A Gypsy Wedding

In Cornwall, in July 1893, a local newspaper reported that ‘a Gypsy wedding excited some interest at Bodmin on Monday, the bridegroom being Benjamin Orchard, son of James Orchard, and the bride Charlotte Orchard, daughter of Edwin Orchard. They are well-known throughout Cornwall and were described as licensed hawkers; their residence was given as the Gypsy encampment.’ The article continued with a description of the bride’s dress, made of ‘navy blue velvet, trimmed with guipure lace, fastened on the shoulder with a bow of pink ribbons,’ adding that ‘her hat was trimmed with cream and pink feathers and a spray of green leaves.’

The couple were first cousins; both Edwin and James were two of the sons of Joseph and Susannah, and, although the family favoured the West Country, Edwin had been baptised in the registration district of Ledbury, Herefordshire, at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Munsley. (Joseph Orchard, son of Edward and Christian had married Susan/Susannah Scarrott, daughter of William and Margaret at Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire on 3rd October 1842, all described as brush hawkers; his brother, William, was to wed Susan’s sister, Caroline, in Shipton-under-Wychwood, the following year.)

The 1881 census records Edwin, with his wife, Elizabeth Penfold, in Cornwall with their already considerable family: Defiance, born 1871; Charlotte, born 1873; Robert, born 1875; Edwin, born 1879; Thomas, born 1880; Louisa, born 1881. James, with his wife, Britannia Crocker, were at Bodmin, Cornwall, in 1881, with their children: Benjamin, Caroline, Delia, Edward, Susan and Thomas.

By 1901, nearly eight years after their wedding, Benjamin and Charlotte Orchard, usually favouring Devon and Cornwall, are found in Cornwall with their three children: Edwin, named after Charlotte’s father, born in 1895; Britannia, in homage to Benjamin’s mother, born in 1896; Sophia, born in 1898. By 1911 they have added James, the name of Benjamin’s father, born in 1902; Noah, born in 1904 and Thomas, born in 1907. Tragically, little Noah died at the age of 10, and was buried at Botus Fleming, Cornwall, on 7th February 1915.

Benjamin often made appearances in local newspapers in Cornwall, principally for the usual problems Gypsies and the poor often experienced. In 1892, Benjamin, Thomas, James and Joseph Orchard were charged with trespassing in pursuit of game, and were fined 10/- each with costs. In December 1899 Benjamin, ‘who said he had been travelling ever since he was born’ was charged with stealing wood and fined and three years later, in 1902, ‘Benjamin and Thomas Oliver (brothers) and John Crocker, Gypsies, were charged with assault.’ The case was dismissed. In February 1904 Benjamin Orchard, ‘a travelling hawker, was fined 2/6d and costs for allowing a horse to stray.’

Benjamin died relatively early, at the age of 46; he was buried at Botus Fleming, in Cornwall, where little Noah had been buried two years before. Charlotte was to live a longer life, and was a widow for almost 20 years, dying in November 1835, at the age of 62, she was buried in the same churchyard as her husband and little boy.