- Estimated Gypsy population: 100,000, including Irish Travelers. Some 50,000 live in caravans. The census figures for January 2005 show about 6,500 caravans on official council sites, more than 5,000 on authorized private sites, and 3,500 on unauthorized encampments. The latter figure includes caravans on Gypsies' own land but without planning permission.It is likely that the first Gypsies in England came from France at the turn of the 15th century. The first written record dates from 1514 and refers to a fortune-teller from Lambeth who had left England some time previously. Further references occur between 1513 and 1530. A distinctive costume was common knowledge in England early in the 16th century, as we have records of court ladies dressing up as Gypsies as early as 1517.There was soon a large enough number of Gypsies to worry the authorities and the first anti-Gypsy law was passed in 1530 under Henry VIII. This banned "Egyptians" from entering the country and ordered those already there to leave within 16 days or forfeit their possessions. In 1540 a group of Gypsies was released from Marshalsea Prison and put on a ship bound for Norway. Others were expelled to Calais, still an English colony. In 1554 (under Queen Mary) the death penalty was introduced and eight years later Queen Elizabeth strengthened the law with the penalties extended to anyone consorting with the Gypsies. In 1577 in Aylesbury, six persons were hanged under this law, a further five in Durham in 1592, and nine in York in 1596. At least 13 more were executed under this law (in Bury St. Edmunds around 1650) before it and most legislation concerning Gypsies were repealed in 1783.Under the 1598 Act for the Punishment of Rogues, Vagabonds, and Sturdy Beggars many Gypsies were deported to the colonies in America (1614-1776) and later Australia (1787-1868). This was remembered for a long time in the Romani name for a magistrate- bitcherin' mush (sending-away man). In some parts of the country, however, no action was taken against Gypsies, and they were also protected by landowners who found it useful to have Gypsies available for entertainment and casual work.Fortune-telling was evidently an important occupation. In 1602 William Shakespeare's Desdemona refers to a handkerchief that an Egyptian woman who could read minds had given to her mother. The wife of the diarist Samuel Pepys went to see Gypsies at Lambeth with a friend to have their fortunes told. However, a male was apparently burned at the stake in Warwickshire for telling fortunes, if the story is to be believed.The policy of expulsion from the country failed, and in the 19th century, settlement and assimilation became the aim. Various Christian missions took an interest in the Gypsy nomads, and special schools were opened. In 1815 John Hoyland was commissioned by the Society of Friends to collect information about the Gypsies with a view to improving their condition. This was the first survey made and gave James Crabb, among others, the impulse to start his mission. Assimilation was the goal, but this was thwarted by police and local authorities who continued to move Gypsies on.In 1822 and 1835 (the Highway Acts), penalties were introduced for Gypsies camping on the highway. Attempts by George Smith to control the nomadic Gypsies with the Moveable Dwellings Bills in Parliament failed, however, owing to the opposition of circus and fair owners. The Gypsy population around this time has been estimated at about 10,000.Popular novels in England-as elsewhere-featured Gypsies who stole children or pronounced curses that could not be avoided. In the late 19th century Gypsylorists emerged.A new immigration started in the second half of the 19th century and there are reports of "foreign Gypsies" - certainly belonging to Vlah clans. At the beginning of the 20th century, England was visited by bear trainers, "German Gypsies" (probably Lovari), and the first of the Kalderash families who were to become regular visitors. Legislation against "aliens," aimed at Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe, was used to prevent Romanies from landing and to expel them rapidly. Nevertheless, in the 1930s, the Kalderash Stirio and Yevanovic families established themselves in England, and their descendants form a compact Romani-speaking community today. Irish Travelers have been coming to England and the rest of Britain particularly since the middle of the 19th century. They number some 10,000 in England.Between the two world wars (1918-1939) much legislation was enacted affecting the nomadic Gypsies. The 1936 Public Health Act defined tents, caravans, and sheds as statutory nuisances. In 1937 the first of many attempts to stop the Gypsies' annual gathering for the Derby horse race failed. During both wars, however, Romanies served in the armed forces, and many were awarded medals for valor.In the highly industrialized England that arose after 1945, nomadic Gypsies found life much harder. Their traditional camping places were built on, and, with increased and faster traffic, stopping on the roadside became dangerous and-in many cases-banned. The 1947 and 1950 Town and Country Planning Acts restricted the use of land by caravans and then the Caravan Sites Act of 1960 led to the closure of many private sites, forcing the Gypsies back on the road.A civil rights movement began to emerge in the 1960s with the Society of Travelling People in Leeds (1965) and Tom Jonell in the south. In 1966 the Gypsy Council was founded at a meeting in Kent. Under its secretary, Grattan Puxon, it began a campaign of passive resistance to the forced moving-on of caravans from public land, which obtained considerable press and television publicity. It organized the first caravan school at Hornchurch aerodrome, with volunteer teachers including Thomas Acton. Others followed. Under pressure from Norman Dodds, a member of Parliament, the central government began to take an interest in Gypsies. