Share this page

Dorset Days

Anne-Marie Ford    -    2 February 2014

On Saturday 15th March 2014 the Dorset Family History Society is holding a family history day at Parkstone Grammar School, Sopers Lane, Poole, Dorset, where, among others, will be representatives of the Romany and Traveller Family History Society.

One of the Romany and Traveller Family History Society’s recently published booklets in the Famous Romany Families series is that of the Stanley tribe, The Family Trees of Hercules and Peter Stanley, whose roots in Berkshire and Hampshire are explored, and, in addition, their travels into nearby Dorset, where two of patriarch Peter’s sons, Peter and Paul, chose to relocate more permanently.

The younger Peter and his wife, Sarah, baptised their known children in Dorset, where Peter lived and died. Paul and his wife, Mary, seem to have favoured Dorset, but baptisms of their children include a location in Wiltshire, just over the border from Dorset, the county where both Paul and his wife were eventually buried.

Henry Stanley, who was baptised at Winterborne Kingston on 24th May1778, the son of Peter

and Sarah, makes an appearance in a local newspaper in 1803, when the Hampshire

Chronicle of 28th February carried at story about a race which took place in Dorset in the

early spring of that year:

A few days since the youngest son of the late Peter Stanley (commonly known by the appellation of King of the Gypsies), started from the town-pump Dorchester, to run to the town-pump in Weymouth, for two guineas; a distance of about eight miles and a quarter, and the time allowed was an hour and two minutes. He performed it with the greatest ease, one minute and a half within the time.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth century Dorset villagers still relied heavily on the travelling hawkers and dealers who regularly visited their area. These Travellers sold a wide variety of goods: fruit, cloth, china, earthenware pots, ribbons, baskets, to the local population. Some of these Travellers were Gypsies, who also brought their skills to the villagers, mending chairs, burning charcoal, brick-making, making baskets and clothes pegs and, perhaps most importantly, mending pots and kettles, sharpening knives and scissors. In a world of limited horizons and make-do-and-mend, they were an interesting, if temporary, addition to village life. But some chose to stay and make it their home. Were they your ancestors?

Should any readers have connections with, or knowledge of, this important Romany family residing in the counties of Dorset or Wiltshire during the eighteenth and nineteenth century, or any photographs, please contact me at, where several stories on the Stanley tribe can be found in the archived material.

Copyright © 2014 Anne-Marie Ford