larger scale.

The Bailey caravan production process during the early years.

Check out what's included in a Bailey Maestro T from 1967 in this walkthrough video.

Watch how Bailey caravans are made nowadays.

In 1977, Patrick and Stephen Howard acquired the company and Bailey has been owned by the Howard family ever since. In those almost 50 years, Bailey has not only grown exponentially as one of Europe’s largest manufacturers but is currently accounting for approximately one in three new caravan sales. In 2011, Bailey expanded its product offering with the introduction of motorhomes, and as of 2023, they now manufacture campervans.

In 2023, coinciding with Bailey’s 75th Anniversary, Kay and Phil collected their new Bailey Alicanto Grande Evora from Chipping Sodbury Caravans, exchanging their previous Bailey Unicorn Cabrera. Sadly, Martin passed away twenty years ago, but Kay’s mother, Joan Bailey, attended to mark the momentous occasion.

In 2023, we met Joan Bailey (bottom left), Kay (middle left), Phil Taylor (top left), David Young (top right) and Margaret Young (middle right) at Chipping Sodbury Caravans, as the two couples collected their new Alicanto Grande Evora models.

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