Lelant vicar jails Cinderella

© Maxwell Adams

It begins with a single sentence in the local papers. A family of gipsies had been found "sleeping in tents," had been brought before a magistrate, who was the Lelant Vicar Uriah Tonkin, and he had sent them to the county prison at Bodmin for twenty one days, each with hard labour.

That's all, a few words. They were arrested and sentenced on 25 April 1864. However, subsequently details are got out of Tonkin and given by the family, and the story is a moral scandal. On that first occasion one paper did not even give their names and the two that did got some of them wrong. Piecing together reports that appeared over the weeks, I think there were actually nine of them and they were Rhoda Small, a fifty year old mother; John Small, a son of twenty or twenty five (both ages are given); his wife who was probably the one called Mary Jane Small, and their five-week old baby; and Rhoda's five other children Jane Gentle Small, Cinderella Small, Rosela Small, Eliza Small, and an unnamed child. These last four were aged sixteen, fifteen, thirteen, ten, and eight, though I cannot surely tell which was which.

Technically the prison sentences were for vagrancy, for not having visible means of subsistence and not being able to give a good account of themselves. There were longstanding laws to deter impoverished free wanderers.

On 6 May someone wrote to the Royal Cornwall Gazette using a pseudonym. It is he who first raises doubts. He had been ferreting and he tells about the gipsies. He gave their ages and explained that the family were well known throughout Cornwall for making a living from selling baskets and "pins for clothes lines." He wondered how then they could be vagrants? He could not understand how young children of eight and ten could be sent to prison for "acting under the control of their parents," and, clearly disturbed by the vicar's decision, he asked courteously for an explanation. He didn't get one.

The jailings having been raised in the House of Commons, Tonkin was asked by the Home Secretary for a full explanation. On 12 May he gave a carefully-crafted partial one which must have sounded full until the father of the family spoke up. So what could a parson say to justify sending the gipsies to prison, including Cinderella? He did not deal with the question of the imprisonment of the children, either because any explanation he could think of would sound uncivilised or because he had an unusual view of equality which saw no difference between a woman of fifty and a child of eight.

Tonkin explains that the Small family had been travelling through west Cornwall from Redruth to St Erth and had been cautioned repeatedly. What had they been cautioned about? The police had caught one of the women telling fortunes and begging, first in Redruth and then Camborne. Later "a man and a woman were found sleeping together" - how indecent the vicar strives to make it sound to a Victorian audience, was ever "together" made to be so indecorous, though they are presumably the son and his wife. He has not finished yet, he is to tell of more wickedness. They were found sleeping together "under a waggon which did not belong to them." Again they were cautioned about the illegality of vagrancy. At last they reached our part of Cornwall and camped in their tents between Hayle and St Erth. Tonkin says they camped on the Trelissick Estate and broke down trees and lit fires. Certainly they would have lit fires to cook and keep warm; breaking down trees, trees mark you, is possibly an overdramatic way of putting the getting of wood, and possibly not. Again they were cautioned by the police. As he says in summing up their week before he jailed them, they had travelled from Redruth to St Erth "begging and telling fortunes." Cast in different words, begging and telling fortunes sound very much like the activities of parsons and politicians, don't they? Actually his own account mentions only one unnamed woman as telling fortunes and none by name as specifically begging. At no point does he attach a particular name to a particular crime which makes us wonder how closely he investigated each individual.

Tonkin goes on to say that the police suspect the Smalls of stealing. His language is ambiguous here but he seems to imply, and no doubt wishes to imply, that they are responsible for the "many thefts" in western Cornwall. The vicar of Lelant does not discuss the fact that when taken by surprise and arrested in their tents no stolen property was found and they were never charged with stealing. It was enough for his purpose to plant a suspicion by saying they were suspected.

When they came before him he questioned them and decided they were vagrants with no visible means of subsistence and unable to give a satisfactory account of themselves. Did they have a lawyer to help their defence? What a question. This was England in 1864, this was a reverend magistrate, these were gipsies, travellers. No lawyer. Tonkin was their judge, jury, prosecutor, and defender, a large man indeed. He ends, with the confidence of a man who knows he is righteous, "for the safety of the county, I considered it my duty" to jail them. Let us be clear what he says they actually did. I have to say "they" because he did not put an individual's name to any of the charges and because I have found no record of the trial though he says he examined them individually and collectively. They told fortunes to people who wanted them told, they begged, they slept in tents, and a married couple slept under a waggon without permission from the owner. What threat to public safety is there in any of that? What sort of man could possibly consider it his duty to send people to prison for three weeks with hard labour and hard fare, bread and water, for any of that? What does it say about his philosophy when a vicar sends an eight year old to prison? Tonkin, by the way, lived in what we now know as Brush End, a large house in Lelant built especially for Lelant vicars thirty years earlier. He saw no irony in his condemning others for sleeping in tents.

