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Anne-Marie Ford    -    1 December 2013

At the Southampton Police Court in 1891 three ‘Zingari,’ Job Barney, Vandelo Barney and Ameline Barney, were summoned for encamping on the highway in the parish of South Stoneham on 30th June. The brief, if colourful, reference to these Gypsies was reported in the 4th July issue of the Hampshire Advertiser. The newspaper had been reporting on the Barneys, and especially Vandelo Barney, for some thirty years and the regular appearances in the pages of its publication help locate his family and tell us something of their lives during the second half of the nineteenth century.

South Stoneham was a particularly favoured location for this tribe; they can be found as early as the 1841 census camping on Weston Common in the registration district of South Stoneham, where Henry and Harriet Barney’s children are listed as Elizabeth, 16, Andrew (Vandelo), 13, James (12), Ellen (10), Mary Ann (6), Britannia (4), Ameline (3) and Rhodabella (3). It isn’t surprising that some of these ages are inaccurate, particularly in such an early census; for example, Britannia was not four, but two years of age, having been born on 1st April 1839 and registered in the registration district of Alton, Hampshire on 12th April 1839, the daughter of Henry Barney, a bacon and cheese dealer, and his wife, Harriet, formerly Lakey.

By the 1851 census some of the Barney children were at the Gypsy school in Farnham, Dorset: Amberline(sic), Britannia and Rhoda (Bella) were all recorded as pupils there, together with two younger brothers born since the previous census, Henry, aged 8, and Dangerfield, age 7. During the ten succeeding years their father, Henry, died and Harriet is found at Chilworth, Hampshire in 1861, with children Henry, 19, a chair mender, Daniel (Dangerfield), 17, a chair mender, and Emma, 16 years of age. Also camped there is Harriet’s son Vandelo Barney and his partner, Alice, with two of their children, Lavinia and baby Emma, as well as a Noah and Mary Bowers (formerly Mary Anne Broomfield), and their daughter, aged one year, Eliza.

Vandelo Barney and Alice Black were to marry at Medstead in 1862 and had ten known children: Lavinia, baptised at Binstead on 7th September 1859; Emma, baptised at Chilworth on 3rd March 1861; Ameline, baptised on 6th September 1863 at Holybourne; Britannia, baptised 17th September 1865 at Holybourne; Amos, who was baptised at Binstead on 22nd September 1867; Athalia, baptised on 9th May 1869 at Weeke; Joseph (Job), baptised at Inkpen on 15th January 1871; Polly, baptised on 15th November 1874 at Romsey; Alice, baptised at Crawley, on 15th April 1877; Harriet, baptised on Chilworth on 29th September 1880.

One of Vandelo and Alice’s daughters, Lavinia, married into the Bowers family (she and her husband, Noah ‘Chalkie’ Bowers, were to be referred to in later life as a ‘King and Queen of the Gypsies’.) In addition, many of Vandelo’s exploits reported in the local newspaper were often carried out in company with a member of the Bowers’ tribe, with whom they regularly travelled. The Noah Bowers camping with the Barneys in the 1861 census is a son of Giles and Mary Bowers. Another son, another Giles, married Ellender Sherlock in Farnham, Surrey on 24th August 1846, and it is probably their son, Noah, named for his brother, who married Lavinia Barney.

One of the earliest articles recording Vandelo’s presence in court appeared in the Hampshire Advertiser on 29th November 1862:

Two Gypsies, Vandelo Barney and William Bowers, licensed hawkers, residing at St Cross, were brought up . . . charged with having robbed a small farmer and dealer named John Taylor of £20 on the St Cross-road. . . . Mr Field in cross-examination elicited from Taylor that he had been drinking at the Baker’s Arms, at the Market Inn and at the Wheatsheaf, and although not drunk, he confessed that he was not perfectly sober.

In evidence Taylor recalled that he had “stopped at the Wheatsheaf beerhouse at 7 o’clock, remaining there until 11 o’clock, when the place closed. He took out his purse in the tap room. It contained £20.10s in notes, gold and silver.” On his way home he was accosted by two men, who took his money “and made off on the Twyford Road,” adding that “the person and voice of the man who seized him resembled Barney’s.” Although character witnesses came forward for the two Gypsies, as well as witnesses who saw them on the Winchester Road, the court eventually decided to commit them for trial at the Winter Assizes.

Drinking to excess was not confined to John Taylor, of course, indeed it was a form of behaviour that Vandelo shared with him, as local papers frequently reported. The Hampshire Advertiser of 21st September 1870 records that “Vandelo Barney, a Gypsy, whose name appears in the petty sessional books for 1862 and 1865, was charged with being drunk and riotous in the Lower Brooks on Saturday evening. He pleaded guilty, but asserted that it was not his fault.” In the May of 1873 the paper reported another such misdemeanour, when “Vandelo Barney, a Gypsy, and Noah Bowers, were summoned for being drunk at Bishopstoke, on 30th April, when the fraternity seemed to have been ‘out in the sun’ a good deal. They were each absent, their deputies at their court being a daughter and a wife.”

In the Hampshire Advertiser of 12th February 1873 readers are informed that “Vandelo Barney and Giles Bowers, Gypsies, well known to the police as offenders in this particular matter, were summoned for permitting their horses and pony to stray . . . on the highway leading from Winchester to Bramdean.” Several such cases as this, together with encamping on the highway, name Vandelo Barney, who, in 1881, added poaching to his list of misdemeanours, for which he was fined at the Petty Sessions. In the summer of 1884 he is found near Stockbridge, where he was “summoned for unlawfully using a wagon on the highway . . . without having his name painted thereon,” for which he was fined 10/-; this is the same year in which Alice has joined Vandelo in his escapades, as the local newspaper of 3rd of December reports, “Vandelo Barney and Alice Barney were charged with drunken and disorderly conduct at the Jolly Farmer Inn.”

It seems the Barneys and Bowers remained travelling companions and in May 1891 both families were noted in the area of Portsmouth, where “Alfred Bowers, a young Gypsy, was charged . . . with being drunk in Portsmouth Road, Woolston, on Sunday and, pleading guilty, was fined 2/6d and 5/- costs, which he paid;” Vandelo, too, makes his appearance in a local newspaper in May 1891. Although Vandelo was often recorded as a chair mender, like many Gypsies and Travellers, he could turn his hand to a variety of occupations, including, it would seem, fairground work. On 25th May 1891 the Portsmouth Evening News reported that “Vandelo Barney, a well-known Gypsy, pleaded guilty to damaging growing larch trees, from which he had cut poles to hold up the tarpaulin of his Aunt Sallys and cocoa-nut shies.” He paid damages and costs and, apparently, promised not to do it again.

Perhaps he didn’t, he had few opportunities, since he died just two years later, at the age of 58, in the registration district of Winchester. Several of his siblings also died quite young, including his brother, Dangerfield, whose death is recorded during the March quarter of 1886 in the district of Fareham, aged 42, and Britannia, aged 47, who died in the December quarter of 1891, in the registration district of Christchurch. Vandelo’s wife, Alice, was more fortunate, making it well into the twentieth century, her death is recorded in the registration district of March 1911, aged 74 years, which is accurate, since she had been baptised as Alice Black on 29th March 1838 in Hurstbourne Tarrant, Hampshire, the daughter of Amos and Jane Black (formerly White), “alias Blackman or Blackney, travellers.”

Copyright © 2013 Anne-Marie Ford