THE GYPSIES & HEATHLAND OF OLD KINSON & HEAVENLY BOTTOM & NEW ENGLAND
I can only guess why so many of the old Gypsies decided to stay on the heaths that once covered a vast area from Parkstone (which then came under the parish of Kinson and Canford), all the way down from Constitution Hill to Bourne Bottom and Heavenly Bottom.Just across the heath, of course, was one of the best well-known camps called New England, where even today many of the descendants of the Romanies who once lived there,have settled in houses in the nearby housing estates.
Many, of course, married local village folk and so the communities have combined to form what I think, is quite a unique community. Alderney, which is half-way between Parkstone and Kinson, came into its own when the famous artist Augustus John made Alderney Manor his home from 1911 to 1927, although he first visited Dorset in 1899.
Alderney Manor was owned by Lady Wimborne, Winston Churchill’s aunt, who was very liberal in her views and was pleased to have anartist as a tenant.The grounds, which contained sixty acres of heathland and had a large lake where they could bathe naked, as well as a walled private garden, was ideal for Augustus’s entourage.
The Manor itself, and the guest house, were separated by an abundance of trees, shrubs and rhododendron bushes, amongst which stood several brightly painted Vardos’(caravans) and tents. As he had a love of Romany life and Romany people, Augustus at once mingled and became friends with local Gypsy families from a camp at Hooper’s gravel pit, which was then situated by what is now the Wallisdown roundabout.
Augustus could often be seen at the local pub ‘The Shoulder of Mutton (which is still there today), enjoying a drink with the Gypsies and was also equally at home around their fires or on the Heath where he painted some of them. It would be nice to know exactly who the local Gypsy lasses were that he painted and from his reputation as a womaniser, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was more than just a friend to some of them! Just how early the Gypsies were travelling back and forth from the New Forest to Kinson and other Dorset villages is Hard to tell, but my earliest proven record is of a Peter Stanley b.1771 who married Mary Drake in Church Knowle Dorset in 1792. Many Stanleys’ are still living locally in and around Kinson as well as Hampshire.
Other families were also stopping on the heaths and are still well represented in Dorset and Hampshire. Some of them include families such as:-Cooper/Barnes/Doe/Hughes/James/Johnson/KeatsKeets/Lamb/Light/Pidgeley/Pateman/Bowers/ and Sheens to name a few. Matthews/Mitchell/Sheen/Turner/Wells and White.There are, of course, more. Some were originally from Kent, Surrey and Sussex, but I have even found some who travelled from as far as Wales and Scotland. So it is important to check all counties, as even when they were in vardos they sometimes seemed to travel further afield than we do today by car!
Many Travellers who made Kinson their home,still returned every year to Alton, Medstead,and Binstead for the hopping and strawberry picking season, and went even further afield for pea-picking. Another stopping-place was Horton Heath, near Cranborne and, of course, West Moors Common, which then came under the Parish of Hampreston.One of my relatives and her family were all born there and later their parents used a disused railway carriage for their home – and very cosy it was too! I can remember the old gas light still being used in the early 1960s!
This was also home for several of the local families of Cooper, Barnes, Keat-Keet, Hughes and Saxby, amongst others. Many of those families were in the New Forest or around Fordingbridge in earlier times, where they were often photographed and painted ,and are probably unaware that their old folki have been captured and preserved in history. Sven Berlin painted Henry Cooper who he described as “Old Henry or Tuvvy and his raven-voiced wife Amy”.
Dominic Reeve one of my favourite modern day author's on Gypsy life and the antics they got up to while travelling in a wagon with local Romanies on the road, wrote about the Gypsies he stayed with at the Higher Camp, which was just past the Mountbatten Arms, along the Ringwood road. Some of these Romanies were later housed in nearby Council estates and there descendants still live there today,not far from here is the Mannings Heath Council run Gypsy site which at the present time is closed but I have heard that it may soon be reopened .
Dominic Reeve is still active and his new book Beneith the blue sky is due to be released any moment (May 2007) I am looking forward to it and will be interested to see just how much has changed since the author last roamed the highways and lanes. Dominic and his wife Beshlie who is an artist and author herself , and illustrated all of Dominics book's are still both writing and continuing their roaming life.
Pictured below is the funeral of Louisa Barnes nee Willett who was a local "Gypsy Queen " at the encampment known as new England You can see by the followers how respected she must have been ,just look at the people on foot behind the second carriage! The funeral took place on September 25 1935 and this picture is from the local evening Echo,although I had it given me by a friend who has the picture as his father was the undertaker!!and it is hung in their reception room at Smiths & Sons Winton. Louisa is buried at St.Andrews Church kinson along with her husband John Barnes who died in 1940 and was also mentioned in the same Newspaper. Also among others buried in St Andrews is Britannia Keet nee James (abt 1861-1925) who has a lovely verse wrote on her Angel memorial pictured below far right
Below is Annie Cooper and her late aunt Nancy Jeff/Crutcher , who was well known by all the folk at heavenly bottom and for many years made floral tributes and button holes for weddings and sold flowers in Bournemouth square known as the Bournemouth flower girls, all the local people would go to Nancy and also her sister Gerty and earlier her mum Nancy. when they wanted flowers or wreaths made.
On the right below is Annie Cooper and family when she was a child Hop picking.
Above older Nancy & Annie and below a
Above is Sis Holt and Nancy, and below the Bournemouth Flower girls.
Many thanks to Annie and John for the great photo's and to Jean Mathew's for the Flower girls photo.
Nancy Crutcher or as she was known Nancy Jeff died in February 2005 aged 81 she will long be remembered by all
the village RIP Nancy:-
There is still one member of the "Flower girls" who I met at a Romany &Traveller Family History event in 2005 .
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