Any ease felt by Tonkin after justifying himself to the Home Secretary and the House of Commons was shattered by a letter published by the West Briton a week after he wrote his. This was from Robert Small, the father of the family, to the Home Secretary and it challenged Tonkin's account substantially. Let me be candid. I do not believe Small wrote this letter himself. He was helped. He says he is a fifty year old brazier and cutler and I do not believe a Victorian artisan would write English as he does in the letter. This does not imperil the accuracy of his account, the story is his, the carefully-crafted presentation is aided and it is heartening that someone helped him. The number and nature of the details in his account make it credible. Where Tonkin and Small differ, we cannot surely know where the truth lies. Tonkin's failure to dispute Small's public account suggests that the latter was substantially right.

Small says the party camped in three tents "in a bye lane," which from his description sounds like Trenhayle Lane, and near Trelissick Farm. Small says they were in a lane, Tonkin says on the land of Trelissick Farm. I don't know, I suppose both conceivably could be right, though Small's account here is much more detailed than Tonkin's. But more importantly, Small says they camped in a regular spot, "a place of frequent resort for travellers, and where I and my family have been in the habit of stopping for the past twenty years without molestation or denial by any person." Why, we ask, if this is true, did the authorities agitate this time? What was different? What unspoken factor was behind it? We do not know and never shall, though at this very time Trelissick Farm was for up for let. Small goes on to give details that suggest he is telling the truth for the details are readily contradictable by the vicar but Tonkin does not contradict them. Small says that Tonkin has seen them camping there before and has actually in the past "solicited my children to attend his church." What are we to make of a man who asks children to attend his church yet throws them in jail?

Were the Smalls vagrants as Tonkin said? Robert Small says the party was on its way to Penzance where his son had employment waiting. Oh yes? Really? Hmm. But Small then gives details of the actual person and place of the employment: Mr Kingston of Market Jew Street. It would be folly to make this up in a newspaper. And Mr Kingston, he tells us, makes baskets which, you will remember, is one of the pursuits of the family according to the ferreter of the Royal Cornwall Gazette. Small's story then is that the family were on their way to Penzance to take up work and this looks to be true. Small, however, does not explain how they subsisted on their travel and his silence is telling. He tells us only that they came here after a "long and fatiguing journey." He would surely have been aware of the charges of begging and fortune telling but does not challenge them and does not claim that his family were actually selling baskets and pegs so presumably they weren't. I think we can say that here Tonkin's account is probably right, begging and fortune telling to supplement supplies they brought with them. I have already said that the innuendo about thieving is without the slightest evidence whatever.

Small includes in his letter an affecting description of the arrest of his family. It was a dawn raid and our sympathies are called on by the language and detail. "Poor resting travellers," "the old mother and the young mother," "warm beds," even a "little donkey." There is a careful mention of "tools" to assure us that these are working people. The donkey is mentioned twice. It is skilful but overdone, and probably absolutely true. There is one distressing detail. The three policemen who made the arrests "gazed on the females attiring themselves." Small hints at compensation for his family's experience.

Tonkin's and Small's letters set out to make the best cases they can. They are not impartial recountings of the facts and we have to read and wrestle. Tonkin set out to justify his actions to his middle class and educated compeers. I do not think he felt a need to justify them to himself. He selects the parts of the story that suit his case and casts them in what he sees as a damning way, a chronology of disregard for several fair warnings over several days. Small, fired by outrage at the treatment of his family, gives us human details and brings his family to life, makes them real people. Tonkin writes of the people impersonally, "the gipsies," "one of them," "a man and a woman," and "them." He diminishes them by this, and perhaps himself too. Small tells us of his family's long, untroubled history, and makes us focus on the arrests, the most dramatic part of the story, and makes us feel for the family, the individuals, and their plight.

How did people respond to the jailing of the Small family? Cosmopolitan journals were vastly satirical and condemnatory of Tonkin. I have found five letters in the local papers about this case. I have already referred to the letter which worried about the jailing of the young Small children. I have come across three letters which do not deal at all with the Smalls and their particular circumstances but attack gipsies as a group in language which is vilely bigoted, accusing them of all the crimes under the sun, and perhaps these letters point to a wide fear and loathing of them in Cornwall. One other letter, having told of the adverse effect of jail upon the health of the mother of the five-week old baby, urges practical help for the Smalls and suggests a fund to help them buy a caravan and a horse. This last civilised letter was from a Quaker Christian in Plymouth.

