Gypsy Roma Soul
I found out in 2021 that my grandmother was a full Roma (gypsy). Prior to this, I could never find any lineage on my mother's side. I gave up in the end as found no direct links. Then, one day, by quite a mad route, while researching someone else's lineage on Roma sites, I discovered my grandmother's maiden name, Smith, and other related surnames kept appearing from Roma ancestry. Initially, I laughed it off, the thought that we were of Roma heritage didn't seem possible. The more I thought about it, I recalled my grandmother saying once that we were related to the famous Gypsy Lee. I hadn't given it much thought, I was very young, and besides, all families had those sorts of stories, you know, the ones with one famous connection, and I assumed this was the case here.
After reading the exact names on the Roma connections site, Capel, Smith, Whitby, etc, I decided to send off for birth certificates and nearly fell over - the names matched those I had seen on the sites and my grandmother's lineage. I couldn't believe it. It took me a while to digest.
It's crazy that within such a brief generation gap all information was lost. I never knew anything about the Roma side of the family. It was never discussed apart from that once, and even then, it was a passing comment.
I'm fascinated by this history, but sadly, have no way of knowing the many stories behind the people in my family tree. They're lost in time. One good thing, I saw photos of relatives and found snippets of tales. Wonderful.
photos of ROMA relatives
Gypsies began to appear in England in the late 14th century - they were dark-skinned with dark hair and became nicknamed 'Egyptians' after middle-east travellers from the past.
The mainstream theory is that gypsies came from North India but left in the 11th century probably due to persecution. They began to migrate through Afghanistan, Persia, and Greece before entering the Balkans and spreading throughout Europe.
Originally called 'Domba' the Hindi for 'the people' this slowly changed to become 'Rom' or 'Roma'.
The Romani language slowly developed over the centuries from Hindi incorporating new words from the various countries they travelled.
In Romani culture, a gadjo
(feminine: gadji) is a person who has
no Romanipen. It is often used by Romanies to address or denote outsider neighbours living within or very near their community. Gorja, often spelt Gorger, is the Angloromani
variation of the word Gadjo.
Gorgers' is a disparaging swipe at the masses who live in houses and over-consume, and that the cross-pollination between gypsies and non-gypsies is not only frowned upon but is — like in so many religions — considered heretic.
I found this book while searching for information. It mentions my 2 x great grandmother, Mignonette Lovell.
It's still strange reading about relatives I knew nothing about.
My mum and her brothers as children were sent to Surrey due to the war and bombing, most children were sent outside London at that time. My nan worked making bullets in a factory and my grandfather's brother died at the Somme, he was only 17. Many young men lied about their age back then to enlist. Through 'My Heritage' I managed to find his grave in France. It was another strange thing to experience, the loss of a great uncle and putting the pieces of his story together to share with other family members.
The internet is great for information and how you can access so much. Imagine all of the web 'footprints' we leave behind for future generations to research about us. They will have access to so much where most has been lost of previous generations.
My mum grew up around the social stigma of gypsies, as they were known then. She lived in Surrey for a while and there was a gypsy camp down the country lane where she lived and she was told to stay away by my grandfather's sister, Aunt Bunny - Wolstenholme side of the family (gorgers). She grew up not knowing her heritage and I guess my grandmother, Ellen, kept it quiet due to the stigma. I wonder sometimes what this must've been like for her, to not speak of her past. Did she fear being treated differently? She was the first person to marry an outsider a 'gorger', a non-gypsy. From the research I've done, her father's and mother's side were Roma and always married Roma. I'm going to research more. Perhaps, this was the initial reason why we never heard of our Roma background? My grandmother married a gorger and left the stigma behind for a new life.
My Uncle Peter, the eldest of three, used to work at the fairgrounds, he was a 'wall of death' bike rider. I only found this out recently, after he passed. Again, sadly more stories are lost to time. He was quite a character and I feel he might have known about our heritage, though again, never spoke of it.
My daughter laughed when I told her of our background because of the way I am, into tarot, crystals, flowers, folklore, moving home quite often, etc. She said that explains everything. Lol. ;o) She made me laugh because not long after I told her, a package arrived in the post - a badge of the Roma flag. It was a lovely gift and made me smile.
There can be few Romany families in the past who didn't intermarry with or travel with a Smiths or two at some time.
Published by Barnes & Mortlake History Society in 1996. ISBN/RCN 0948251913
The Common was swampy in parts and was a favourite haunt of the naturalist furze, broom, bramble and briar all flourished luxuriantly, together with the many tiny heath flowers which disappeared after the “improvements” and drainage of 1882. In the early days there used to be a gipsy encampment between the cemetery and the boundary of Barn Elms, where the public tennis courts and pavilion are now situated. Later the Gipsies were dislodged and went to live in small one-story wooden cottages known as Uncle Tom’s cabins which stood on a site now occupied by Manor Cottages.
