COLLECTIONS & RESEARCH

Gypsies

The James family making pegs by the roadside, 1890s.

The James family making pegs by the roadside, 1890s.

The people called gypsies spread into England from the Continent in the 16th century, and were called gypsies because people thought they came from Egypt. The Churchwardens’ Account for Uplyme in 1650 has 1s. 6d given to ’12 Egyeptiones’ brought in by the local constable. In 1558 ‘Joan the daughter of an Egiptian’ was baptised at Lyme Regis Church, a very early reference.

By Victorian times many people thought gypsies should settle down, and not travel the country as they had always done. Dorset had a gypsy school, opened in 1847 in Farnham, north Dorset. This was very unusual, and only remained open for eight years.

Plan of the Farnham Gypsy School, as opened in 1847.

Plan of the Farnham Gypsy School, as opened in 1847. It was intended to be residential or a boarding school, and the actual schoolroom is only a small part of the building. Presumably the bedrooms or dormitories were upstairs.

The James family at Puddletown in the 1890s, a happy photograph but clearly posed by the photographer. According to a contemporary note they were travellers, but not of gypsy descent. In the 19th century photographs, gypsy women and girls are the only people to appear out-of-doors without hats.

The James family at Puddletown in the 1890s

The James family at Puddletown in the 1890s

The James family with their simple tent and caravan, 1890s.

The James family with their simple tent and caravan, 1890s

Current Dorset County Council leaflet from the Dorset Gypsy & Traveller Liaison Service

Current Dorset County Council leaflet from the Dorset Gypsy & Traveller Liaison Service

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