Tonkin's problem is this. His conduct compares poorly when set against the Quaker's. It is very doubtful whether as individuals each Small, including the children of ten and eight, got a fair hearing. The catalogue of crime does not amount to much, not enough to justify the sentence. Who can take seriously "sleeping under a waggon which did not belong to them"? Under, note you, not in, and with no suggestion of any damage. Tonkin's silence on the children is damning to him. There is the strongest likelihood that the eight and ten year olds went to prison not because they had done anything wrong but solely because they were the children of gipsies. There is a straining by Tonkin to make a case, to drag in every little thing, and still it is not enough. Oh, why should we pretend? At bottom the truth is that they went to jail because they were very poor and had next to nothing. They were gipsies, travellers, different, and for ages a target for the insecure who fear difference. In previous centuries people like the Smalls would have been racked and burned into uniformity.

I think Lelant was unfortunate in its Victorian vicars. Remember the next vicar, Richard Tyacke, and the two Lelant girls who went to prison for taking plants off a child's grave (Victorian justice in Lelant). The wisest saw I know is that of Thomas Wilson, an eighteenth-century bishop: Live by the best light you can, but take care that your light is not darkness. Tonkin and Tyacke did not take care.


Some of the comments in the newspapers are extremely unpleasant and unacceptable.

Cornwall newspapers: summary of dates of articles and letters
All dated 1864

Cornish Telegraph 4 May (3/3, that is page 3, column 3), 11 May (2/7 citing the Examiner and the Observer , and Commons question of 9 May), 18 May (2/7 Tonkin letter of 12 May, 3/4 Commons motion, and 4/1 citing Punch and the Times)

Royal Cornwall Gazette 29 April (5/4), 6 May (5/4 Inquirer letter of 3 May), 13 May (3/2 Commons question of 9 May, 4/1 let of Trelissick farm), 27 May (8/1-2 Bosisto letter)

West Briton 29 April (5/1), 13 May (2/6 Commons question of 9 May), 20 May (3/2 Small letter, 8/1 Tonkin letter of 12 May), 17 June (6/2 Balkwill letter of 10 June), 1 July (A Cornishman letter), 15 July (Preventive letter of 4 July 6/2-3)

The Times 6 May (short reference to the arrest, crime, and punishment), 10 May (Tonkin letter), 14 May (letter from B, presumably Balkwill)

Hansard 9 May (Hunt's question), 10 May (Hunt's motion), 13 May Tonkin's reply to Home Secretary

Vagrancy Act 1824
Section 4 of the Act states "Every person wandering abroad and lodging in any barn or outhouse, or in any deserted or unoccupied building, or in the open air, or under a tent, or in any cart or waggon, not having any visible means of subsistence, and not giving a good account of himself or herself...shall be deemed a rogue and vagabond...and it shall be lawful for any justice of the peace to commit such offender...to the house of correction, there to be kept to hard labour for any time not exceeding three calendar months..." (House of Lords Record Office).


George Ward HUNT (1825-1877). Conservative MP for Northamptonshire 1857-1877. Chancellor of the exchequer 1868.

Uriah TONKIN (born as Uriah Moore about 1789 at Penzance, died 1869) Anglican vicar of Lelant, St Ives, and Towednack 1832-1869

Newspaper reports: texts

Cornish Telegraph 4 May 1864, page 3/column 3
"Early on Monday morning week seven gipsies - Robert Smalls, Rodos Smalls, Mary Jane Smalls, Jane Gentle Smalls, Cinderella Smalls, Rosela Smalls, Eliza Smalls, and an infant - were taken before the Reverend U Tonkin, at Hayle, and each committed to Bodmin for twenty-one days, with hard labour, for sleeping in tents." (Surname given as Smalls)

West Briton 29 April 1864, 5/1 carried a report similar to that in the Cornish Telegraph of 4 May, naming some of the family.

Royal Cornwall Gazette 29 April 1864, 5/6
"Encampment of gipsies. On Monday morning seven gipsies who had encamped near Hayle, were taken before the Reverend Uriah Tonkin, at Hayle, who committed them to twenty-one days imprisonment each with hard labour for sleeping in tents." (See Letters for a reply to this report.)

Cornish Telegraph 11 May 1864, 2/7
"In the House of Commons, on Monday night, Mr Ward Hunt asked if the attention of the home secretary had been drawn to the committal of a widow and a whole family of children at Hayle, in Cornwall, by the Reverend Uriah Tonkin, for the offence of sleeping under a tent. He trusted that the right honourable gentleman would advise her majesty to remit the sentence, or allow him to move for the depositions. Sir G Grey said he had received no information nor complaint on this matter. Probably they were committed under the Vagrant Act, but he would order an inquiry to be instituted." (See Tonkin's letter of 12 May 1864 which was presumably a reply to Grey's inquiry]

Royal Cornwall Gazette 13 May 1864, 3/2 and the West Briton 13 May 1864, 2/6 both carried a report of the House of Commons discussion similar to that in the Cornish Telegraph 11 May 1864.

