rank Lord was collecting an item from a seller on Facebook Marketplace when something in their garden caught his eye: two red trailers with yellow stripes on their side and “Jolly’s Circus on tour” written in large capital letters on the back in faded paint. He asked if they were for sale. Yes, they were.
That was that. Frank bought the two trailers for £2,000 each from their owner, Peter Jolly, who runs Jolly’s Circus, which is still operational today.
Now, around three years on, both wagons have been lovingly renovated by Frank’s son Frankie, together with his partner, Olivia Dann, and childhood friend, Philip Reed. One is currently on sale for £85,000 – 42.5 times its original price.
“My dad has a very eclectic taste. If he sees something that he thinks is of interest, he’ll often just purchase it, even if it doesn’t have a full use,” says Frankie. “I think he was always hoping that someone else would take on the work.”
Frankie, a 29-year-old sheep farmer at Penn Meadow Farm, Beaconsfield, wasn’t initially interested in the renovation project. “I didn’t really like [the wagons] very much. At first, I thought they were a bit ugly. But once they were sat there for longer, I started to appreciate them more and more.”
When lockdown hit, however, Frankie’s mind changed. “I’ve done a bit of building work, a bit of farming. I’ve done a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I remember thinking at the time that I wanted to put my all into one thing and really see whether, if I put my mind to it, I could make something beautiful and exceptional.”
Frankie had his work cut out, however. The wagons had been off the road for 10 years and were in a bad way. The skylights in the roof had been smashed, leaving two enormous holes to let rainwater through. Although the chassis – thankfully, aluminium – was still structurally sound, inside, everything from the dark wood veneer to the carpet floor tiles was soaked.
Made by caravan brand Coventry Knight in the 1970s, the two wagons had initially been used as Natwest bank trailers, touring rural villages and towns in the UK to help people set up bank accounts.
In 1990, they had been sold to Peter Jolly and used as accommodation while the circus was travelling. Jolly’s Circus has existed for seven generations, and is one of only two circuses in England licensed to use animals – to the protest of animal rights groups.
Frankie began renovating the first wagon in January 2021, together with his partner Olivia, a lawyer. “She didn’t have any real DIY knowledge…it was definitely a change of pace for her,” says Frankie. “It was really good fun – both of us enjoyed doing it together.”
Frankie was still working full-time on the farm, using his evenings and weekends to work on the wagons. Towards the end of the renovation, Frankie’s childhood friend Philip also got involved, and they decided to work on the second wagon together.
Both wagons were gutted, repaired and repainted in their original circus colours. On the back, they now read: “Frankie’s circus”.
Inside, windows line both sides of the 195 square foot wagon, with the skylights re-installed. On one side, there is a super king size bed – “crazy, given that it’s a small space” – and on the other is the bathroom, featuring a spray-painted golden throne for a toilet and a handmade shower head made from a brass bowl.
Opposite the entrance, there is a kitchenette with a full-size oven, gas hob and a two inch-thick elm and epoxy resin work surface.
Frankie has also managed to squeeze in a hidden bath, which doubles up as a bench when covered.
“The floor is the standout thing,” says Frankie. “It’s a mixture of epoxy resin and hardwood teak flooring. I’m pretty certain that it’s the first time it’s ever been done like that, with the lattice effect…We’re really proud of the floor, and it took a long time to do it. But it turned out beautifully.”
In total, renovating both wagons took 10 months: six for the first and four for the second, when Frankie and Phil both worked full-time on the project. Capturing the imagination of presenter George Clarke, the restoration of the first wagon was featured on Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces.
Now, Frankie and Phil’s wagon is up for sale for £85,000. “We imagine that it’ll be bought by a glamping business who might already be set up, but it could be used as an extra room in a garden – there are so many different things that it could be used for…it’s completely up to whoever buys it to use their imagination.”
For Frankie, the first wagon is harder to part with. “I’ve been in a limbo about whether to sell it or whether to keep it and rent it out – I think mostly for the fact that it was the first one I did. For the time being, I’m keeping hold of it.”
Working together has strengthened Frankie and Phil’s relationship – Frankie is due to be Phil’s best man at his wedding – and has given them an appetite for future projects. Their next is set to be even more unusual: they found the front end of a Boeing 737 on Facebook Marketplace and are planning to transform it into another tiny home. “I certainly want to carry on this path of building and carpentry,” says Frankie. “Me and Philip are doing this together now, and we plan to keep building more.”
To buy Frankie’s circus wagon, visit his website.