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Xmas Trees

Anne-Marie Ford    -    3 November 2013

TheRomany and Traveller Family History Society has produced several booklets tracing the genealogy of significant Traveller Families and, at an average price of just £8 + p&p, these make great Christmas gifts! The most recent booklet, about to be published, is that of the Stanley family, focusing on Hercules and Peter Stanley and the descendants who favoured Berkshire and Hampshire. (a second Stanley book, following those who favoured Dorset, will be published in due course.)Meanwhile, please see the RTFHS website or Facebook page, or simply order through Genfair. To whet your appetite, here is a story about some of the Stanleys of Hampshire and Dorset, for which I am very much indebted to Paul Kimber, who provided a considerable amount of the information.

At Soberton in Hampshire, on 23rd February 1812, Samuel Stanley, basket maker, and his wife, Elizabeth, baptised a son David. He was the sixth of the seven known sons of this couple and a member of a significant Gypsy tribe. The baptisms of their known children all appear to have occurred in Hampshire: John, the son of a Gypsy man a woman, was baptised at Soberton on 7th July, 1799; James, the son of a Gypsy, was baptised at East Tisted on 31st January 1802; Daniel Dangerfield at Chilbolton on 15th July 1804, the son of Travellers; Samuel claimed birth at Hursley in Hampshire; Henry was baptised at Wickham on 20th August 1809; David in 1812; Solomon, baptised at Headbourne Worthy on 20th October 1816, was described as the reputed son of Samuel, vagrant,

There is no doubt Samuel Stanley was the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Stanley, although his baptism has not been traced. However, there is an assault case involving him and his elder brother, Daniel Dangerfield, in the Easter sessions of 1825 in Hampshire; here Samuel is described as two years’ younger than Daniel, which would indicate a birth in about 1806/7, where there is a significant gap in the known children of Samuel and Elizabeth. He gives different years of birth in different census records, which is hardly unusual, and, in the 1851 census he can be found with his wife, Ann, and his niece, Caroline, the daughter of his brother Solomon. However, while he may well have been born in Hursley, his subsequent baptism was not recorded there, nor have any children been found for this couple. Although some researchers have apportioned several sons to Samuel and Ann, none seem to be successfully proved, and at no time are the couple seen with any other child but their niece.

Ann was a widow at the time of their marriage in Baddesley, Hampshire in 1845, the daughter of Francis Targett, and in the census records claims birth at Portsea in Hampshire. She is almost certainly the Ann, daughter of Francis and Elizabeth Targett (formerly Green), baptised at Portsea St. Mary on 14th July 1805. There seem to be no records of any children for Ann, either as a Targett, or a James, her previous married name (unless the baptism of an Alfred James, son of Samuel and Ann, baptised 25th November 1831 at Southampton St. Mary, be considered a possibility). There is no indication that she and Samuel Stanley had any children, and she was, of course, 40 years of age at the time of her marriage to Samuel, although they may have been together many years, and Samuel claimed, at their union, to be a bachelor, indicating no previous unions.

David, son of the elder Samuel, was to marry Eliza Pike, the daughter of Venn (?Sylvanus) on 2nd November 1840, by which time they already had several children: Henry was baptised at Chawton, Hampshire on 25th September 1831 and named for one of David’s many brothers; William was baptised on 8th September 1833 at Froyle, the son of a basket maker; Solomon, named after David’s youngest brother, Blind Solomon, was baptised in 1837 at Downton in Wiltshire; Jane was baptised the same year, on 7th May at Hambledon, Hampshire; Peter, baptised on 9th May 1839 at Upham, Hampshire.

It appears to be the following year that David, his wife and children removed to Dorset, and he can be found, with his growing family, in the 1851 census living at 11 Newtown, Farnham. With David and Eliza are Henry and William, basket makers, Solomon, Peter, Louisa and David, listed as scholars, together with four-year-old James and Benjamin, aged two. The location is significant, as they are residing in one of the two cottages provided by a local rector, John West. West built the cottages with land attached for cultivation for two Gypsy families, “that they may be kept from idle habits, and to help maintain their children.”

