AFFAIRS OF EGYPT -1909*British Isles.
On February 4, at Newton, John Small, Thomas Small, and Robert Small were fined for stealing hazel sticks for making clothes-pegs, and John Small was again fined for a similar offence at Moreton Hampstead on April 27. On July 21 Henry Small, of 10 Brook Street, Dawlish, was summoned at the Exeter Police Court for ill-treating his wife, Cinderella Small, and neglecting to maintain her. Early in September Priscilla Small appeared in the Police Court at Brixham for being drunk whilst in charge of a child, whilst on October 18 John Small reappeared, charged with theft at Tavistock. Finally at Exeter on December 14, T. Small, Robert Small, and W. Small, along with T. Right, W. Holland, and W. James, were fined for receiving wood stolen by Charles Broadway, another member of the same encampment.
At Torrington on February 6, James Saunders was fined for allowing seven horses to stray, and at Axminster on the same day Hiram Pigley and Thomas Penfold suffered a similar fate for obstructing the thoroughfare at Seaton with their caravans.
After this crop of Devonshire prosecutions, let us turn for a moment to Wales, where, at Llanelly, on February 10, Silvester Boswell and his father Ezekiah Boswell were committed for trial on a charge of stealing a watch and chain value £4 ; before passing on to Cambridge, where Francis Gray, a Lincolnshire Gypsy, was summoned on February 13 to show cause why certain obscene post-cards, prints, photographs, and written letters in his possession should not be destroyed ; and thence to Crewe, where, two days later, Henry Giles Boswell, Gypsy vans, oft" North Street, Shelton, was charged, in conjunction with a local butcher, with the theft of a brown horse value ,£18, and a bay mare value £10.
The same day, the 15th, witnessed the departure of the Gypsies from the Black Patch on the outskirts of Birmingham, a camping-ground that they had occupied for nearly half a century. A temporary road was made so that the rickety vans should not have to traverse the rough ground — thus permitting of no excuse. By eleven o'clock (an hour after the appointed time) the caravans were slowly moving oti'the Patch, the men scowling and sullen, the women hurling invectives at the police as they passed. Soon only one caravan was left, a crippled vehicle that threatened to fall to pieces if it was removed. An offer was made by the Gypsies to burn it, but the representatives of the Park Committee insisted on its removal. In the end it was carried on planks, and gently deposited in the street. Then, if report speak true, a large body of men immediately erected a strong fence around the ground. Smiths, Loveridges, and l)avises were the chief families that had been
encamped there. Tom Smith ' the king ' had removed into a house some time before, and Leonard Loveridge had also taken a house, but remained on the common until ejected. The latter and his wife (a daughter of Esau Smith) had occupied a pitch there for thirty-seven years, and their fourteen children and fifty grandchildren (thirty-eight living) had all been born there.
The breaking up of the Encampment was followed on July 12 by the death of John Smith, aged about seventy, eldest son of the late 'Queen' Henty, who had died a few years earlier. The funeral took place on July 16, at Uplands Cemetery, in a family grave, in the consecrated portion of the ground, about fifty relations and friends being present. On two occasions disturbances seemed imminent, once when a slighted relative asked for an exphuiation, and once when some careless mourner was responsible for a little earth failing on the coffin before the committal sentences had been said.
The next cutting worthy of consideration is very vague, and all of interest that can be gathered from it is that somewhere in Hampshire, sometime about February 18, William Harris, a Gypsy labourer, was summoned for discharging a catapult in the highway, and Charles Lee (whose real name was said to be Green) for playing a game of chance.
On February 23, Henry Gaskin (generally known as Wally Gaskin) was sent to gaol for three months at Cambridge, for being drunk whilst in charge of a horse and cart, and for assaulting the police. Later in the year Saunders Gaskin and William Cooper Gaskin appeared before the magistrates at Spalding and Ipswich respectively. Surely this notoriously lawless family cannot be reforming themselves.
On February 27, Absolom Jones, a Sussex Gypsy, was summoned for allowing a horse to stray at Shermanbury. He wrote pleading guilty, and enclosed a Postal Order for 3s., out of which he received no change. Apparently it was the recognised thing for Gypsies in Sussex to fix the amount of their own fines in this way, for on March 9, Abraham Thatcher, who was summoned at Battle for the same offence, sent 5s., and was in consequence fined that amount inclusive of costs. 'From Abraham Thatcher no fixcue,' he wrote. 'Please ser I cannot anoce to my sumes. I have sent you a little money instead, and i hoap you will take cages as I hant been any trouble to the bench before.' On the previous day, however, he ought to have appeared before the East Grin&tead magistrates for (1) using a van without a nameplate projierly attached, on two separate occasions ; (2) keeping a dog without a licence ; (3) allowing the animal to be at large without a proper collar. As these offences eventually cost him i.'l, 19s. 3d., he avoided the Police Court for the rest of the year. Eli Rose and Maria Jonson, who were asked to appear at the Horsham Petty Sessions on March 13, for allowing one horse to stray, decided that in their case 2s. 6d. was the punishment that fitted the crime, and each wrote enclosing a Postal Order for that amount.
