The Gregorys

In the Autumn of 1890 local newspapers carried a story about members of this tribe, when ‘Alfred Gregory, a Gypsy, was charged with assaulting another Gypsy, Britannia Gregory, at Yateley Heath on the previous Friday.’ Witnesses were called, including two of Britannia’s daughters, Charlotte, aged about 13, and Mary, some two years her junior. Charlotte agreed that the defendant had struck her mother twice, insisting that she did not annoy him, since ‘she was fighting Mrs. Cooper at the time.’ To the amusement of the court Samuel Cooper confirmed this was so, and Alfred was fined 6d and 5/- costs.

The Gregory tribe favoured Hampshire and Berkshire, and appear in the 1881 and 1891 census records at Yateley, Hartley Wintney, in Hampshire. Thomas Gregory had married Britannia Draper at Leavesden, Hertfordshire, in 1859, when Frederick Cooper and Rosetta Lee had witnessed the union. Rosetta was Britannia’s half-sister, and they had been brought up together, since Britannia’s father, John Shipton Smith, had died in 1843, when only 35 years of age, and her mother, Charlotte Ann, had then formed a union with Zachariah Lee. This couple had five children, and were thereafter more frequently found in Middlesex, Zachariah’s home territory. As a result, Britannia can be found in the 1861 census at Hayes, Middlesex, recorded as a Lee, with Zachariah, a tinman and brazier, Charlotte, Rosetta, Ambrose, Robert and little Walter Gregory, Britannia’s first child with Thomas.

Britannia’s use of the surname Draper at her marriage may be because it was her mother’s, or alternatively, her paternal grandmother’s name, whatever the case, the fact that a Draper was a witness to her union with Thomas Gregory, and the fact that her first child with Thomas, young Walter, used the name Walter Draper when he himself married Sophia Tuffey in Surrey in 1883, demonstrates a close blood tie. He, like his grandmother and step-grandfather, can frequently be found in Hayes, Middlesex, and he and Sophia has a considerable family of some 13 children, including a Phoebe Britannia, a Charlotte and a Shipton, all recorded, like the rest of his family, as Drapers.

By 1881 Thomas and Britannia are in tents in a lane at Yateley, with children Charlotte, Mary and Alfred John, as well as Thomas’s younger brother, John Gregory (baptised at Stratfield Saye, Hampshire, 26th June 1853, son of John and Teany, basket maker), and his wife, Georgina, and a ‘boarder,’ John James. Since John James’s mother had been a Gregory, and since Thomas’s sister, Sophia, has married Alfred James in 1879, he is clearly family. Close by, on Yateley Common, are Thomas Gregory’s parents, John and Dinah (Teany), together with Emily, born in 1867, and Walter Gregory, born in 1871, both probably grandchildren. John Gregory, son of John, and Gypsy, had wed Diana (Dinah/Teany) Lee, daughter of Charles Lee, knife grinder, in Eversley, Hampshire, in 1846, and since they also had an Alfred amongst their brood, it is possible that he was the miscreant involved in the fracas with Britannia, although there was also a cousin, Alfred Gregory, who could equally have been the assailant.

The following decade finds Thomas and Britannia now living in a caravan, but still at Yateley, and they have added to their family, with two boys, Thomas and Job, and a daughter, Adelaide. Thomas’s mother, Dinah, had died by this time, and John Gregory, still living in a tent on Yateley Common and described as a basket maker, is with his daughter, Sophia, his son-in-law, Alfred James, and their four children: Job, Eliza, Agnes and Caroline.

In the 1901 census Thomas and Britannia seem to have journeyed as far as Berkshire, and are in their caravan in the appropriately named Gypsy Lane, at Wokingham, where Thomas is recorded as a general hawker, together with sons Thomas, Joseph (Job), and Alfred, and daughters Adelaide and Charlotte, who is a Smith, having married Ernest Smith, also present, in 1896. Still surviving, and still surrounded by family, Thomas and Britannia are at Hatch Ride, Wokingham, in 1911, where Thomas is now playing the trade of basket maker, in a caravan next door are sons Alfred and Job, working as farm labourers, and, in a tent at Hatch Ride, are Ernest Smith, farm labourer, his wife, Charlotte, and children Alex (named after Ernest’s father Alexander Draper), Mary, Thomas, Walter, Phoebe (Ernest’s mother’s name), Bert and Nelson. Close by are more of Ernest’s relatives. A considerable clan gathering for the now elderly Thomas and Britannia.

Britannia died three years later, in 1914, ‘aged 75,’ and was buried in the registration district of Wokingham, which had been home for several years. Life had been quiet and, since 1890, there had been no more court cases involving her, although her sister Rosetta had fallen foul of the law on a few occasions, such as picking turnip tops, also hawking small brooms without a licence, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, fortune telling.

There are still Gypsies living in Hatch Ride today, perhaps descendants of the Gregorys who first made it their base at the beginning of the twentieth century, more than a hundred years ago.