Re-visiting the Romany Collection at Special Collections, University of Leeds.

A big thanks to members from the following Yorkshire based Gypsy and Traveller families (Cunningham, Hanrahan, Mulvanny, Rennard and Taylor) and Leeds GATE, (Gypsy and Traveller Exchange) for coming along to help us in improving our catalogue descriptions for items in the 'Romany Collection.' Below are some examples of what we looked at and notes made from comments/observations that were made.

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As part of our project we'd like to open up the conversation even wider by asking any other members from Gypsies and Traveller communities to 'add a note,' if they have any other stories or observation to add that would help with our catalogue. (Any added by the 2nd December 2016 may also be included in the catalogue).

We'd like to make sure that we can acknowledge any help given if people are happy to have their names mentioned. If you do want to be acknowledged then it would be useful if you would please include the area you live/travel in and your family name, (if you don't want to be mentioned then that's fine too - just leave out these details).

And of course if you don't want to comment, - please enjoy looking through the images (and feel free to use the images in the library to create your own stories on this site) and we hope to show you more from these collections as the project goes on.

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Item details…

"Gipsy Caravans, The Ring Road, Alwoodley, Leeds," (1960) by Joseph Appleyard.

Copyright David Appleyard. Used with permission of Special Collections, University of Leeds.
Ref: NEW BC MS Rom 1/5/1/20

https://digital.library.leeds.ac.uk/14569/

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"You can tell from the design, that these look like ‘local wagons,’ that are parked up/settled by the ring road Alwoodley, Leeds. There are still Gypsy and Traveller sites at Alwoodley. "

CBolton — 7 months ago

Can you tell us anymore about this site at Alwoodley, Leeds?

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Item details…

"Gipsies at Lee Gap Fair." by Joseph Appleyard 1947.

(Copyright David Appleyard. Reproduced by permission of Special Collections,University of Leeds. Ref: NEW BC MS Rom 1/5/1/9

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"This is Lee Gap Fair near Morley. It's just after the war, (it did carry on through the war) and Gypsies and Travellers then could stay for the weeks between the 1st fair in August and the second fair ‘later lee,’ in September."

"The caravans in the picture at Lee Gap don’t look as expensive/wealthy as the ones at Alwoodley, The ones at Lee Gap are probably, pot carts,’ the type where you can take tent off the top and use the cart as a stall to sell things off of."
"Most of the trade at these fairs would be with ‘gorgia,’ e.g non Gypsy/Travellers."
"These look like they could have been done by a Gypsy or Traveller – very plain/realistic and close up."

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Item details…

"Scotts Yard, Lincoln." By Fred Lawson (1929)

Copyright Sonia Lawson. Used with permission of Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Ref: BC MS Rom 1/5/19/10/6

https://digital.library.leeds.ac.uk/14580/

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"It was common then for families to find a yard for winter – to keep the snow/rain off of them. Lots of people used to rent or buy their own (farm) yards with buildings so that they could do this. For Gypsies and Travellers that worked seasonally on farms – the farmer might also let them stay the winter there if they knew them well. This one shows they were probably well off because there are expensive looking cars, (especially for the period 1929) and caravans. They were probably dealers of some type (scrap metal/horses) because Lincoln was then also a major trading town for many Gypsies and Travellers."
"You can tell how well off they were by the wagons, - and how they are decorated. Farmers probably made themselves look wealthier by having wealthy looking Gypsies and Travellers on their land too. "

"This picture helps to breaks stereotype of poverty – the caravans and cars show they were probably quite wealthy."

"This might be a fair/Showman's caravan because it's May (Spring rather than winter) and it’s a square sided caravan (although some Gypsies and Travellers would buy these too). It could be an old caravan left behind. There are places for fairs to stop, there is a place in Castleford for the fair to pull in."

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Item details…

"The green van, Leyburn." (1925) By Fred Lawson.

Copyright Sonia Lawson. Used with permission of Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Ref: BC MS Rom 1/5/19/4

https://digital.library.leeds.ac.uk/14579/

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"This picture shows the caravans in Leyburn, in the town with cloths drying and children under the shafts. They are probably on their way to Appleby (Fair). The covered cart in the background might mean they are going to sell. Stopping laws were probably better then so that Gypsies and Travellers could sell things on the way to Appleby and people in villages were glad to see them."
"People still stop at Leyburn on their way to Appleby (Fair) during the summer. There is a big field that’s common land with a brook that runs through, there are sheep and wild horses."
"It might have shown the scene to be more romantic/exotic than it actually was."
"This scene looks like it was captured by an artist who was there, not a made up image, - no one is looking toward the artist. People might have known they were being painted and asked what he was doing. It's different from a photograph that is instant, - a painter can stand back and take time."
"Still get artists at Appleby today. Gypsies and Travellers didn’t used to like having photographs taken. For many Gypsies and Travellers they now have places to hang things on walls – and there's pride in their history."

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Item details…

"Rabbit Skins," by Fred Lawson. Copyright Sonia Lawson

Used with permission of Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Ref: BC MS Rom 1/5/19/10/9

https://digital.library.leeds.ac.uk/14581/

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"This is a frame used for drying out rabbit skins (pelts) probably for sale in a nearby town. They’d have made use of everything from the animal, - probably having eaten/sold the meat and sold the pelts for income. At this time [the picture is undated but estimated to be c. 1920s/1930s]there was a fashion for wearing fur (e.g. stoles) so there would probably have been a good market for them."
"Rabbit pelts would also have been traded with other dealers (horses/pot makers) at fairs such as Appleby. These fairs were a chance for other Gypsy and Traveller families to trade with each other because no one did/does everything."
"Rabbits would usually be caught by sling or snare; which might seem cruel today but they were often doing it to feed a family. Poaching penalties back then were severe – could be shot – but hedgehogs could be found under hedgerows which weren't private land, so that’s how they came to be eaten."
"In comparison with the poor who lived in the cities (slums) at that time, Gypsies and Travellers probably lived well - with a roof over their head, food to eat, fresh water and fresh air."

CBolton — 7 months ago

Can you make out the word at the bottom of the picture, after, "Rabbit Skins...?"

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Item details…

"Redmire." (1920) By Fred Lawson. Copyright Sonia Lawson.

Used with permission of Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Ref: BC MS Rom 1/5/19/11/1

https://digital.library.leeds.ac.uk/14582/

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" In this image children are playing, a man is working making something, there’s a fire going – bow top caravan in back of picture – looks like a camp. This is a plainer caravan than the Leyburn image, (it doesn't look painted and there is less glass) – and is probably where children would sleep. "

"You can often tell who has painted a caravan because certain painters have different styles. "

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