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government produced a report, Gypsies and Other Travellers (1967), which was the first official study of Gypsies in England and Wales.With this pressure from both inside and outside Parliament, the Caravan Sites Act of 1968 was passed, applying to England and Wales. This act placed a duty on county councils in particular to provide caravan sites. However, areas of the country could then be "designated" as areas where Gypsies could not park their caravans unless they found a pitch on the official sites. The first of these designations were made in 1973.In 1980 the Local Government Planning Land Act removed the word "Gypsy" from the 1835 Highway Act. This was no longer necessary because of the provisions of the 1968 Caravan Sites Act. Gypsies were no longer singled out for punishment for camping on the roadside, unless it was a designated area.In 1994 the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act imposed stronger penalties for camping anywhere in England or Wales outside official sites. At the same time the duty on councils (laid down by the 1968 Caravan Sites Act) to provide such sites was removed, and Gypsies were told that they had to buy land, get planning permission, and make their own caravan sites. Gypsies began buying land as a winter base but local councils often refused planning permission. The penalties for living in a caravan on one's own land without planning permission are higher than for trespassing. The local authorities then take them to court in order to remove them. The evictions of the 1960s from public land have been replaced by evictions from the Gypsies' own land. During 2004 and 2005 bailiffs cleared by force several such encampments. A particularly violent eviction took place in Chelmsford in 2004 during which many caravans were destroyed.In 2001 the government set aside money annually for the refurbishment of existing council-run caravan sites. Later this was extended to apply to new transit sites, although approval has been given for only two. In November 2004 a House of Commons select committee recommended reintroducing the duty on councils to provide sites. However, this was rejected by the minister, John Prescott, with overall responsibility for Gypsies. In December that year it was announced that local authorities could bid for money to build new caravan sites. A sum of £8 million was set aside for fiscal year 2005/2006 for new sites and the refurbishment of old sites. The approved projects, announced in July 2005, included £1.5 million for a site in Bristol.In February 2006 the deputy prime minister's department issued a Circular (1/2006) which in due course will lead to local councils allocating areas where Gypsies can buy land with the likelihood that they will be given planning permission.In 1996 it was estimated by the authorities that 50,000 nomadic children age 16 and under lived in England. This figure includes some New Travelers. The majority of primary-age children (age 5-11) attend school, but the situation is not so satisfactory for secondary-school children (age 11-16). The Department for Education and Science funds Traveller Education Support services as part of the Vulnerable Children's Grant. Continuing education after the age of 16 is not common, although many Gypsies and Travelers attending further and higher education colleges conceal their origins and no figures are available.There have been some incidents of stone-throwing at caravans but most anti-Gypsy violence has been directed at asylum seekers. In May 2000 Roma experienced three separate physical attacks across the country in a week. A refugee in Salford had a brick thrown through his window while attempts were made to kick down his door. He was also subject to racist abuse screamed from the street. The City Housing Service refused to help or rehouse the man. The North West Refugee Consortium said it had yet to determine whether the attack was racially motivated-it could have been attempted burglary. A group of Roma living in Middlesborough were so shaken by the attacks they experienced that some of them decided to return to Slovakia, saying that if they were going to die, they would prefer it to be in their own country. Several thousand Roma from eastern Europe had come to Britain in the years after 1990 as asylum seekers but very few were accepted as refugees. With the accession of several countries to the European Union in May 2004, however, many now have the right to remain in the country as workers.Gypsies in England today are mainly self-employed with such trades as tarmacking and block-paving, landscape gardening, and house repairs. As musicians they are known in folk club circles but not to the general public.
Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . Donald Kenrick.
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