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Unique gift is priceless attraction

PUBLISHED: 23:27 17 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:11 03 March 2010

A "unique" collection of historic gypsy caravans and other vehicles from the horse-drawn age could find a final resting place in Suffolk.

The move comes after plans for a new carriage museum emerged this week.

By James Fraser

A "unique" collection of historic gypsy caravans and other vehicles from the horse-drawn age could find a final resting place in Suffolk.

The move comes after plans for a new carriage museum emerged this week.

Describing the scheme as a "major tourist attraction", John Philpott, general manager at Stonham Barns, said that eleven splendidly decorated gypsy caravans, all dating from the 1890s onwards, would form the centre piece of a new display at the leisure and retail complex in Stonham Aspal, near Stowmarket.

The collection would be a permanent reminder of a disappearing way of life, he added.

They have been offered to Stonham Barns by a mystery collector, whose name Mr Philpott is keeping closely under wraps until the plans, which were lodged with Mid Suffolk District Council this week, have been approved by the authority.

Alongside examples of other historic horse-drawn private and tradesmen's carriages, the gypsy wagons would be housed in a £500,000 purpose-built building, currently being designed by architects Paul & Pattle.

It will include an area in which the carriages will be restored in public view.

"You cannot put a value on these caravans," he said. "They will show the lifestyle of travellers now sadly in rapid decline. It will be a major tourist attraction on what is called the Tourist Route in Suffolk. It is a long term project and we will hopefully see something come to fruition in 18 months to two years time."

The carriage museum is the second new venture for Stonham Barns announced in recent months.

In July the Evening Star exclusively revealed its plans for an education centre to sustain traditional Suffolk wood and forestry crafts, which is sure to join the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary as a major crow-puller for the complex.

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