Many other Sussex travellers, possibly Gypsies, including Stephen Gobie,George Smith (three times), John Kemp, Sarah Ann Godsniark (twice), Mary Ann Smith, Priscilla Brazil, and John James, were fined during March for trivial breaches of the law.
At Brynammar on March 1st, an inquest was held on the body of Jas. Price, a tramping Gypsy ninety years of age, found mutilated on the G.W.R. The jury handed their fees to the widow, a decrepit old woman of eighty-eight, whose shriveled up appearance evoked much pity.
Were any proof needed to convince conceited moderns that the sum total of folly in the world is just as great as ever it was, a complete record of the successes which attended hoaxing, as practiced by Gypsies on credulous publicans and shopkeepers in this enlightened England of ours in the year of grace 1909, would supply it. The news press only reflected in part the true state of affairs, for
Naturally most of the victims preferred to suffer their losses in silence rather than expose themselves to the scorn of their neighbors. Some few, however, set the machinery of the law in motion, and this worked efficiently on one or two occasions. The first cutting that comes to hand records that Polly Green (24) and Sarah Chamberlain (22) were charged at Bristol on March 3 with obtaining by false pretences sums of £3,3s.Od.15s.6d. and £4,15s. Od. in addition to six bottles of stout, six bottles of Bass, and six ounces of tobacco, from three local publicans. They adopted the usual procedure of displaying large sums of money, and offering to leave deposits on unlimited orders that they promised, and, in some cases, gave. This done, they proceeded to ' wheedle ' their victims into buying, and paying for, a rug worth 10s.6d.a ring worth 2s.lld. and a cart Worth 16s.6d.for the substantial sums mentioned above. Taking into consideration the fact that the prisoners had small babies to look after,the Bench did not send them to prison as they deserved, but only bound them over and ordered them to pay £5 damages each. Polly Green and Sarah Chamberlain, it may be added, were names assumed by Esmeralda Green (nee Lovell or Amer) and Mizelli Lovell (nee Stephens). The same pair reappear as Elizabeth Green and Emily Chamberlain at Llanilar, where, on June 4, they were fined £2 and costs each for a similar offence. They must not, however, be blamed for every hoax, for Esmeralda was in Westmorland when, at the Exeter Police Court, on August 5, two married Gypsies giving their names as Ada Turner and Josella Alice Smith were committed for trial for conspiring to obtain £7 by false pretences. Probably 'Ada Turner' and 'Josella Alice Smith' were members of the same gang, for the tale that they told resembled very closely, even in minute details, the one which had been used at Bristol. The gang referred to, if at full strength, would consist of Yuneti Lovell and her husband George Amer ; and their children : —Henrietta Lovell and her husband, a queer little shrimp called Wilson;Leonard Lovell and his wife,I Mizelli Stephens ; Johnny Lovell and his wife, a Wilson ; Esmeralda Lovell and her husband Render Green the younger;and Erancis Lovell and his wife Omi James ; also Ben Gaskin and his wife,Fiance Green,Render's sister; and one of the Tapsells with his wife, Johnny's wife's sister. Hoaxing and maceing,' together with an extensive trade in broken-winded and corde graid, have made their fortunes in the short space of a few years. Moreover, they are about the most entertaining set of rogues to
be met with in England.
Whilst they were impoverishing the western side of the country with their sharp practices, a similar band, consisting of Mary Smith and her husband, Render Green the elder, and their children, Clnra, wife of Ben or ' ****** ' Squires , and Louisa, were preying upon the east. They were first caught at Lincoln, where, as Annie Green (60), Elizabeth Squires (30), and Louisa Green (24), tbey were charged on April 29 with having obtained £5, 10s. Od. by false pretences from a local lversmith. They entered his shop and bargained for a wedding-ring and a Queen Anne tea-service for a wedding present, and, on the understanding
that these were to be purchased, the jeweller bought a 'Siberian wolf-skin' rug from them for £5, 10s. Od. As might have been expected, the bargaining came to nothing, and the rug turned out to be an American coyote. On the Gypsies agreeing to refund the money the case was dismissed. Later in the year they were in trouble at Cambridge, where, after 'Annie' Green (60) had been convicted on October 25 for fortune-telling (although she swore on oath that she had never told fortunes in her life), her daughter Louisa Green (25) was charged on December 14 with conspiring with two other women to obtain ^4, 15s. Od.
by fraud from the landlady of ' Ye Merry Boys.' The two other women, one of them the defendants' mother, had already appeared before the Court. Prisoner disclaimed all connection with them, but was committed for trial.Khusti bok to her.
In addition to these two closely related bands, one or two other Gypsies were engaged in practising similar tricks. It is on record that Sarah Elliott and Mary Ann Smith were fined £10 each at Coventry on May 23 for obtaining £2, 5s. Od. for a goat-skin rug by hoaxing and intimidation ; that Alice Elliott and her niece, Isabella Elliott, were fined £r> etich at Knaresborough on September 5 for obtaining £5 from a Boroughbridge publican by means of a trick ; and that John Todd (18) was fined £15 (which was promptly ])aid by friends in Court) at Willenhall on June 21 for obtaining sums of 18s. and 10s. 6d. by false pretences. Who these Elliotts were it has been impossible to ascertain. In all probability they did not belong to the well-known Lincolnshire family, but to an entirely ;distinct family (and one not renowned for its law-abiding character) that may sometimes be met with around Bristol or London.