Cornish Telegraph 18 May 1864, 3/4
"Among the notices a motion given on Tuesday evening in the house of commons was one by Mr Hunt, one of the members of North Northants, for an address for copies of depositions taken before the Reverend Uriah Tonkin at Hayle, in Cornwall, on or about the twenty-fifth of April last in the case of seven gipsies sentenced to twenty-one days of imprisonment with hard labour for sleeping under a tent; and of the conviction."


The home secretary on Friday read to the House of Commons a letter he had received from Uriah Tonkin:
"Lelant Vicarage, May 12, 1864. Sir - Having received this morning your letter of the 10th instant, requesting me to furnish you with a full report of the committal of the gipsies by me, I beg to communicate to you the following particulars: - At Redruth, some days before the committal, one of them was apprehended by the police for vagrancy, and was discharged on her promising to leave the neighbourhood. Instead of doing which she was found the following day at Camborne, only three miles off, telling fortunes. On another day subsequent a man and woman were found sleeping together under a wagon which did not belong to them, and again cautioned by the police. On Saturday previous to my committal the whole party were found on the estate at Trelissick, in the parish of St Erth, where they did a great deal of injury, breaking down trees and lighting fires, when the police again cautioned them, and finding them again there on Monday apprehended them and brought them to me. They had passed through the western part of the county, between Redruth and St Erth, begging and telling fortunes. The superintendent of the police had given particular direction to the police to watch them, as there had been many thefts committed in that part of the county, and this party of gipsies had been suspected of being connected with them. When the party were brought before me I examined them individually and collectively, and found they had no visible means of subsistence, and could give no satisfactory account of themselves. Under these circumstances, for the safety of the county, I considered it my duty to commit them. (Signed) Uriah Tonkin" (Printed by the Cornish Telegraph 11 May 1864. The West Briton 20 May 1864, 8/1 also prints Tonkin's letter to the home secretary).

Royal Cornwall Gazette 6 May 1864, 5/4, a letter referred to the brief 29 April 1864 report in that newspaper. This letter is from an unnamed writer but might be AP Balkwill.
"On inquiry, I found that the party consisted of a mother, Rhoda Small, and six children, of the respective ages of twenty, sixteen, fifteen, thirteen, ten, eight, and I am at a loss to understand how, at least, the youngest children could be punished for acting under the control of their parents. The prisoner, with her husband, is well known throughout the county as a seller of baskets and pins for clothes lines, but, as the statute which awards the penalty of imprisonment for 'sleeping under tents,' has this addition: 'And not having any visible means of subsistence, and not giving a good account of himself,' we are bound to believe that the basket making, etc, had been abandoned before the party was apprehended. This wholesale committal to the county jail will entail a large expense on the public, but this is a minor consideration; and, as my object in addressing you is merely to ask for information, I shall be very thankful if one of your readers will oblige me with an explanation of what, at first sight, certainly appears a very remarkable case of summary justice. May 3, 1864. Inquirer."

West Briton 20 May 1864, 3/2, printed a letter from Robert Small to the home secretary
"The following, which we give verbatim and literatim, has been sent by the husband of the woman lately imprisoned in the jail at Bodmin for sleeping under tents, to the secretary of state:- 'To the Right Honourable Sir George Grey…Honourable Sir, It is with feelings of mingled pain and pleasure that I venture to approach you; pain, because of the inhuman incarceration of my poor wife and children for a crime alleged against them, and for which they were charged before the Reverend Uriah Tonkin, a magistrate for the county of Cornwall, on Monday the twenty-fifth of April, as not untill [sic] then were they aware of having broken or offended against the laws of this realm; pleasure, because the time is near at hand when they will again breathe the fresh air of this free land, and enjoy their liberty, which had been taken from them by a tyrinnical [sic] reverend justice of the peace. Being in possession of the fact, through the newspapers, that the conviction of the gipsies has been made the subject of discussion in and out of Parliament, and as no real or justifiable answer for such conviction has yet been given, I have thought it not out of place to lay before you the following statement, hopeing [sic] that it may meet with your sympathy, and that I and my family may receive such relief for the injuries sustained as the merits of the case deserves:- I am about fifty years of age, by trade a brazier and cutler, and working at Plymouth. On Saturday night, the twenty-fourth instant, my wife, Rhoda Small, aged about fifty years, my son, John Small, and his wife and infant child, two months old, with my five other children, aged sixteen, fifteen, thirteen, ten, and eight years, after travelling with a little donkey a long and fatiguing journey, encamped in three tents in a bye lane leading from St Erth to Hayle Copperhouse, and about a mile and a half from the latter. They were on their way to Penzance, where they and myself had previously resided, and where Mr Kingston, of Market Jew Street, basket maker, had employment for my son. The place of their encampment was some distance from any turnpike road or highway, and is a place of frequent resort for travellers, and where I and my family have been in the habit of stopping for the past twenty years without molestation or denial by any person, even of the county justice himself, who has seen us there and have [sic] before now solicited my children to attend his church. A van with occupant was at the same time stationed on the same ground, where apprehension was not attempted, but I believe they were simply advised to leave, which was complied with about eleven o'clock on Monday morning. I was unable to accompany my family in consequence of detention in Plymouth about some work I had in hand, and intended to have joined them in a few days; but I feared not their apprehension, and consequently was content to leave them under the care of my wife and eldest son, aged twenty-five. The picture the whole case represents, particularly the apprehension, as it may be termed, was appalling and indecent. In a fine spring morning, shortly before the eve of day, to the tents of these poor resting travellers came three policeman to arrest them for sleeping there. The old mother and her five children, and the young other and her infant, are then and their [sic] required to leave warm beds and accompany those morals (who gazed upon the females attiring themselves) to the police station. This done, and tents, tools, and donkey all secured, they were taken before the reverend justice, and committed to prison for twenty-one days upon a bread and water dietry [sic].* This is certainly not the case, as you will perceive, in the previous part of their statement; but on the contrary, they must have been known in the neighbourhood and to the justices, and the statement given by them to the police and him was consistent with their position, and the harsh action which probably was a rash, and also on the part of the convicting justice, is deserving. I hope as you will see, some recompense to your most obedient servant, RG Small.' "

