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Follow the Fleet

Anne-Marie Ford    -    3 June 2012

The Ipswich Journal of 6th April 1822 reported upon the trial of two Gypsies, noting that there was “a great uproar,” at the verdict. The two men in the dock were Lewis Boswell and Ferdinand Smith, who had been accused, together with Ambrose Smith, who was acquitted, of burglary at the house of John Jacob of Livermere:

Lewis Boswell and Ferdinand Smith, Gipseys (sic) for a burglary in the house of Mr Jacob, of Great Livermere. . . . When the verdict of “Guilty” was returned against the gipseys (sic), Boswell struck one of the witnesses a most violent blow, crying out, “that’s the man that has murdered us.” [Whereupon] a great uproar took place, both the prisoners continually screaming out “they were wilfully murdered,” and damning judge, jury, counsel, attorney and witnesses. When they were sentenced they were brought up double-ironed.

The story is well known, less so is a reference to the involvement of another Gypsy, Penelope Lovell. The Ipswich Journal of 12th January 1822 noted that Penelope Lovell was placed on remand for further examination, as she was “charged with others, in committing a burglary in the dwelling-house of John Jacob of Livermere.” Unless Mr Jacob was terribly unlucky, and suffered two burglaries within a very short space of time, Penelope was involved in some way with the three men brought to trial.

Lewis Boswell, Ferdinand Smith and Ambrose Smith, who was Ferdinand’s son, were charged at the Lent Assizes at Bury St Edmunds that “on 21st December 1821 about the hour of twelve in the night of the same day the dwelling house of John Jacob . . . feloniously and burglarously did break and enter with intent the goods to carry away . . . with force of arms.” There follows a long list of fabric and clothing, including:

100 yards of linen cloth of the value of £5

300 yards of printed cloth of the value of £15

20 shawls of the value of 30/-

25 pairs of cotton stockings of the value of 40/-

20 pairs of worsted stockings of the value of 20/_

500 yards of lace 5/-

20 yards of corduroy 40/-

50 yards of linen check 50/-

100 handkerchiefs £5

55 yards of lawn Holland of the value of 50/-

50 yards of worsted stuff 5-/-

20 yards of dimity 20/-

6 yards of cotton 6d

The two men found guilty were sentenced to be hanged for the offence, and this was then commuted to transportation, although for Ferdinand this amounted to a death sentence anyway, dying whilst held in the hulks, awaiting transportation. Lewis Boswell seems to have survived, however, to make a new life in Australia, but his story has suffered from some confusion. He has been cited as the Lewis Boswell, son of Bartholomew, father of Tommy and husband of Constance Smith, who, in fact, never left these shores, and was buried in Berkshire with much pomp and ceremony.

ThisLewis Boswell, whose home territory was Suffolk,was baptised on 5th January 1793, the son of Shadrack and Cinderella Boswell, formerly Buckley, and was better known, perhaps, as the “tinker of Hintlesham.” He was also the husband of Polypha, with whom he had at least four children by the time of the trial, Charles, born about 1810, Cinderella, named after his mother, born about two years’ later,Thomas, baptised on 26th January 1813 at Wenhaston, Suffolk and James, baptised on 7th February 1815, also at Wenhaston. Both these last two baptisms had identified the father as “the tinker of Hintlesham.”

When Lewis was sentenced to transportationPolypha was to make the journey to the docks at Southampton, where Lewis was to await sailing, presumably to say a final goodbye; thisis confirmed by the fact that she christened their last child in Hampshire, in the same year Lewis was put on board ship. On 4th August 1822 Polypha baptised a daughter, Amelia, recorded as the child of Lewis and Pelify (sic) Boswell, in Alverstoke, Hampshire.

Nor was Polypha the only Gypsy woman to undertake such a journey. The third wife of John BuddGray,* Harriet Williams, was also to follow her husband, sentenced to transportation, at the last showing him their baby girl, born in 1844, to be named Youancry (Mary) Gray.John, who was the son of Thomas and Susanna Gray, had been tried at Lincoln Assizes for horse stealing and was transported in the September of that year. He was to leave behind a large family for, by his first wife, Eliza Heron, he had Sonny, baptised as Sonne at Keelby, Lincolnshire on 20th March 1825, where John is recorded as a musician. With his second wife, Maria Boswell, John was father to Eliza,John, Obedience, Israel, Susan and Joshua, and Harriet Williams, his third wife, seems to have been a co-wife with Maria, as the last three of Maria’s children were born during the time that Harriet, too, was having children by John. These children were Caroline,born in Epsom, Surrey in about 1834, David, who died young, Victoria, baptised at Moorby, Lincolshire 22nd July 1838, Isabella born around 1841 and, finally, Youancry.

Baptised as Unoncry at Fylingdales, Yorkshire on 16th May 1855, some eleven years after her birth, Youancry seems to have got her name by accident. Her mother walked down to Woolwich, delivering her one the way, so she could catch one last glimpse of John as he left for Australia. Somebody on the ship spotted her amidst the “hue and cry” on the quay, and told John, who must have thought it was his daughter’s name. His last words to Harriet were, “Don’t let little Hue and Cry drop into the water.” Harriet, believing he was naming the child, as his last gift, called her daughter accordingly.

And it was indeed his last gift, for John stayed in Australia, even after he got his ticket of leave, since by that time he hadformed a partnership with a Fanny Dowling, and had another family. Charlotte, Charles and Israel were born in Hobart, Tasmania between 1849 and 1851, and John, Pyramus, Angelina, Isabella, Alexander and George in Geelong, Victoria, between 1853 and 1866. A record of John Budd Gray’s burial in Geelong is dated 1st September 1868. Harriet, meanwhile, who seems not to have remarried, died at Louth, Lincolnshire on 23rd January 1906, claiming to be 111.

Copyright © 2012 Anne-Marie Ford