One of these Gipsies, Mignonette Lovell, a very handsome clean woman, used to go about hawking laces, cottons and clothes pegs. We would often meet her with her basket tramping up to Castelnau with her wares to dispose of them at the better class of house up there.
Sometimes the gipsies sold little brooms – “buy-a-brooms” as we called them – and little baskets made of peeled rushes from the Common.
I remember there was once a smallpox scare among the gipsies and we were forbidden to buy these much-coveted treasures for fear of infection.
Some of Mignonette’s descendants still live in Westfields.
In the old days, they would go annually to the Derby in smart new velvet and silk dresses, causing quite a sensation in the early morning amongst the neighbours when they set off in their fine feathers and specially decked out cart. I was told that their return was usually anything but brilliant, since they got very dusty and dirty, and were often soaked through the rain, against which they had invariably failed to provide suitable shelter. Hence their needing brand new finery every year!
Mignonette’s niece was Lemonelia Smith, a very big dark gipsy with a stentorian voice who sold flowers at East Sheen. The youngest of a family of sixteen, Lemonelia had been born in a white blanket tent on Barnes Common, behind the cemetery in 1862. It transpired that her birth had not been registered in either Barnes or Putney as she had been born on the actual boundary between the two: but she was at least baptised in Putney parish church and given her curious name. Nine of her brothers and sisters had also been born on Barnes Common and they all subsequently lived in the Uncle Tom’s cabins.
From ‘The Highways & Byways of Barnes’
Highways and Byways of Barnes. Barnes & Mortlake History Society, 1992 Mary Grimwade & Charles Hailstone.
It is hardly surprising that with so much open space on common and market garden land gipsies were regularly to be found in Barnes in the last century. During the summer months, they provided casual labour in the fields helping to harvest the summer crops of salad vegetables and soft fruit. Indeed they have left one clue behind them in the name Gipsy Lane and this was most likely an encampment for those who worked on the Lobjoit farm which covered that area of the neighbourhood.
Another campsite lay between the Common cemetery and the boundary of Barn Elms and when they were finally dislodged they went to live in some small wooden one-storied cottages known as Uncle Tom’s Cabins. These were on Railway Side between Beverley Path and the railway arch.
Yet unknown to these nineteenth-century gipsies they were supplying a source of medical information to a young doctor. Benjamin Ward Richardson, later knighted at the end of a distinguished career. He came in c1845, an assistant to Dr Robert Willis of the Homestead and before long established a good relationship with the local gipsies who did not usually avail themselves of professional medical help. His first case was to attend to a young boy whose spine had been accidentally broken by a kick from his donkey. Sadly the boy succumbed to his injuries begging Richardson not to divulge details of the accident to his parents as otherwise, the animal would have to be put down. He also attended several gipsy women at confinements, all without fee, and his midwifery experiences led him to write a paper on ‘The Diseases of the Child before Birth’ which won him the Fothergillian prize.
For many years the descendants of gipsy families lived in the Westfield area and until World War 1 hawked clothes pegs, bootlaces and lavender according to season around the local roads. Slowly, many of them integrated with their neighbours and settled into a domestic way of life.
Gypsies of Long Ago on Barnes Common
From The Newsletter of the Barnes District History Society.No.30, September 1969.
The Common was swampy in parts, and a favourite haunt of the naturalist. Many wildflowers flourished there, which have disappeared since the improvements and drainage of 1882.
There was a gypsy encampment between the cemetery and the boundary of Barn Elms, and when they were dislodged, they went to live in a small wooden one-storey cottage, known as Uncle Tom's Cabin, where Manor Cottages are now.
Article by Alison Ogden
Finding out about my Roma lineage makes sense to many things in my life
I'm a non-conformist - can't help it
Greenery is EVERYTHING
Flowers feed my soul
I feel connected to nature and mystical ways of being
I love folklore and myths
Family is EVERYTHING
Creativity is a part of my soul
Tarot and Oracles reach the empath in me - stories within stories
I vibe EVERYTHING - senses
I find it challenging to live a 'normal' way of life, just maybe, the Roma speaks a language within me that I've never understood
I daydream of freedom by riding a horse across land whenever, wherever I choose
Land is EVERYTHING - like in Gone with the Wind when Vivien Leigh (Scarlett) holds the soil tight in her hands and swears an oath that she'll never go hungry again. Or when she travels to Ireland, to Tara, and places the soil in her bag. Love that, it's like it is the core of her being, her strength.
No one should have to own land and get in ridiculous debt to feel secure, and no one should be able to dictate to others where they can live. There should be no boundaries such as nations/countries. If we were truly free, we would not know those words. Yes, I'm an idealist struggling in a realist world. It gets complicated and I struggle with what should be, enabling us to live in peace and harmony. I've learned to let go...still learning to redirect my sadness of all the sadness in the world. It gets too heavy a burden sometimes - the empathy can be such a big sponge.
