Tinker of Hargrave

In 1820 the Ipswich Quarter Sessions recorded the removal of a Gypsy family from Hargrave, Suffolk to Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire, and Sawbridgeworth’s appeal against this order:

Removal of Margaret, wife of Robert Smith, and their six children – Senna, their daughter, aged ten years and upwards; Cornelius, aged eight years and upwards; Tralia, aged six years and upwards; Francis, aged four years and upwards; Urania, aged three and upwards; Charlotte, aged two years, from and out of the said parish of Hargrave to the parish of Sawbridgeworth, their place of settlement.

The parish of Sawbridgeworth may have been where Margaret was baptised; a baptism for two children of John Mills, Margaret and Jacob Mills, at Sawbridgeworth on 16th June 1793 may be hers, although it would have been a late baptism. Margaret must have been born around 1788, since her first child with Robert Smith, Elijah, was baptised at Stow Maries, Essex, on 22nd December 1805. Of the marriage, however, there is no doubt. Margaret Mills’ marriage to Robert Smith had taken place in 9th March 1808 in Sawbridgeworth, and the special licence recorded that Robert Smith was of Hargrave, Suffolk.

Of the children with Robert and Margaret at the time of the removal order, I have no baptism for Senna, but Cornelius was baptised at Colchester, Essex on 1st February 1810. Although this indicates the inaccuracy of the recorded ages of the children, the Quarter Sessions do provide us with the order in which they appear to have been born. Tralia, the child who followed Cornelius, later claimed to have been born in Eye, Suffolk and her age and the location of the baptism of Priscilla Smith, on 24th May 1812, at Burgate, a few miles from Eye, suggests they are one and the same.

Francis was baptised at Mount Bures, Essex on 13th March 1814, the son of Robert, ‘tinker of Hargrave,’ and Urania at Egdean, in Sussex on 19th November 1815, where once more the cleric notes that the father is a ‘tinker of Hargrave.’ There are two possible baptisms for Charlotte, and it may be that she was baptised twice. At Bedfield, Suffolk, on 6th July 1817, Charlotte Smith, daughter of Robert and Margaret, is recorded; subsequently there is a baptism for a Charlotte Smith, daughter of Robert and Margaret, on 23rd August 1818 at Ilkestshall St. Margaret, Suffolk.

East Anglia remained home territory for Tralia, and a court appearance mentioned in the Bury and Norwich Post of 12th July 1843 saw her found guilty and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. ‘Traly Smith, Gypsy, single woman [apprehended] for stealing a quantity of trinkets and a frock.’

Four years later, on 7th August, the Ipswich Journal noted that Tralia Smith was ‘charged with stealing a donkey at Walsham le Willows.’ More detail, however, comes from a transcript of inmates in Bury St. Edmunds’ gaol, dated 2nd August 1847, and I am extremely grateful to Sharon Heppell for this find. Here Tralia is described as a 30-year-old travelling Gypsy tinker, born at Eye, daughter of Robert Smith, deceased, and the mother of three children, ranging in age from 15 years to nine months, also that she was committed at Ixworth and discharged upon examination.

As Tralia’s eldest child is 15, it is unlikely that she is only 30 years of age – much more likely, as the Ipswich Quarter Sessions of 1820 indicates, she had been born in 1812, making her age in 1847 a much more likely 35. Tralia’s first child, Lavinia, said to be the daughter of Ambrose Smith (Borrow’s Jasper Petulengro) was baptised on 22nd September 1833 at Bramdean, Norfolk, noting that this was the baptism of a Traveller, whose occupation was that of a Gypsy and tinker.

Cornelius favoured Suffolk and his union with Clare Boswell, the sister of Riley Boss/Boswell, resulted in a large family, all apparently baptised in the county. Lomas was baptised at Bradwell on 27th March 1834; Elijah, named for Cornelius’ brother, at Grundisburgh on 14th February 1836; Leanabel, believed to be the daughter of Cornelius and Clare by the Gypsiologists, was baptised on 12th May 1839 at Walsham (although the parents are recorded as John and Sarah Smith!) Nevertheless, the fact that it was a double christening, together with that of Riley’s daughter, Harroly, Clare’s niece, suggests that the Gypsiologists were correct and the names of the parents a clerical error.

In 1841, on 20th January, at Horningsheath, Phoebe, daughter of Cornelius and Clare Smith, nee Boswell, ‘of no regular abode, Hargrave parish tinker,’ was baptised and in 1843, on 18th June, Repentance was baptised at Dennington. Two years later Lionel was baptised at Cretingham on 5th April and Patience at Earl Soham on 5th January 1848. Another daughter, Lydia, born on 30th November 1851, was baptised at Gosbech on 7th December the same year, daughter of a ‘tinker of Hargrave,’ and Lavinia , daughter of a ‘travelling tinker’ at Creeting St. Mary on 24th May 1855.

By the 1891 Cornelius census is still in Suffolk, at the little parish of Bulcamp Cum Blythburgh, recorded as 82 years old, born at Colchester, in Essex, in 1809; he is now a widower, listed as a pauper and tinman. He died the following year, claiming to be 85 years of age.

Returning to the parents of Tralia and Cornelius, it is tempting to consider the possibility of two burials at St. Edmund’s, Hargrave, Suffolk, as theirs, partly because of the congruity of ages, as well as the location. Margaret Smith was buried on 27th January 1820, aged 33, which would indicate a birth about 1787. Did Margaret die during the removal proceedings? Subsequently, a Robert Smith was also buried at Hargrave on 11th October 1827, aged 55. This could be wildly inaccurate, or it may be the case that he was indeed much older than his wife.

Are the burials at Hargrave those of Margaret Mills and her husband, Robert Smith? If so, did Margaret perhaps die in childbirth? The Cambridge Chronicle and Journal of 30th March 1839 carried a story about ‘a gang of Gypsies acquitted of highway robbery’ and lists the accused as Cornelius Smith, 29; John Taylor, 20; William Taylor, 19; Frank Smith, 21; William Smith, 18. Whilst there are some inaccuracies in the ages, it is likely that Cornelius and Frank are indeed Margaret’s sons, and known links with the Taylor family also indicate this. But who is the 18-year-old William Smith? Did Margaret have another son in 1820? Discovering Margaret’s maiden name and her marriage to Robert Smith is exciting, but, as is often the case, finding answers often leads to more questions . . .