Gypsies – Tents – Didcot

Extracts from a report in the BERKS & OXON ADVERTISER – 12 May 1899.

Referring to the shocking state of affairs relating to a number of people living in tents at Didcot.

From instructions received I have visited the Didcot tents, situated in the north-west corner of the parish, Mr. Dennis Napper, the owner of the land, accompanying me. The first place inspected was the cow-house. At either end there was a trifle of short straw which looked as if it had been slept on. Mr Napper informed me that sometime back he gave the policeman orders that anyone he caught there he would summons, but he was unable to catch them. I asked him if he could say how many had slept there, but he could not. Sometimes the Bland family would stop there.

Crossing over the railway line we came to two double tents: number one occupied by Henry Smith and family. Number two tent is occupied by Henry Loveridge and family. Number three tent is in the south-east corner over the Oxford line, and is occupied by James Archer, Harriet Bland and family, comprising four boys and two girls. These people have one double and a single tent, father and mother and four children sleeping at one end, the two girls at the other end, with a fireplace in the centre; the eldest son occupies the single tent by himself. Size of the double tent: the one occupied by Archer, wife and four children, 7 by 7 by 5. 245 cubic feet; occupied by the girls, 7 by 5 by 5. 175 cubic feet: tent occupied by eldest son, 4 by 6 by 4. 96 cubic feet. 

Archer and his son are chimney sweeps, and get the greater part of their living at it. The children looked strong and healthy to all appearances, but were not so clean as the others were; their heads were very dirty and caked. They obtain their water from the running stream close by, and use Mr. Napper’s meadow as their privy, he raising no objection. In the course of a few weeks Mr. Napper said he would get rid of Archer and his family, and also Loveridge and family. As I have stated Archer’s children’s heads were very dirty; I could find nothing alive about them; their clothes were very poor indeed, but they looked strong and healthy. 

Gipsies, Tents, Didcot. A report by the Medical Officer.

The facts are as follows: Three families of gipsies who say they came from Sutton Courtney, have been allowed to camp on farm lands belonging to Mr. Napper in the vicinity of Didcot Station, but at a considerable distance from any inhabited house. Two of them live in very small tents or wigwams of canvas strained over bent rods, pitched by the side of a hedge quite half an hour’s walk across the fields from the Station, the third family living in a similar and rather larger tent in a green lane adjoining the railway, but also a good distance both from Didcot and Hagbourne New Town, so that so far as sanitary considerations go their occupancy of these tents does not in itself occasion any nuisance or cause danger to health as regards either place. With reference to the question of overcrowding: in the daytime the tents are unoccupied for the most part and more or less thrown open; they have no flooring except the bare earth, nor have they any furniture or bedding beyond a little loose straw, except that in one of them there is a sort of rough bed laid on the ground. At night however, they are unquestionably greatly overcrowded according to any, even minimum, standard of air space as reckoned in an ordinary dwelling house; but being really only canvas “shelters” they are necessarily pervious to air, thus lessening sanitary evils of overcrowding. The tent occupied by James Archer, Harriet Bland and six children, four being boys (one of whom and one of the girls is grown up) is large and is used in three divisions; the girl has one end, the elder sons the other, and the parents and younger children are in the middle. All these tents are absolutely without any sanitary arrangements or conveniences, and their occupants live practically a semi-savage life. They get water, probably of fair quality, from a small watercourse in a ditch fed by a spring, and those members of the family who were about the place appeared healthy and well fed. The Archers are chimney sweeps and were black and dirty from their trade; the others were not worse in this respect than average low class gipsies. They informed me that from time to time they shifted their tents and practically, except at night, they live in the open air.

The children of John and Sarah Ann Orchard (Archer)

Angelina Orchard Butler – born 11 August 1851. Union Workhouse, Faringdon, Berkshire.

Sarah Ann Orchard – born 5 December 1852. Faringdon, Berkshire.

Rosina Archer – born 1853. Faringdon, Berkshire.

Arthur Adolphus Archer – born April 1854. Faringdon, Berkshire. Died January 1942. Devizes, Wiltshire.

Tryphena Archer – born January 1856. Baptised 28 March 1856. Highworth, Wiltshire. Died December 1941. Reading, Berkshire.