List of Barnes Roma Gypsy Lineage - The Family I Never Knew
1830 (approx): Henry Lovell, baptized 05 July, 1835 Morden, Surrey aged 5.
Father: John Lovell, Mother: Union. Henry Lovell married Catherine. In 1881 his widow is at 4, Cross Street Barnes. Also interesting to note that a John and Elizabeth Simson, with son Henry aged 4, were living close by in a caravan at the end of Cross Street.
1833: Mignonette Lovell was baptized at St Peters, Woodmansterne, Surrey, to John & Union Lovell, Travellers. She doesn’t seem to have married. Her daughter Corlina (Carlina) married John Lewis Austin in 1872.
Mignonette died 12/7/1916 in Barnes, Surrey. In her family bible, she wrote that she was born 19/12/1833 but it must have been 1832 because she was baptized in January 1833. In 1881 she is living with her daughter and son in law, Corlina and John Austin at 4 Grimes Cottages, Barnes. She is a pedlar. The Austin children are Duriah 7, Joseph 5 and Clara 2. In 1891 Mignonette is a patient at St Clements Hospital (workhouse), Hastings, aged 57, a widow, formerly a ‘draper’. In 1911 she is in Railway Street, Barnes with her brother Duriah.
Mignonette’s daughter Corlina/Caroline/Celina Lovell was born 29/7/1853 in Putney. Her father was was Henry Lee, a horse dealer. She married in 1872 to John Lewis Austin. In 1891 John and Corlina are still at 4 Grimes Cottages. John is a ‘plasterer’ with children: Joseph 14, Clara 12, William 10, Walter 7. In 1901 the are at 85 Railway Street with son Walter aged 17. By 1911 Corlina Austin nee Lovell is in the Surrey Lunatic Asylum and she died on 18/1/1918.
1843: Joseph Lovell was baptised in Merstham, Surrey. 28/8/1843. Parents John & Naomi (Union) Lovell. He married Hannah Elizabeth Bennett in 1880. Known children (all born in Barnes) were John (Big Jack) 1882, Mignonette (Minnie) Lovell 1897, Henry Lovell 1888, William Lovell abt 1905 (who m. Gwendoline Morrison in 1929). Duriah Lovell 1900, Sampson Lovell 1903 & died 1904, possibly a Brittania Lovell born/died 1886, and Joseph Lovell 1891 - 1972. He married Jessie E. A. Pitman on 29/4/1914.1893-1964 and they are my husband’s great grandparents.
In 1881 Joseph Lovell is at 1 Cross Street Barnes, at the house of his brother Duriah, both ‘general dealer’s’. Joseph says he was born in Godstone, (not far from Merstham), Joseph is married to ‘Anna’ (described as sister to the head of the house) who must be Hannah Elizabeth Bennett who he married in 1880 (she is 20 years his junior). Another brother James Lovell aged 36 (born Godstone) is present and also a ‘general dealer’. In 1891 Joseph and Hannah are at Cole’s Cottages, Barnes with children: John (Big Jack) Lovell 9, Henry 3, Joseph 0, and in 1901 at 7 Hintons Cottages with children Henry 13, Joseph 10, Mignonette 4, and Duriah 1.
1836 (approx) Britannia Lovell (prob daughter of John & Union) b. abt 1836, Maldon, Surrey. (probably Morden). Brittania Lovell married Humphries Lee in 1864 in Wandsworth. Children: Henry 1857 Wandsworth, Ellen N. Streatham 1860 and Patience, 1863 Putney.
In 1881Brittannia and Humphries Lee were at 13 Wardley St, Wandsworth, Humphries was calling himself Alfred, a ‘pedlar’ born Essex. By 1891 he is dead and Britannia is in Streatham in a Gipsy tent off Blackshaw Road, which is actually in Tooting, Wandsworth. The children are all still at home and all are ‘travelling hawkers’.
1838: Duriah Lovell born about 1838 in Hendon. He married Maria Lee in 1862 in Kensington. Their children were Emily 1860 Barnes, Ada 1862 Notting Hill, Katie 1864 Notting Hill, Clara 1867 Notting Hill. By the 1871 census there is no sign of wife Maria, but Duriah still says ‘married’. In 1881 Duriah is in Barnes with his children (still ‘married’), and in 1891he is at Cole’s Cottages, now a widower with daughter Ada aged 28. In 1901 he is at 84 Railway Street, Barnes with sister Mignonette and they are still there in 1911. He died in 1912.
1845-53: James Lovell born Godstone. In 1881 James is at 1 Cross Street Barnes with his brothers Joseph and Duriah. In 1901 James Lovell 47 is at 8 Hinton’s Cottages, with William Austin 19 and his wife Ellen 19 and their daughter Carlina Austin aged 4 months.