At the Wednesbury Police Court on March 5, a small fine was inflicted on Shadrach Skerrett, a Gypsy, of Dangerfield Lane, for being in possession of a straying dog and failing to report the same.
On the following day John Boswell was fined 20s. and costs at Carnarvon for assaults committed on the police four years earlier.
During the next week John Loveridge was in trouble at Harrow for allowing horses to stray, and Valentine Smith and John Cooper for encamping on the highway somewhere near Ongar.
I am not a gipsy. I was bred and born, and had a father and mother.' Such was the indignant protest of John King, who, on March 12, was summoned at Tunbridge Wells for assaulting and beating two policemen. But even if it meant admitting that she never was born, no one would deny that Julia Lovell, who was fined twenty shillings and costs at Bolton for fortune-telling, was a Gypsy. The white of an egg in a glass of water replaced the more usual magic crystal — and gave much the same results. Hers was a light punishment compared with the one month's
imprisonment inflicted, about the same time, on Ann Smith, an elderly Gypsy, living in Wardly Street, Wandsworth, for fraudulently obtaining Is. 6d. from a domestic servant by pretending to tell her fortune.
At Darnall, near Sheffield, on March 15, a fight took place between two brothers named Smith, living in a caravan at Smithfield, Coleridge Road. The younger brother, Isaiah Smith, aged twenty, was rendered unconscious, and had to 1)8 removed to the infirmary, where he soon recovered.
The Depwade (Norfolk) Rural District Council devoted a considerable amount of time at its meeting on March 1.5 to discussing the van-dwellers at Needham. One van had been there for twenty years, and there were six or seven of them in all.
On the same day some so-called Gypsies were evicted from a camping-ground in Hawthorne Street, Nottingham.
Towards the end of March a Scotch tent-dweller and pedlar called Neil Hughes was murdered in the Rosehall district of Sutherland. More, too, was heard of the Gypsy nuisance in the Home Counties, especially in the Nevenden and Pitsea districts of Essex, the Heston, Isleworth, and Totten- ham districts of Middlesex, and at High Wycombe in Bucks.
Several south country travellers were in trouble with the police : William Vickers and Matthew Cooper at Bournemouth for pedling without certificates ; John Smith and William Smith at Oundle for using bad language ; Job Carey, Frank Vincent, M. Bowers, Albert Deacon, Joseph Vincent, and A. Marks or Parker for damaging the turf on Walton Downs ; and Lena Taylor, Tom Garratt, and Mrs. Consoleta Smith for camping at Snakes Lane, Wood Green.
Now for a little news from the west. On April 6 an inquest was held at Downend in Gloucestershire on the body of Plato Loveridge (3), son of Clementina Loveridge and Job Biddle. Deceased, who was scalded to death, was a cripple, like all his brothers and sisters with the exception of the eldest, Polly. Caroline Stephens gave evidence.
On the 8th Henry Roberts was fined at Newton for allowing a horse to stray ; and on the same day Prudence Stephens, married, of the Box, Minchinhampton, was summoned at Nailsworth for fortune-telling, and also for using obscene language.
An early morning affray at Maindy, near Cardiff", had its sequel at the Llandaff" Police Court on the 26th, when Caleb Hearn (a son of Old Edmund, Ike's half-brother) and his four sons, John, George, Benjamin, and Alfred, together with Harry Riles, were charged with assaulting two policemen, who had attempted to impound their straying horses. The chief wonder was that the policemen were alive to tell the tale of the attack. Cornelius Lee, who was accused of beating one of the constables with a kettle prop, and threatening to kill him, had escaped.
The defendants were sent to prison for various periods ranging from one to three months. No sooner were the sentences announced than the Gypsy women and children at the back of the Court began wailing piteously. In this they were joined by two or three of the younger prisoners, the remainder waving farewells as they were escorted to the cells.
In striking contrast with this desperate resistance to authority are the trivial offences of the fifteen Hampshire Gypsies, Richard Sheen and Alice Day (damaging turf in New Forest and Gadshill Wood), Ernest Smith (pony astray at Yateley),
Margaret Stone and Tom Loveridge (no name on vans at Crookham), John Ayres (obscene language at Crookham), Maurice Ayres (obscene language at Deadwater), Charlie Green (poaching at Kingsworthy), Alice Day (theft of game-eggs at Broughton), Amos Wells (horses astray at Medstead), Henry and Mary Rogers and Esther Rawlings (bad language at Tadley), and James and Edward Lamb and Nipton Hibberd (killing a pheasant in close season at Hickfield), who were convicted at various dates from the middle of April to the end of May.
Perhaps the triviality of the crimes was due to the influence of the New Forest Gipsy Mission, which, in addition to its spiritual ministrations, assisted fifty families with parcels of warm clothing, provided two families with ponies, four with hawkers' licences, and several with money for the journey to the hop-fields. Since the work began it has induced over forty couples to marry.