Trampers and Tinkers

In the spring of 1831 a family of Travellers were removed from Somerford Parva, Wiltshire to Chedworth, Gloucestershire: Emmanuel Stephens/Stevens, his wife, Elizabeth, and their children Maria, 13; Moses, 11; Amos, 9; Mark, 5; Ann, 3; Ezra, 2; Eli, 6 months. Chedworth was indeed home territory for Emmanuel Stevens and his tribe, although his mother, Eleanor, came from nearby Wiltshire, where some of his siblings had previously been baptised.

The parish of Chedworth appears to have an interesting way of dealing with a few of their less desirable residents, and Emmanuel and his family seem to have been considered as such. I am grateful to some of Ezra Stevens descendants, especially Kate Moore, for a copy of the following entry in the Chedworth vestry book:

‘4th April 1831: Agreed with Emanuel Stevens (sic) and family as follows – the parish to pay their expenses clear until they are on board a vessel at Bristol. To pay the passage over to Quebec. To give them fifteen pounds in hand for providing for themselves and twenty pounds by letter of credit paid on their arrival at Quebec.’

The extended Stevens family, however, remained in and around Chedworth, and in 1807 another Emmanuel Stevens was baptised in the county, the son of Henry and Jane; presumably this is the Henry Stevens who had married Jane Jaynes in 1804, and with whom he also had another son, Ambrose, in December 1808 in Wales, close to the border with England. Subsequently, there are records for four more Stevens children, Charity in 1811, Robert, in 1813, John in 1815 and Eleanor in 1817, but all these children are attributed to a Robert Stevens and Jane – as Henry and Jane disappear from the records after 1808 it is tempting to wonder if Robert, himself the son of another Robert, and brother of the elder Emmanuel, as well as an Ambrose, might have used Henry as an alias on occasion.

Whatever the case, the Ambrose, baptised as the son of Henry and Jane Stevens in 1808, appears in the Gloucester gaol records of 1840, described as aged 31, a Gypsy tinker of Chedworth, while his brother, Emmanuel, baptised a year earlier, also fell foul of the law in being charged with stealing a kettle from an outhouse. This Emmanuel partnered Eve Lock, the daughter of the famous Merrick Lock, and his brother formed a union with a Susannah Davis.

Ambrose’s union was to result in at least eight children, one of whom, Keziah, also entered the confines of Gloucestershire gaol, charged with ‘stealing 2lbs. of bacon and 2lbs. potatoes,’ together with Rebecca Davis and her two daughters, Harriet and Emily, in 1851. Keziah Stevens was 18 at the time, and Ambrose and Susannah had baptised her twice, firstly in Chedworth on 3rd February and the following January at Cold Aston, Gloucestershire. The reason Keziah was with the Davis women indicates, surely, that they were relatives through her mother. It is probable that Susannah was a sister of the William Davis to whom Rebecca had been married, and therefore Keziah was travelling with an aunt and cousins. By 1851, however, Rebecca was a widow, the two daughters with her the youngest of her five children.

Ambrose and Susannah had baptised their first known child, Esther, in August 1827, in Froyle, Hampshire, where they had probably gone for the hopping, this child was followed, it seems, by Keziah, and, in 1837 a Mary, both baptised in Gloucestershire, as was a William Davis Stevens in June 1840, perhaps named in tribute to Susannah’s brother. The following year Susanna was born at the North Leach Union workhouse, and then a son, John, baptised back at Froyle in 1842, followed by Tabitha in December 1846 at Rodborough, Gloucestershire and an Ellen Leonora at Horsley, Gloucestershire in 1851.

Emmanuel, like his brother, a very early starter, baptised his first child with Eve Lock, Anselo, at Boxwell in Gloucestershire in the autumn of 1824, when he was about 17. Leonard was baptised at Froyle, Hampshire in 1826 and an Eliza was baptised in Gloucestershire in 1830, another son, Thomas, at Chedworth in 1832, Adam at Chedworth in 1834, Eve born about 1836, Robert in Froyle, Hampshire, in 1838, Sabina Ruth born in Gloucestershire about 1840, Samson in 1841 and Georgiana in 1844, also at Froyle, presumably during the hopping.

Although so many Gypsies and Travellers were transported for often minor crimes, and some, like the elder Emmanuel Stevens, encouraged to emigrate, the Stevens tribe of Chedworth continued to flourish, and eventually settle in the county they regarded as home territory.