1840-8: Robert Lovell born Godstone. In 1891 he is in Barnes with his wife Georgina, and daughters Ada and Caroline. Robert married Georgina Eliza Noakes in 1884 in Fulham.
In 1901 Georgina Lovell, wife of Robert Lovell is at 3 Hintons Cottages, with daughters Ada 13 and Carlina (Caroline) 11.
John Lovell and Union Lee were both born about 1797. Union has been written down as Naomi, Unity and Onion in various places. John Lovell’s marriage to Union Lee was registered in Middlesex on 10 August 1819 in Finchley (gipsies). It appears in Pallot’s Marriage index. They both died in Barnes, Surrey, John on 7/2/1879 and Union on 29/1/1880.
Family memory says a caravan was burned in the traditional manner. John and Union’s children were baptized along the route the gipsies would have travelled between Kent and Surrey, South of London, Woodmansterne, Godstone, Merstham, Banstead and Morden are all on that route.
Some of the gipsies living on Barnes Common were ‘settled’ into cottages by the 1870s.
In 1871, John and Union Lovell are living with daughter ‘Caroline’ (Limpady/Limpetti) in the Whitby Family at 4 Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Barnes.
John (73) says born in Northmin, Hertfordshire (possibly North Mimms, Hertfordshire). Union (74) says born in ‘Enfield’ Here/tfordshire, (Enfield is in Middlesex). He is a Skewer Maker. Daughter Caroline is a ‘general hawker’ as is granddaughter Mignonette Whitby. Son, James Whitby aged 36 is also a ’skewer maker’.
Catherine is 47 and married to a ‘Whitby’ (Henry) who isn’t present. In the 1851 census, Catherine and Henry Whitby were at 5 Sadler’s Buildings, Putney.
Nearby in 1871 some of the Lee family (Union’s maiden name was Lee) were at 1 Uncle Tom’s Cabin Cottages. Humphries Lee was a ‘skewer maker’ and his wife/partner is Brittania Lovell (probably another daughter of John and Union Lovell). Humphries and Brittania married in 1865 in Wandsworth.
Three more of John & Union’s children are at 1 Hampton Cottages, Barnes. Joseph aged 30, Mignonette aged 38 and Duriah Lovell aged 33. Son Henry Lovell is also in Barnes in 1871, with his wife Catherine. She is an ‘Ironmonger’ and Henry a ‘skewer maker’. There is also a nephew Alfred North (20) ‘Skewer maker’, born Barnes, and niece Louisa North (18) born in Northamptonshire.
Known Children of John & Union:
1823: Letitia Lovell. Birth: 03 MAR 1823 and baptized on 27 July 1823 at Saint Leonards, Shoreditch, London. Father: John Lovell Mother: Union.
1825 : Lovell Limpady 1825 (Female) 18 Sep bap to John & Unity (Union), strangers, Banstead, Surrey. Limpady/Limpetti is also known as Caroline. She married Henry Whitby in 1850 in Kensington (as Limpetti Lovell). Known children, all born in Putney, are Mignonette Whitby 1851, Elizabeth A Whitby 1857 , Susan Whitby 1864 , Louisa Whitby, 1870 . In 1881 they are at 13 St Ann’s Cottages, Barnes , widow Limpeti is head of the house. Son William, his wife Ellen and various Whitby and Limpson grandchildren are present. Limpeti says she was born in Banstead, and this agrees with the baptism of Limpady Lovell on September 18 1825 in Banstead.
Hall allocates the younger Sarah to Hn.C33 but there were two Sarahs living at the same. The younger Sarah’s first liaison was with Sylvester BOSWELL which produced only one child, the well known Bohemia Boswell. Her second was with Major LOVELL and produced as least three sons (see below). On ‘The Heron Tree’, however, Major is called ‘Jack’ LOVELL.
Daniel LOVELL and Major LOVELL, both born about 1750, had Wigan Lancs in common so they could have been brothers. Major and his wife Susannah produced the following known children:
Cornation bp2/5/1773 Wigan LAN, strangers
Trinity bp9/7/1775 North Bradley WIL, d/o an Egyptian [this is a guess because no parents are given]
Susanna bp16/9/1781 Dudley St Thomas DUD.WOR, (noi)
Thomas bp3/10/1784 Kings Sutton NTS
Francis bp25/9/1786 Sherington BKM, (Gipseys)
Gipsy Lane is a Street in the Greater London Urban Area of Barnes and measures approximately 362 metres long.
Gipsy Lane crosses the following postcode sectors:
SW15 5 (for 259 metres)
SW13 0 (for 103 metres)
Gipsy Lane has been given the Unique Street Reference Number of 22404498
in the National Street Gazetteer.