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10 things you never knew about Gypsies in Ewell
This year is the 500th anniversary of the first record of Gypsies in England.
Following on from our look at the history of Gypsies and travellers in Epsom and Ewell to mark the milestone, Bourne Hall curator Jeremy Harte shares some interesting facts about their place in Ewell's history.
10 things you never knew about Gypsies in Ewell:
1. Romany gypsies have been stopping in Ewell since 1677.
They were called Babylonians because nobody could imagine where they came from.
2. For many years travellers could be arrested just for being on the road.
In 1785, Tabitha Clarke and Hannah Scamp were locked up with their nine children, in a tiny prison in Church Street, because they had slept in the open air.
3. Inventive names are a Gypsy tradition.
Major Eyres (1786), Faurnity Cooper (1823), Jenty Hope (1870) and Unity Pidgley (1917) all passed through Ewell.
4. There were many places in Ewell where Gypsies were welcome.
They regularly stayed at Banstead Road, once called Gipsy Lane; at the Rifle Butts, where Glyn School is now; on the verges by Kingston Road; and down Hook Road.
Gypsies on Derby Day in 1931
5. One of the great Gypsy romances began in Ewell.
Liddie Gowan, a preacher’s daughter, walked through the annual fair in 1829 and saw Chewbacca Matthews, a boxer. ‘That’s the man for me’, she said, and took to the road with him.
6. Gypsies were valued as farm workers because they could quickly bring in crops.
They harvested potatoes at Wallace Fields and turnips at Ewell Court.
7. A supply of water is vital for travellers.
In Derby week, they would bring carts to collect it from the springs at Ewell and take it up on the Downs. Sometimes it was mixed with yellow powder and sold as lemonade to thirsty racegoers.
8. After schools were opened up to Gypsies in 1906, many families made efforts to get their children educated.
They were enrolled at West Street School and Ewell Grove.
An item in the Gypsy and traveller display at Bourne Hall
9. Many Gypsies fought in both World Wars.
Aaron Hoadley, who stopped off at Snaky Ally in 1923, was at the Derby wearing his medals when someone bet him that he could not borrow £1 off George V - but he managed to do it because he was an ex-serviceman.
10. Gypsies are famous musicians.
The Lee family, who helped farmers off Reigate Road, played waltzes and polkas in local pubs. Jasper Smith, of Cox Lane, had a repertoire of folksongs about gypsy life.
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