Blanch Selina Archer – born 1 November 1858. Highworth, Wiltshire. Died June 1940. Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

Lemuel Joseph Butler Archer – born 15 August 1860. Highworth, Wiltshire. Died 1938. Swindon, Wiltshire.

Ernest Butler Archer – born 1863. Highworth, Wiltshire. Died December 1938. Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorganshire, Wales.

Ardrest Archer – born 1865. Highworth, Wiltshire. Died 8 July 1884. Accidentally drowned while bathing in the River Thames at Hannington Wick, Wiltshire.

Herbert Archer – born 9 October 1866. Highworth, Wiltshire. Died 1939. Swindon, Wiltshire.

Phineas Archer – born 22 February 1868. Highworth, Wiltshire. Died 2 April 1958. Highworth, Wiltshire,

The children of Joseph and Ann Orchard (Romany Travellers)

Joseph Orchard – baptised 3 January 1808. Newington, Oxfordshire. Died an infant.

Jonathan Orchard – baptised 14 May 1809. Long Wittenham, Berkshire.

James Orchard (Archer) – born 1811. Wallingford, Berkshire.

Penelope (Penella) Orchard (Archer) – baptised 15 May 1814. Marcham, Berkshire. Died 1883. Faringdon, Berkshire.

Joseph Orchard (Archer) – baptised 19 May 1816. Baydon, Wiltshire.

George Orchard (Archer) – born 1818. Woolstone, Berkshire – baptised 29 November 1818. Uffington, Berkshire.

Caroline Orchard – born 1821. Baydon, Wiltshire.

Thomas Orchard (Archer) – baptised 1 August 1824. Baydon, Wiltshire. Died 1872. Devizes, Wiltshire.

John Orchard (Archer) – born 27 April 1827. Fernham, Berkshire – baptised 29 April 1827. Chiseldon, Wiltshire. Died 2 January 1921. Westrop, Highworth, Wiltshire.

Archers at Liddington Encampment – 1861 Census


George Archer – Head – 43 – Wire Worker – Born – Woolstone, Berks

Elizabeth Archer – Wife – 33 – Born – Reading, Berks

Richard Archer – Son – 16 – Born – Fyfield, Berks

Henry Archer – Son – 13 – Born – Faringdon, Berks

Thomas Archer – Son – 11 – Born – Coxwell, Berks

James Archer – Son – 8 – Born – Coxwell, Berks

John Archer – Son – 2 – Born – Drayton, Berks

Purnell Archer – Head – Widow – 50 – Basket Maker – Born – Appleford, Berks

Jane Archer – Daughter – 25 – Basket Maker – Born – Fernham, Berks

Thomas Archer – Son – 18 – Basket Maker – Born – Steventon, Berks

Mary Archer – Daughter – 15 – Basket Maker – Born – Newbury, Berks

Emma Archer – Daughter – 12 – Born – Farnham, Surrey

Jane Archer – Gr’ Daughter – 4 – Born – Abingdon, Berks

Emanuel Archer – Gr’ Son – 2 – Born – Farnham, Surrey

Ann Archer – Head – Widow – 76 – Net Maker – Born – Witney, Oxon

Stealing Lead – George Archer and John Scarrott

READING MERCURY – 8 February 1851.

George Archer and John Scarrott were committed for trial at the next Assizes, charged with stealing a quantity of lead, on the 11th of January last, at the parish of Wadley, the property of Mr Edward James. The accused parties were members of the wandering tribe of gypsies located in this neighbourhood, and the property stolen was the result of a predatory excursion. The precaution was adopted by them of burying the lead in a field in the parish of Fyfield, where it was discovered by the shepherd of Mr Stone and Mr Kimber, and watch was kept on the hiding place for a fortnight before the prisoners made their appearance, when one afternoon they came with two sacks to remove the stolen property, and were given chase to and taken into custody by the indefatigable watchers.

Joseph and Ann’s marriage

St Laurence Church, Appleton, Berkshire (Oxfordshire)

The marriage of my 3rd great grandparents Joseph Orchard (a travelling man) and Ann Bland (a travelling woman) took place at St Laurence Church, Appleton, Berkshire (now in Oxfordshire) on the 9th of April 1809.

Marriage Certificate of Joseph Orchard and Ann Bland