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Ravishing Billy Buckland

Eric Trudgill    -    3 July 2011

Early 20th Century gypsiologists from Buckland family members learned little more about the intriguingly nick-named Ravishing Billy than that a) he was perhaps a brother of the Emmanuel Buckland who married Aquilla Draper in 1769 (he’s more likely to have been Emmanuel’s nephew), that b) he had a wife called Honor or perhaps Susanna (in fact she was a Sophia), and that c) he had daughters, Sinfy and Honor, married respectively to Emmanuel/Manuel Buckland (grandson of old Emmanuel and Aquilla) and William Hazard (son of Thomas and Elizabeth), daughters who for a while swapped husbands, Honor bearing Manuel the Lementina who married Frederick Sandford (of this more later).

The gypsiologists were luckier with their information about Ravishing Billy’s contemporaries, Coliberry, Mary, and Barrington Buckland, who, they were told, were siblings. This seems certain, even without a baptism for the first and without named parents at the baptism of the last. Coliberry and Barrington did indeed, as the gypsiologists were told, have sons called Purify, an extremely rare name. Mary did indeed give her only daughter, Lavinia, in marriage to Barrington’s son, Timothy/Dimiti, having christened her in a church used five years earlier by Coliberry for one of hers, and in 1798 married the man the recently deceased Coliberry had married in 1779. Mary’s appearance with her future husband at a vagrancy hearing in 1796 identified her baptism in 1773 and thereby the parents of all three siblings as Timothy, Barrington’s baptismal name, and Elizabeth.

I think it’s highly likely Ravishing Billy was another child of Timothy and Elizabeth. He was associated, as we’ve seen, with old Emmanuel Buckland, Barrington’s father-in-law. His travel-profile, like Barrington’s before the latter based himself in Somerset, favoured Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. His son, Absolom, married a daughter of Coliberry’s travelling companions, Jonas and Constance Smith. And at least two of Absolom’s daughters married sons of Solomon Boswell (identified by his nephew as Coliberry’s son, Purify) and Ann (identified by a son as a daughter of Barrington Buckland).

Of Ravishing Billy’s children by Sophia I’ve found baptisms for William junior in S Newington, Oxon in 1787, Ann in Swindon, Wilts in 1796, and Absolom in Abington, Northants in 1799 (the parents identified explicitly as travellers with the first two and implicitly with the third through the baptism of a child where he’s “of Abington”); I’ve also found a baptism less certainly for a Selina in Chippenham, Wilts in 1791. Ravishing Billy’s Sinfy and Honor, I suspect, were born about 1794 and 1801 respectively. I’ve found no children for William junior and Selina, and only one for Ann, the Solomon Buckland christened in Leafield, Oxon in 1819, who married Sophia, daughter of Thomas Williams and Sophia Hazard, raising the possibility that Solomon’s unnamed father was Henry Hazard, surely son of Thomas and Elizabeth and Sophia Hazard’s brother.

Absolom and his wife Eleanor undoubtedly had Absolom junior, Sinfy, Sufferante, John, Cinderella, Delilah and James, all christened 1820-1837, and, though I haven’t found baptisms, I believe they also had Matilda as well as Selina/Reni Buckland, the successive wives of Solomon Boswell’s son, Elias; Absolom junior married his cousin Delilah Buckland, daughter of Manuel; Sinfy married Solomon Boswell’s son, Septimus; and John and James married sisters, Fairneti and Emily Green, granddaughters of, I believe, their father’s cousin, Lavinia, daughter of the Mary Buckland baptised in 1773. The Boswell men gave Absolom and Eleanor six documented grandchildren, and the Green women gave them nearly twenty.

Sinfy and her husband Manuel Buckland undoubtedly had Emmanuel/Mantus, John, Selina/Reni, and Ocean, all christened 1817-1827, plus (the gypsiologists’ information seemingly being confirmed by the records) a Sabina and the Delilah who married her cousin Absolom. Of these John and Ocean were said to have died young (a burial for Ocean has been found in 1843). Mantus married Susan Coldecote in 1845, and had Sabina, Emmanuel and Ocean, baptised 1846-1855, Leonora born about 1857, and Madona, Richenda and William Emmanuel, baptised 1861-68. Mantus and Sinfy’s Sabina by an unknown partner had in 1847 the Selina Buckland who married Elias Taylor. And Selina/Reni in 1840 had General Buckland by the fore-mentioned Henry Hazard (confirmed at General’s wedding in 1858), and then had at least eight children by Edmond Smith.

Honor, by the same Henry Hazard I’ve mentioned twice already, had the Henry Hazard christened in 1826 who married Diana Cooper, and had William, Ocean and Job. Honor also by Henry Hazard, I’m fairly certain, had the Selina (confused for 100 years with the wife of Edmond Smith) who married Diana’s brother, Job Cooper, and had Richenda and Bella. Honor then, by surely Henry Hazard senior’s younger brother William, had an Honor junior, christened in 1831, and the Timothy who married Emma, daughter of Thomas Williams and Sophia Hazard, sister of Timothy’s father.

So were the gypsiologists right to claim Sinfy and Honor swapped husbands for a while, and Honor by Manuel Buckland had a Lementina who by Frederick Sandford had a Seguli (the Seguli Sandford christened in Ham, Surrey in 1853, but born about 1845, who married Mark Davis and christened a Lementina Davis in 1867)? Personally I suspect the husband-swapping story was a garbled version of Honor’s swapping, permanently it seems, Henry Hazard senior for his younger brother, William. The widowed Sinfy, it’s true, was travelling with William Hazard in the 1851 census, but as a Buckland, not a Hazard, as his “servant” and senior by 13 years, and with only a daughter and two granddaughters by Manuel with them. Until we have evidence to the contrary, I think we should see William here as his widowed sister-in-law’s protector, not sexual partner, and Lementina as having been born to Manuel in legal wedlock by the older of those two daughters of Ravishing Billy Buckland.

Copyright © 2011 Eric Trudgill