Born on the Straw

On 15th May 1794 the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette reported an item of interest:

A few days ago a poor woman, belonging to a company of Gypsies, was taken in labour at Charlton Kings, near Cheltenham, and soon after delivered of three fine children, two boys and a girl, all of whom are alive. A neighbouring gentleman, hearing of the circumstances, humanely offered to have her removed to more comfortable lodgings, which she refused, saying ‘I am the mother of seven children, all of whom were born on a bed of straw, which I prefer to a bed of down in a palace.’

How true the details of this story are, it certainly appears that three babies were born and baptised in Charlton Kings in May 1794, the children of John and Margaret Jones, who said they were ‘of Staffordshire.’ This reference to home territory as Staffordshire may, of course, be historical, but it could be that these Gypsies were part of a group that brought earthenware, china and pottery from the county, famed for its fine clay, to the southern counties to hawk.

On 8th May the local cleric baptised Patrick, Charles and Angelica. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, by the time the article appeared in the newspaper two of the triplets were dead. Infant Patrick was buried on 11th May and his tiny brother Charles on 14th May, both at Charlton Kings. In the late eighteenth century it would have been extremely unlikely that all, or indeed any, of the triplets would survive. Angelica, however, seems to have done so and, presumably after the mother had recovered her strength, the family continued its travels.