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Old Moses

Anne-Marie Ford    -    4 December 2018

The Taunton Courier of 28th September 1836 announced the event of a Gypsy christening,

one that would be syndicated in the newspapers of the day.  The child whose arrival

into the world, and into the church, was one of the tribe of Smalls. The article

informed its readers:

‘During afternoon service at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, in this town, on

Sunday last several Gypsies  . . . walked down the aisle, one of the women carrying

an infant in her arms, which she informed the sexton she had brought to be

baptised.  The sermon being over, a large portion of the congregation flocked round

the font where the child was christened as Moses. He had been born on the

preceding Sunday, and the mother was present at this christening. Several ladies gave

her money, it being observed that it was a fine infant.’

Little Moses Small was the son of Cinderella and Moses Small, ‘traveller,’ and was

born in Taunton, Somerset, for the West Country was an area much favoured by his

parents, although both had originally been baptised in Dorset.  Moses was the son of

James and Jane Small, and was born 10th January 1805, baptised ten days’ later at

Gussage St. Michael. Cinderella was a Cooper before her union, baptised as the

daughter of Harry and Asp Cooper on 18th December 1808 at Little Bredy, where

her name was recorded as Sentenniah.

Nor was baby Moses the couple’s first child, for Cinderella, who was 27 years of age

at the time of her son’s birth, had at least four children previously, although two had

died. Ebenezer Small had been baptised on 18th November 1828 at Broadwinsor,

Dorset, ‘the son of an itinerant tinker,’ whose abode was on ‘the road side, under a

tent.’ This was probably their first child, and had been born when Cinderella was

20.  Josiah Small had arrived about a year later, followed by Keziah in 1833, and

Sally in about 1834.

Ebenezer died and was buried on 27th March 1835, ‘aged six years,’  his baby sister,

Keziah, having died two years’ earlier, at the age of six weeks, and buried at

Uplyme, Devon, on 30th March 1833. A cleric’s note against the burial reads

‘grandchild of the above.’ Sure enough, two days before, on 28th March, Jane Small

had been buried, ‘a tramper without any settled residence.’ This was a family grave,

it seems, for Jane’s husband, James, had also been buried at Uplyme on 17th

November 1825, ‘aged 66, a member of the tribe of Gypsies.’

Although Cinderella was to have several more children, all of whom seem to have

survived into adulthood, none received the public attention that her son Moses had

In 1851 the census records the parents in Plymouth, Devon, with Josiah/Jonas,

Moses, Uriah, [Robert] Gully, Henry, Angelina, Trinity and Louisa. She was

widowed in 1858, and the 1861 census finds Cinderella in two locations at the same

time, roughly 30 miles apart. She is with Thomas Cooper, her nephew, a basket

maker, his wife Jane, with their children, Caroline and Hugh, at Newton Abbot, and

is described as a charwoman, 62; also present are her children Henry and Louisa.

Subsequently, or perhaps previously, she is found at Plymouth recorded as

Sunderala Small, a widow, 60, with her daughter, Sally Lee, also a widow, and

Sally’s two children, Moses, 3, Eliza, 2; with the two widows are Emma

(?Angelina), Trinity/Trenat and Gully Small, Cinderella’s children.

The 1871 census was to be her last, where she is listed as a licensed hawker, and is

with children Louisa and Henry, ‘a costermonger,’ in Plymouth. Cinderella Small,

having outlived her husband by 17 years, died in 1875, claiming to be 78 years of

age. In fact she was 67, but her age, like that of her late husband, was always

estimated to be greater than it was.

Moses, the son of Moses and Cinderella, had a considerable family with his wife,

Caroline, who claimed her maiden name to be Small in the records of her children’s

birth. (She is said to have been a Penfold, but this is to confuse her with another

Moses Small, who married a Caroline Penfold in 1918.) Indeed, Moses and

Caroline’s first child, named Henry after a brother, was recorded as the son of

Caroline Small, spinster.  Ironically, this Henry Small, son of Moses and Caroline,

would also form a union with a Cinderella, rather like his grandfather, and can be

found in the 1881 census alongside his parents and siblings Sophia, Mazelli and

Louisa, at Newton Abbot.

Rather extraordinarily the Moses Small whose baptism was noted in newspapers of

the time in 1836 was also to have his death recorded in the Western Times of 3rd

September 1912, where an article eulogises him in extremely fulsome terms,

seemingly forgetting the many brushes with the law he and his family had been

involved in over the years:

Death of Mr. Moses Small at Exeter - Exonians will miss a familiar figure from their

midst by the death of Mr. Moses Small, who passed away at the mature age of 82 . . .

The news will come as a surprise to many, particularly those with whom he has

been accustomed to do business in his occupation as a horse dealer, for but a week

or so ago he was pursuing his calling with that alacrity and geniality which made

him such a popular figure throughout the country.  His many years did not seem to

dull his business acumen in the least, and even his intimate friends, who knew,

perhaps, he must be getting ‘up along’ could scarcely realise that he was so old as

stated. His health was remarkably good up to about four months’ ago, when he

commenced to fail. His occupation with the horse dealing trade covered a span of

fifty or sixty years, and country horse fairs and similar gatherings will find it

difficult, perhaps, to accustom themselves to the absence of ‘Old Moses,’ as he was

popularly called.  Mr. Small was as good a judge of horseflesh as could be found

and he enjoyed the reputation of being always ready to pay what the horse was

worth. His business integrity was evinced by the fact that, for a number of years, he

had supplied the Exeter City Council with horses and had done business in this line

with a large number of firms and gentlemen in the country.

He leaves a widow and a large family.

Of course, ‘Old Moses’ was not ‘so old as stated’ at 82 years of age, but died just

before his 76th birthday; nor was his widow his first wife, Caroline, the mother of

his children, for she had died in 1901, but his second wife, Louisa.  Nevertheless,

Moses Small had clearly made his mark on place and people - very much as he

seems to have done at his baptism, when Cinderella took him to the church at just a

week old over three-quarters of a century before.

Copyright © 2018 Anne-Marie Ford