[*Something appears to be missing here from the letter printed in the newspaper. This last part of the letter as printed or written is flawed.]

Royal Cornwall Gazette 27 May 1864, 8/1-2, a letter from "Bosisto, Veryan"
"How amusing are the strange inconsistencies of the human mind to the eye of cooler sense, and how frequently observable in our daily sojourn through life! From the morbid mindedness of mankind emanates such gross incongruities as seems to justify the assertion of an eminent writer, that this earth is one great asylum of mental aberration. Lamentable as it was 1864 years ago, so it is now - the multitude follows the fools, or the villain who chooses to proclaim that dog to be mad, without ever questioning even the motive of his assertion; yes, men are yet to be found who would shout for the liberation of a Barrabas, yea a robber, and for the crucifixion of HIM who was the pure emanation from, and pourtrayer of the excellencies of Heaven. So have the morbid sympathies of mankind been lately aroused and misled, in behalf of whom? the Gipsy Martyr, Small; by a petition having been really written to the Home Secretary of State on his account, creating a commotion in behalf of the veriest pests that disgrace the society and our land, who live by and in continual villany and excess, who are looking about by day, fixing on objects for the night; then are these marauding depradators industrious, whilst honest people sleep. Their daily extortions our journals frequently report; in fact, they live as all the world may know upon the honest industry of the unsuspecting poor, whose guileless life renders them inapprehensive of the villanous treacheries of the gipsy camp, whole hordes of whom are now thrown into Cornwall on account of their not being allowed to lie about out of doors, at night, in the upper counties, since the Act of Parliament was passed, compelling them to sleep within a house, and therefore under the moral jurisdiction of society, on account of their evil habits and deeds. Two of these, with their women, once attempted my life on the borders of Salisbury Plain; but this attempt was providentially frustrated by the opportune appearance of three women, at the moment that these villains were about to spring, with their two well trained bull terrier dogs, upon their victim.

"These marauders, whom the Observer, the Star, and a host of provincial papers praise, vindicating villany against the majesty of the law, the rectitude of principle and the moral order of society; these marauders were but too successful a few days later at Weyhill fair, held on the Plain, where they waylaid and murdered a young man, for which these two stars of society met their doom upon the gallows. Yes, these are the caste to arouse a nation's sympathy - these are the parties that from henceforth their name should sound Small no more, but lighted to an equality with the Star, whose morbidly sentimental pen has written the horde all martyrs; henceforth a red letter day in every almanack is Small's; and the compensation sought in vain from Sir George Grey why not match it by a national subscription for the calumny heaped upon their name, the loss sustained by waste of time, and last, though not least, their morality outraged. Yes, the press should shout aloud redress, redress - aroused from their nice warm beds at such an unseasonable hour; and oh, how shocking! Watched by the police while attiring themselves, and after having been busy all the preceding day telling fortunes, with the whole run of Whitsun fairs close ahead. Doubtless the inner part of their tent could not well endure the watchful scrutiny of a policeman's eyes! Surely the writer of that petition deserves a nation's acknowledgements - none so foolish as to suppose that it was written by the "Small" martyr or any of his family, - in which the orthographical errors are evidently the work of an ingenious hand, - intended to make it appear the result of ignorance, to establish Mr Small as the writer and getter up, to set forth that it was a clever and an intelligent man of gipsy order, to make him appear the less capable of wrong, and the more deserving of redress. After this will not these lawless specimens of integrity cast their caps in the face of the law, in defiance of its authorities? I hope ere long to see these gipsy predatory hordes as ticket of leave men are, or as they should be, ever under the strict surveillance of the police. I love that which is right and advocate every honest claim, and for the same reason detest all dastardly imposition. I should abhor myself if I were of that youthful untrained pack that yelp at every prey, and lift to day a demon to a demigod, and on the morrow commit a deity to Hades

"It may not be amiss to say that I do not even know the Rev Uriah Tonkin, nor have I the honour of the most remote acquaintance with any of his friends directly or indirectly."