As early as Boxing Day 1840 West had written to the Reverend James Crabbabut David’s family, already living in the cottage (extracted from Romany Nevi-Wesh: an informal history of the New Forest Gypsies by Len Smith, and kindly sent to me by Paul Kimber, a descendant of the Stanley tribe):

With respect to David and his wife, I must say that I have been much pleased with their general good conduct since they came with their children to my cottage. . . They seem perfectly contented and happy, and I believe the greatest trial they have had in the location had been a smoky chimney, but this will be cured by the bricklayer when the frost breaks.

The 1851 census also records the Mills family living at no. 12 Newton: Matthew Mills, basket maker, Vashti, his wife (formerly Shergold), and children Thomas, aged about ten; Alice, about seven, Elizabeth, two years younger; Julia, aged about 4; Emily, four months. All but the eldest child having been born in Farnham, which indicates that the Mills had been residing in the cottage for sometime. In fact they were ensconced by 1842, as West mentioned them in his letter to Crabb, dated 26th December of that year, in which he wrote, rather less optimistically, of the Stanleys and the second family inhabiting the other cottage:

When they were first located I allotted half an acre to each cottage, thinking that it might afford the men sufficient employment, with basket making, but I found, in watching over my little colony, that it did not; and I saw . . . a self complacency in casting the burden of maintenance chiefly on the female, through traversing the surrounding villages, selling baskets, collecting rabbit skins, or any article of profit. I have therefore allotted an acre, instead of the half acre mentioned, to get rid of what I might term the ‘rust’ of the Gypsy character, a native indolence, with a cherished pride of independence, while acting upon a begging system, and seeking support in other ways than by means of industrious habits and manual labour, which society demands. For this object I have purchased a grinding machine for Mills, that his voice may be heard periodically throughout the surrounding villages, crying “kettles to mend and razors, scissors to grind,” while, that each may have a profession, I have bought Stanley a chimney sweeping machine.

West was to take his philanthropy further, in his desire to educate the Gypsy children, telling Crabb:

With respect to the education of their children, I have met with some difficulty and expense, from a prejudice that exists in the minds of some parents against their children associating with Gypsy children in the parochial school. I have, therefore, got rid of this difficulty by arrangement for their education in the establishment of a Gypsy school.

A local newspaper, the Hampshire Advertiser of 19th July 1845, recorded this event in a brief article:

Our readers are aware that the Rev. J. Crabb and . . . the Rev. John West, Rector of Farnham, Dorset, have long felt the necessity of directing their attention to the improvement of the Gypsies, and more particularly to the Gypsy children, with a view to amalgamate them with society and to prevent their being brought up in the folly and sin of fortune-telling, which is the chief support of many Gypsy families, and proves a great hindrance to their colonisation. A committee of clergymen and laymen has not been formed to establish a school for the board and scriptural instruction of Gypsy children . . . The place chosen for the school is Farnham, Dorsetshire. The site is an elevated spot to which there is attached nearly two acres of land . . . It is intended that an aged Gypsy of the name of Stanley shall lay the first stone of this building.

Since this stone, it is said, was laid by an old converted Gypsy man by the name of William Stanley, who was Crabb’s lay-preacher, it is quite possible that David Stanley first came to the cottage through the administrations of this William Stanley, probably a relative.

The school was opened on 5th October 1847 and, as well as the children from the cottages, Gypsy children were taken as boarders and listed in the 1851 census:

Unity Ayres, Britannia Barney, Mary Ann Mills, Lucy Bowers, Rhoda Barney, Mary Bowers, Amberline Barney, Henry Barney, Dangerfill (Dangerfield) Barney, Henry Mills, Henry Martin, Samuel Martin.

It was not to be the success West had hoped for, however, and by 1855 the decision was made to close the school, where only five pupils remained.

Copyright © 2013 Anne-Marie Ford