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Peter Stanley

Anne-Marie Ford    -    6 September 2015

At the Dorset midsummer Quarter Sessions of 1800, on 7th day of June, William Stanley, his wife, Anne, and their six children, were subject to a removal order from the parish of Puncknowle in Dorset to Froyle, in Hampshire. Their children were recorded as Elizabeth, aged about 13 years, Sarah, about 12 years of age, Sebera, aged 7, Peter, aged 5, William, aged 3, and a baby, Aaron, aged about 6 weeks. Having been removed there, William and Anne baptised all three of their sons in Froyle on 20th July 1800, sons of William and Anne Stanley, “Gypsies,” with no ages listed in the baptismal records, but the reference to this family in the Quarter Sessions is particularly useful in placing all three boys in birth order. The removal to Froyle was almost certainly because it was the place where William himself was baptised by his parents, Peter and Sarah Stanley, “vagabonds,” on 22nd August 1762; they also baptised another son, Paul, in Hampshire at South Warnborough on 10th September 1775 and in both cases they were probably there because of the hopping. In fact, Peter and Sarah were principally based in Dorset and considered that county their home territory, and with good reason. Peter, probable son of Peter and Jane/Jenny Stanley, born in the 1730s, had been subject to a settlement hearing in 1792, in which he declared that he and his wife, Sarah, had seven living children, listing them as Selbea, William, Sabra, Aaron, Peter, Paul and Henry. Dorset was the county in which their eldest son, William, had married Anne Bullock on 5th March 1786, in the parish of Owermoigne, after banns, and also where several of William and Anne’s children were baptised. Their first child, Elizabeth, was baptised in Owermoigne on 29th October 1786, daughter of William and Anne Stanley; Sarah Ingram Stanley in the same parish on 2nd January 1789 and Zabra (sic), also at Owermoigne, on 29th September 1793. Clearly, when William, and his wife, Anne, named their children, family names were frequently chosen: Sarah was named for her grandmother, and the addition of the name Ingram suggests, perhaps, that this was William’s mother’s maiden name, a surname commonly found amongst the Dorset villages, and particularly in Owermoigne; Zebra/Sabra is surely a tribute to William’s sister; Peter the name of both his father and a brother, and the choice for their first son; William, of course, was his own name; Aaron, too, a tribute to a sibling. Although Dorset, and sometimes Hampshire and Berkshire, continued to be favoured areas for most of the family, it is probably William’s son, Peter, who was often found, following his union with a Rebecca, not only in Berkshire, but also in Surrey. Born in 1795, or thereabouts, Peter’s first child, however, born when Peter was about 20, was baptised in Dibden, in Hampshire, surely the Moses Hanley (sic) son of Peter and Rebecca, baptised on 12th February 1815. His is probably the death recorded at St Mary’s Shinfield, Berkshire on 10th January 1838, “aged 21, vagrant,” who died of smallpox. The first daughter born to Peter and Rebecca was Sarah, baptised on 27th July 1817 at St Mary’s, Putney, given the name of both a sister and a grandmother, her parents claiming to come from Horndean, Sussex; Diverus was baptised at the same location on 27th February 1820; Lucy was baptised at Oakham, Surrey, on 19th October 1823, daughter of “travellers,” having been born ten days earlier; Olive was baptised on Christmas day 1825 at Kintbury, Berkshire; Peter at Shinfield, Berkshire on 3rd February 1828; Penelope, also at Shinfield, on 11th April 1830; John, at the same location, on 3rd November 1833. By the 1851 census Rebecca is probably already a widow; she is at St Mary’s Newington living with two of her adult children, Penella (Penelope), aged 21, and John, 17, and they are all working as basket makers. Her son, Diverus, and his wife, Naomi, are also in the London area, at Ann Street, St George Southwark, with children Sophia, 6, John, 4 and George, 2, as are Diverus’ brother, Peter, and his wife, Matilda. (Is this the Peter Stanley, basket maker, born about 1831, who is found in the 1881 census at the Berkshire County Asylum, recorded as a pauper patient and claiming birth in London? Tragically, he is still there in the 1911 census, claiming birth in 1829.) The 1861 census finds Rebecca Stanley in lodgings in Newington, where she is described as a basket maker, and claiming birth in Hunston, Surrey. There is a Hunston in Sussex, but not in Surrey, although it is more likely that the enumerator better understood the county, rather than the name of the parish. Clearly, her adult children are now married and with families of their own. Penella, daughter of Peter Stanley, hawker, had married Henry Lee, son of Henry, a publican, on 24th January 1859 at Newington St Mary, and her mother witnessed the union. She and Henry appear to settle in Camberwell, where Henry is a fruiterer and greengrocer and in the 1871 census they are living in the High Street with children Sarah, 11; William, 9; John, 7; Ellen, 6; Rebecca, 5; Martha, 2. Ten years later they are in Cornwall Road with Rebecca, 18; William, 16; Alfred, 14; Charles, 12; Martha, 11; Emily, 9; but by 1891, living in Rye Lane, Camberwell, only William, 22, Alfred, 21, Martha, 18, and Emily, 17, remain with them. 1861 also finds a fairly large encampment of Gypsies in Palmers Field, Wandsworth, including families of Coopers, Williams, Lanes, Johnsons, Rowlings, Mills and Bottons, recorded as mat makers, hawkers and grinders, as well as Rebecca’s son, Diverus, and his wife, Naomi. They have added considerably to their family by this time and with them are: Moses, aged 18, who was not present at the previous census; John, 15; George, 12; Sarah, 9; Rebecca, 7; John Diverus, 1; William, 9 months. 1861 was to be the last census in which Rebecca Stanley would appear; her death is recorded in the winter of 1867 in the registration district of Newington, when she claimed to be 78 years of age. By the 1871 census, Diverus and Naomi are at Croydon, in Surrey, with children Rebecca, 17; John, 14; William, 12; 1881 sees them at Handcross Alley, Croydon with son William, 21, daughter Sarah, 29, and her husband, James Williams. Given that Diverus and Naomi appear to be camping with members of the Williams family in 1861 perhaps it isn’t surprising that their daughter should marry into the tribe, or that their son, George, should marry into the Coopers, who were also present in Palmers Field in 1861. In 1881 George and his wife, Cinderella Cooper, are camped on Mitcham Common in a tent, along with a great many families of Gypsies and Travellers, including members of the Williams, Cooper and Lee tribes. With George and Cinderella are children Daylia, 8; Sarah, 5; and Rebecca, 1, named for her great grandmother and an aunt. It is the following census, however, that is especially interesting, since by this time the family, found in Marinefield Road, Fulham, have added George, 10, and Edward, 5, to their brood, and their daughter, Daylia/Dahlia is also present, with her husband, William Rose and their little son, Jasper. Boxing, especially bare-knuckle boxing, was particularly popular amongst the Gypsy fraternity and perhaps it is not surprising that many such exponents of the sport came from the travelling population. A particularly famous one being George ‘Digger’ Stanley, the son of George and Cinderella, grandson of Diverus and Naomi, and great grandson of Peter and Rebecca. At his death newspapers recorded the event, the Dundee Courier of 8th March 1919 reported that the first “outright winner of a Lonsdale belt” had passed away in Fulham, after a long illness. He was, it reminded its readers, “the ex-England and World’s bantam-weight champion.” He was also a descendant of an ancient Romany tribe. That we know his antecedents as far back as his three times great grandfather with a certainty, and in all probability one generation beyond, owes something to his fame, but much more to the settlement and removal records of his Romany ancestors, dating back to the early eighteenth century.

Copyright © 2015 Anne-Marie Ford