West Briton 17 June, 6/2, a letter dated 10 June 1864 from Alfred Payne BALKWILL, 65 Old Town Street, Plymouth:
"The case of the gipsy woman, who with her five children, her daughter-in-law, and little infant were imprisoned in Bodmin gaol for sleeping under a tent near Hayle, is still fresh in the memory of most of your readers.

"The poor family have suffered much by the imprisonment. Hastily taken from their beds by the police, they have lost most of their stock of clothes, which they could not properly secure; and the young mother, whose baby was only five weeks old, has had an attack of rheumatism, and been ill in other respects, since their liberation, in consequence of prison discipline, which she was but poorly fitted to bear.

"So much attention having been called to this case of hardship, and such abundance of sympathy expressed, I have thought a very practical way of embodying the feeling which has been awakened, would be to raise a little fund for the benefit of these poor wanderers.

"This proposal, perhaps, comes late; but circumstances over which I have no control, prevented my making it before.

"If a sum could be raised, sufficient to purchase for them a caravan and a horse, so that they might have a house of their own, something better than a tent, and which would do for both winter and summer, it would be a great boon. 'A caravan to a gipsy family is what a cottage is to a labouring man,' one of them said to me a few days ago.

"If you would kindly consent to receive contributions, I shall be glad to send mine to you, or I would undertake to see to the proper application of any that might be sent to me."

West Briton 1 July 1864, 6/2, a letter from "A Cornishman"
"I read a letter in the West Briton recently from friend Balkwill, of Plymouth, who advocates making a subscription, I suppose a national one, to buy a caravan for the use of those of the gipsy tribe who were committed at Hayle. I must say, Mr Editor, that I felt surprised friend Balkwill should have been the first to propose such a thing, knowing as I do that he is a minister among the Society of Friends at Plymouth. He must be altogether ignorant of the party and their practices, or he never could have proposed to provide means to enable these lazy people to carry on their nefarious practices on the public. As friend Balkwill takes the liberty of writing to the West Briton, I suppose he is a subscriber and reader, and must have seen from time to time glaring reports as to how these mendicants take advantage of silly women in the absence of their husbands, and by fair words, or foul, get away all the money in their possession. I have had an opportunity, the last twelve years, of knowing a great deal of the gipsies who pitch their tents by the side of the road about 100 yards from my house, a week or two previous to - fair . I will just inform friend Balkwill how these gipsies live. In the morning, after a good breakfast, the women take their baskets and go out in the country, in different directions, to tell fortunes, to impose on, and intimidate poor silly people. This fear of gipsies is not confined to the poor only, for often they will enter a farm house and make the mistress believe she is spellbound, and the gipsy must have as much money or goods for her services in making it all right. Consequently their bags and baskets get full of butter, bacon, bread, and eggs. They return to their tents, where they find their lords asleep, who are tired from having been up all the previous night hunting. Supper is provided and past. A number of the country folk then assemble, the fiddles are called into requisition, dancing, singing, swearing, etc carried on to a late hour. The party breaks up; the women retire to rest; the men turn their horses into farmers' fields of grass, and then go night-hunting until daybreak, when the horses are taken out in the lanes and the men retire to their beds. Such is the gipsy life.

"One word more, Mr Editor, and then I have done. If Mr Balkwill will be kind enough to look about and find employment for these people in Plymouth, whereby they may get their living, as other poor people, by the sweat of their brow, and for ever prevent their visiting Cornwall again, the writer of this will head a subscription list with a handsome gift to buy clothes to make up for all what the Hayle gipsies may heave lost by their imprisonment."

West Briton 15 July 1864, 6/2, a letter dated 4 July 1864 from "Preventive"
" It appears to the me that this matter, which has been made so much of throughout the country by public speakers and by the public press, is working for good among simple, poor, and unwary country people. If the gipsies are, as I believe your correspondent, 'A Cornishman,' correctly describes them, they certainly are not the kind of persons that should be patronised by the morally wise and humane, and have premiums conferred upon them. But, Sir, I suspect there is mixed up with the exuberance of the loving but morbid sympathies expressed for the trepanned gipsies, a strong desire to censure and discredit the magistrate for the part he took in discharging what he considered to be his duty. I don't know him at all personally, but I cannot help asking why was he not censured by the home secretary if he did wrong? - and why has he not been proceeded against if he acted illegally? If injustice has been done, let it be repaired by legal compensation. Funds would be sure to come for such a righteous purpose. It seems to me that that is an unwholesome kind of humanity, which leads people to counteract the course of right and justice.

