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Stories of a Race

Anne-Marie Ford    -    4 May 2014

Stories of a Race

The Hampshire Chronicle of 28th February 1803 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. The person who made the bet was a young spendthrift of the neighbourhood who, fearing he should not be able to see fair play himself, hired a horse for his favourite Cyprian to accompany the light-footed prince, but she had not attended Astley’s lectures on horsemanship, and finding it impossible long to retain her seat in the usual way, immediately crossed the saddle, and in that state entered Weymouth, at full speed, by the side of her infatuated adorer, to the no small amusement of a numerous assemblage of spectators.

The youngest known son of Peter, born in the 1730s, and favouring the County of Dorset,

was Henry Stanley, baptised at Winterborne Kingston on24th May 1778, the son of Peter and

Sarah. A prolific tribe, the Stanleys favoured Berkshire, Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire,

although many could be found in the West Country, and several of this family emigrated to

America during the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Peter, who married a Sarah, had nine known children, seven of which survived to adulthood, as he declared at his settlement hearing in 1792, listing them as Selbea, William, Sabra, Aaron, Peter, Paul and Henry. A daughter, Selbea/Sylvia, child of Peter and Sarah, (although this has been incorrectly transcribed by many as Dorothea) was baptised at Hampreston, Dorset on 20th May 1760; William, son of Peter and Sarah, was baptised at Froyle, Hampshire in 1762; Sabra, daughter of Peter Stanelly (sic), was baptised at Winterborne Kingston on 9th December 1764, but did not survive; Aaron, baptised at Morden, Dorset, in 1766; as well as a Peter, a Paul, and the burial of a Jenny, daughter of Peter and Sarah, at Marnhull, Dorset on 18th June 1774; the youngest child, Henry, was baptised in 1778. In addition a Deborah/Seborah/Sabra was baptised at Moor Crichel, Dorset, in 1772, the daughter of Peter and “Mary,” and so attributed to them.

Peter Stanley appears in the parish records of Corfe Castle, a razor grinder and tinker, who is issued with a removal order on 10th May 1792, and claims to be 62 or 63. On 2nd March 1801, also in the parish of Corfe Castle, the settlement hearing of Aaron Stanley, also a razor grinder and tinker, was heard, and his father, Peter, is referred to in the documents.

The most likely parents of this Peter Stanley are the Peter and Jane/Jenny Stanley who baptised their known children in Berkshire and in Hampshire during the mid-eighteenth century, descendants of whom travelled the southern counties. The Gypsy King claimed to be 70 years of age when he died, which would make his birth date around 1732. The known children of Peter and Jane/Jenny Stanley include William Stanley, who was baptised in Hambledon, Hampshire on 9th October 1737, the son of a stranger, who formed a union with a Rose, possibly a Pearce. Other children of Peter and Jane/Jenny include a Paul Stanley, who had been baptised, the son of Peter and Jane, on 30th January 1731 in the district of Wantage, in Berkshire. Paul, with his wife Mary, baptised a daughter, Sarah, at Chieveley, Berkshire on 9th March 1755. The following year Peter and Jenny baptised a daughter, Debora/Seborah, presumably their last child, also at Chieveley. Other known children of Peter and Jenny/Jane include the Mary Stanley who partnered Samuel Ayres and, very probably, the Jane who partnered Samuel’s elder brother, Reuben and a John Stanley, who partnered Susannah. The descendants of Peter and Jane/Jenny can be found in Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Dorset in the following years.

In many of the same locations, and during the same time period, a Hercules Stanley and his wife, Parthenia, can be found baptising their children; these include a Peter, although he is short-lived, and in both families the names of Richard and Vandelow also appear, which indicates a definite relationship between Hercules and the elder Peter, probably brothers, although perhaps Peter is a nephew, or they may be cousins. Interestingly, there is a baptism in Andover, Hampshire of a Thomas Stanley in 1713, the son of Peter and Temperance. Four years later we find the baptism of Hercules’ first known child; Could this Peter be Hercules’ brother and the father of the Peter who married Jane/Jenny? Peter and Jane/Jenny did have a grandchild called Temperance, the daughter of their son, Paul. These are all possibilities, perhaps coincidences – but some of it must be true!

The Hampshire connection continues to be significant for those Stanleys who considered Dorset home territory and in 1800 at Froyle, Hampshire a Gypsy named William Stanley, almost certainly the son of Peter and Sarah, was to baptise three of his own sons, with his wife, Ann; they were all given traditional family names, William, Peter and Aaron. (A daughter, Zebra/Sabra, was baptised at Owermoigne, Dorset, on 29th September 1793, the daughter of William and Anne, and given the name of one of William’s sisters.)In choosing the names of Peter and Aaron, William is again clearly employing family names, not only his father’s and his own, but looking back to the Aaron Stanley, son of Peter and Sarah Stanley, of Dorset. This elder Aaron was united with a Mary, and his known children were baptised across three counties, Dorset, Hampshire and Sussex: Jane on 12th August 1792 at Owermoigne, Dorset; John on 17th August 1794 at Hove in Sussex; Harriet on 27th November 1796 at Portchester, Hampshire; Phillis Stantly (sic) on 3rd July 1803 at Morden in Dorset.

As if things did not seem complicated enough, the Peter Stanley who married a Mary Drake at Church Knowlein 1792 is a son of Peter and Sarah’s; he can be found in the 1841 census, a tinman, claiming birth in about 1771. Travelling with him is his wife, Mary, and a daughter, Sylvia. Sylvia, together with her brother, Michael, had been baptised on 31st August 1794.Nor does it end there, a probable son of Peter Stanley and Mary Drake, a tinker, and also called Peter, born about 1796, can be found in the same 1841 census at Winterborne-Kinston, Dorset, with his wife Susanna (formerly Wellstead), and children Charles, Charlotte, Selina, Susanna, Emma, Robert and Caroline.

The Peter Stanley and Mary Drake who had married in 1792 had also used a family name when they baptised their daughter Sylvia; on 6th June 1781 this Peter’s sister, Silby/Sylvia Stanley, had married a William Fletcher at Millbrook in Hampshire and their known children were baptised both in Hampshire and in Dorset. By 1851 Peter, who had been the husband of Mary Drake, was at Weymouth Upway, and he has aged considerably, claiming to have been born around 1763; he is with his daughter, Silveria (Sylvia) and a son, Nathaniel Stanley. Peter and Susan/na are also still in Dorset, living with children Charles, Celena (Selina), Susan and Emma; ten years later, Peter, a tinman and brazier, and his wife, Susan/na are at 64 Bryanston Street, in Blandford, Dorset.

Of course, some evidence is circumstantial, but dates, locations and family names are significant indicators of connections which help to create a template to work with. Family territory is key in this, I think, and can provide some really useful information. For example, some of the Stanleys are found baptising children at Fawley, Hampshire, as well as marrying there. A grandson of Peter and Jane/Jenny Stanley baptised his son, Vandelow, at Fawley and another grandson, William, together with his wife, Repentance, were witnesses at a wedding there between William’s brother-in-law, Francis Proudley, and Ann Parker (Francis’ wife, William’s sister, having died the previous year). A daughter of William and Repentance’s, Mahala, having been baptised there, also married at Fawley, becoming the wife of a Henry Bunday. A couple of months later, in the same church at Fawley, Mahala was a witness at the wedding of an Edward Burton and a Mary Ann Drake. Since the son of the Peter Stanley who was known as a Gypsy king, also a Peter, married a Mary Drake, this is unlikely to be a coincidence.

Copyright © 2014 Anne-Marie Ford