Under the canopy of heaven: A Gypsy’s winter birth in Lincolnshire, 1820

All Things Georgian

When you picture gypsies of the past, do you picture them travelling in their gaudily painted horse-drawn caravans or vardo’s?  In truth, this form of transport is a relatively modern invention, and the gypsy people generally sheltered in ‘bender’ tents, using donkeys and carts to transport and carry their tents and their belongings from place to place.  A bender tent is formed from a covering of tarpaulin placed over flexible branches, usually willow or hazel, which are staked into the ground, a crude but very effective form of shelter.

Inside a tent

gypsy

For this reason, it was common for these people to ‘overwinter’ in lodgings in towns and cities rather than camp in the very coldest months.  Sometimes though, they did find themselves living in their tents during the freezing temperatures.  On the evening of the 17th February, 1820, in the Lincolnshire countryside, a boy was born in such a tent in…

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