History of Travellers
Thought to have originated in India in the 5th-6th Century, Gypsies and Travellers migrated out slowly developing a culture and identity of their own. Developing and speaking their own language known as Romany and crafting a culture to preserve their identity as they wandered, the original Gypsies and Travellers soon reached Europe and all along the way they were persecuted as outsiders and bought and sold as slaves.
Gypsies and Travellers have a long history in the UK and Hampshire and that historical journey has incorporated times of intense persecution and others of celebration and support.
Gypsies were first recorded in the UK in the 1500s and it is thought that the word “Gypsy” is a linguistic corruption of “Egyptian” as it was considered exotic and exciting to have originated from Egypt and visitors from this land were welcomed with their talents for art and divination and their dark ebony hair and eyes.
Gypsies and Travellers weren’t always so welcome though and as is often the case blame was laid at the feet of Gypsies from everything from war to pickpocketing and everything inbetween! It was once a criminal offence to be a Gypsy in England, a crime punishable by death or exile!
Hampshire’s Gypsy history and heritage is rich and varied. The county is fortunate enough to host the annual event known as Wickham Horse Fair, granted a royal charter in 1500s the fair attracts visitors from the Gypsy and Traveller communities, as well as the settled community, from all over the country and the county to sell horses and socialise and celebrate and enjoy.
Hampshire has seen Gypsies and Travellers involved in growing and marketing strawberries in and around Titchfield and Park Gate and the historical Gypsy communities in the New Forest, Swanmore, and Alresford continue to see a growth in the Traveller communities that live there and their involvement and participation in local activities.
Gypsies and Travellers have been a part of the UK and Hampshire for over five hundred years and in that time their presence and participation has enriched the life of our country.