"Fortune tellers, nightly marauders, and practisers of all sorts of wicked wit and cunning, in order to deceive and spoil the ignorant and unwary, should anyhow have justice done to them. But let us not vainly and foolishly, under the influence of silly sentimentality, clothe them with the lustre of virtuous wandering poverty. The whole life of the regularly trained gipsies is devoted to the most vicious and fraudulent deception. I knew an ignorant and credulous, but honest countryman, not far from Roche, in Cornwall, who had £70 coaxed away from him by some of these infamous people. They had first, by plausibility, won his confidence. They pretended that by handling his gold, in his presence, and then tying it up in a bag, for himself to keep untouched for a given time, it would be doubled in amount. First he gave them in hand a part to deal with. It did not double by the expected time. And the reason was, they said, he had not allowed them to handle the whole; he had kept back part, and that had spoiled the whole thing and prevented the doubling. At last, he yielded to their seductive Egyptian magic arts, and let them tie up the whole; and when their appointed time came for his happy counting the doubled treasure, he, poor simpleton, was confounded, mortified, and almost heartbroken, to turn out nothing but seventy farthings! If there had been at that time, and in that neighbourhood, a vigilant police and a bold active magistrate at hand, the devilish fraud might have been prevented. As it was, the knaves had decamped, and no doubt, were far away in another part of the country. I also knew a lady, the widow of a professional man, who foolishly allowed herself to be duped in a similar way. Her thirty sovereigns, instead of being doubled, as she had been persuaded to believe and expect, had somehow passed away, and left thirty farthings in their place. These are some of the tricks these gipsies play; but they are countless in variety; and if they can't get gold, they will condescend to take silver, and even copper, or any sort of provisions in kind. Their sole aim is to get the money and goods of simple, unsuspecting, honest people. They are utterly selfish and untruthful, and have no scruple in making use of the most lying devices to accomplish their base ends. So much for the gipsies.

"Now, there are conjurors, too, who get money from confiding ignorant people under false pretences. There is one - there may be more of them - living at Plymouth, near the Roman Catholic Cathedral. On the side door of Almond Cottage, I read, in large letters, these words:- 'Mr P Wyatt, licensed Professor of Botany Druggist.' Some time ago I was shown a large printed circular, or rather perhaps I should say, handbill, setting forth the wonderful skill of this learned professor. It had been sent by post to a large farmer, in infirm health, with the following inclosure, in manuscript, which I presume was written by the professor himself:-'Any person effected If the send Me Corect of their birth the Date of the year Day of the month I will answer By Post what Part of their Body their Body effected and wether Curable or Not and also In Conection with Catle Secret Mysteryes By return of Post.' This is one of the most remarkable compositions I ever saw. I suppose 'Secret Mysteryes,' means the mysterious bewitchment of cattle. It seems really strange that presumptuous illiterate professors should be able to stand up successfully and be daily consulted by many persons about their health, their diseased cattle, and other distressing circumstances in the face of the light of the nineteenth century. But I suppose no magistrate can interfere in such cases, so as to be a terror to such evil workers; and, therefore, darkness and deception must necessarily be allowed to go quietly on conflicting with light and sound morality. But, after all, I am inclined to think that the conjurors, who are but few in number and generally stationary, are much less dangerous to society than the fortune-telling gipsies, who are constantly migrating and shifting the scenes of their operations."

Press outside Cornwall

Examiner , quoted thus in Cornish Telegraph of 11 May 1864, 2/7 under the heading "From your tents, O Israel!"
"It will soon be penal not to keep a gig. At any rate, if country justices can manage it for us, we shall rapidly be pushed on to that high state of national respectability. The other day an old man was condemned by a reverend magistrate at Rochester to imprisonment and hard labour for sleeping under the shadow of a haystack. Now we read that on the 3rd of May, at Hayle in Cornwall, seven gipsies, namely a mother and her six children, were charged before the Reverend Uriah Tonkin with having slept under tents, and for that offence were all committed by the Reverend Uriah Tonkin to twenty one days' imprisonment in the count gaol. Here there is evident progress in the course of justice-made law. Three weeks ago it became penal to sleep beside a haystack, now it has become penal to sleep under a tent. In a few months some other Reverend and Worshipful Uriah will have made it penal to sleep under thatch; which indeed causes a house to partake somewhat of the nature of a haystack; or in a fourth-class tenement with thin walls that in its flimsiness, and in the freedom with which wind blows into it, partakes a good deal of the nature of a tent. So we shall soon have the police down upon all rascals below the grade of the twenty-pound householder. The twenty-pound householder himself will next have to be looked to, and so we shall advance to that happy millennium of high clerical justice when Lazarus shall be hanged for having a hole in his breeches, and the widow who has only two mites shall hang with him. The shall it be transportation for a man to want meat to his bread, and pudding to his meat. For behold Uriah, he is reverend, he comforteth us, his law smiteth the poor, his judgement speaketh comfortably to us, of the golden time whereunto justice's justice leads the way. And in that day the rascal who rides in an omnibus, if his reason be that he has not a coach of his own to ride in, shall be sent to the House of Correction, and they shall be the Tonkins and not the Cades who make it felony to drink small beer."

