Gypsies in England

[Taken from Notes and Queries Vol. 11 (287) 28th April 1855 Page 326]

Question by G.R.L.:

"When did gypsies first attract attention in England by their wanderings?"

Answer by an un-stated contributor:

"The earliest circumstantial account we have of gypsies in England occurs in The Art of Juggling or Legerdemaine by S.R. (Samuel Rid). London 1612, 4to.

He says "This kind of people, about 100 years ago, beganne to gather a head, as the first here, about the southerne parts. And this, as I am informed, and can gather, was their beginning:-

Certain Egyptians banished their country (belike not for their good conditions) arrived here in England, who for quaint tricks and devices, not known here at that time among us, were esteemed and had in great admiration, insomuch that many of our English loiterers joined them, and in time learned their craftie cozening.

The speech which they used was the right Egyptian language, with whom our Englishmen conversing at least learned their language. These people continuing about the country, and practising their cozening art, purchased themselves great credit among the country people, and got much by palmistry and telling of fortunes, insomuch they pitifully cozened poor country girls, both of money, silver spoons and the best of their apparelle, or any goods they could make."

This writer further states they had a leader of the name of Giles Hather, who was termed their King; and a woman of the name of Calot was called Queen: "These, riding through the country on horseback and in strange attire, had a prettie traine about them."

According to this writer, the gypsies arrived here about 1512 or ten years before the statute of 22 Henry VIII, c.10. was passed. Some interesting notices of the gypsy race will be found in Hoyland’s Historical Survey of Customs, Habits and present state of Gypsies, 8vo., York, 1816; and The Zincali; or An Account of the Gypsies of Spain by George Borrow.

Copied by - Roy Louis Cox Thursday, 18 August 2005