Observer , quoted thus in Cornish Telegraph of 11 May 1864, 2/7 under the heading "From your tents, O Israel!" and immediately after the Examiner quotation.
"Our legal code has long enjoyed the misty reputation of being a puzzle. Dark and intricate in its own mazy nature, it often becomes whimsically perplexing in the hands of the administrators of justice. Simple laymen often stand aghast at the view taken by local magistrates of what the latter consider crimes and misdemeanours, and of their modes of punishing such. We confess to having experienced some sensations of astonishment during the past week by the account of how a magistrate in one of our southern counties disposed of a case that was brought before him. It appears that the Reverend Uriah Tonkin, of Cornwall, is a magistrate, and in his judicial capacity, was called to pronounce upon the conduct of seven gipsies who were accused of sleeping under tents. To us Londoners it appears noways surprising that gipsies should sleep under canvas. We never picture them to ourselves as abiding in more solidly constructed domiciles. If we heard that members of that nomadic race had been found asleep under a hedge, or reposing by the embers of a half-extinguished fire, the sky their only canopy, we should see nothing strange in the narrative. 'Tis so Bulwer described nights passed by the erratic subjects of the merry King Cole. But Cornwall magistrates, it seems, do not take this moonlight view of temporary encampments. Whilst seven poor gipsies slept, argos-eyed justice watched, and the somnolent miscreants were arraigned before the majesty of the law, personified on this occasion by the Rev Uriah Tonkin. The offenders were a mother and her six children, the ages of the latter varying from twenty to eight years. The reverend magistrate condemned the accused to twenty one days' imprisonment with hard labour . We are curious to know what was the legal crime of which this gipsy mother and her children were believed to be guilty. The charge brought against them was that of 'sleeping under their tents.' Do Cornwall magistrates regard sleeping as a criminal act? or does the quality of the shelter beneath which repose is taken give legal significance to the fact? Is the slumberer under slate to be guiltless, whilst the sleeper beneath canvas be obnoxious to the law? or is it so esteemed in Cornwall? How different the mode of thinking exhibited by people of the same country, separated by little more than 100 miles. In the county of Middlesex workhouse officials are severely reprimanded for refusing or delaying to give a night's shelter to a poor applicant; in Cornwall a gipsy mother and her children are sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour for sleeping under a canvas roof. Had these poor creatures been found sleeping in the outhouses of some neighbouring farmer without the permission of the owner, or had they been accused of heading or taking part in a raid on the poultry of the district, we could find a clue to the severity of the magistrate, but, as it is, we confess ourselves in the dark. If sleeping under tents be a legal offence in Cornwall, it is well for our soldiers that it is not so reputed elsewhere."

Punch , quoted thus in Cornish Telegraph of 18 May 1864, 4/1 under the heading "The seven sleepers in trouble"
"That England is the land of liberty, what foreigner will doubt who reads the so joined paragraph from the Times:

'A new crime On Tuesday morning seven gipsies were charged, before the Rev Uriah Tonkin, at Hayle (Cornwall), with sleeping under tents, and were each committed to 21 days' imprisonment in the county gaol, with hard labour. The party consisted of mother and six children, aged 20, 16, 15, 13, 10, and 8 years.'

"The punishment of twenty one days' imprisonment with hard labour is one which is very terrible to evildoers. An imprisonment with hard labour is also an imprisonment with hard fare - imprisonment on a diet so low as to be insufficient to support life, for a much longer period. Such a punishment as this is well calculated to impress upon gipsies, and especially gipsies of ten and eight, the illegality of sleeping under tents, if that repose is illegal, which it must be, or else Rev Uriah Tonkin had better be relieved of the office of administering what he imagines to be justice. Let us hope that the incarceration, by the fiat of that worshipful and reverend gentleman, of a mother and her six offending children, for taking the liberty of passing the night after the manner of the patriarch Abraham and is family, will operate as a salutary example on unthinking persons of the better orders who do not mind what they are about when engaged in a picnic under the shelter afforded by Messrs Edgingren."


An account of 8 August 2017 on facebook from Gary SMALL, a descendant: One and all: the faces of Cornwall