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Eric Trudgill    -    1 June 2014

The earliest well-known member of the Gypsy Pikes was the Sylvanus Pike, baptised in Brimpton, Berks in 1792 son of William and Susan, who married Ann Doe, having had five children by her, by banns in Souldrop, Beds in 1824. Ann died in the Windsor Registration District in 1867 aged 76, Sylvanus in the Reading RD in 1878 aged 85.

Finding Sylvanus’ children in the census and church records is fairly easy. Sylvanus appeared in the census in 1861 and 1871. And of his children Septura, Peter, Neptune, Sophia, Hester and Noah were christened, a few miles to the west of Brimpton, in Hungerford, Berks in 1815, 1817, 1819, 1823, 1825 and 1829, Honour and Rebecca were christened respectively in Collingbourne Kingston, Wilts in 1831 and Hurstbourne Tarrant, Hants in 1835, both about ten miles south of Hungerford, and only Louisa was christened off-patch, in Ringwood, Hants in 1821, near the border with Dorset. There was probably also a Sylvanus junior, born about 1820 in the gap between Neptune and Louisa, and transported to Tasmania in 1840.

Finding Sylvanus’ siblings, however, in the census and church records is much more difficult: I’ve so far documented only one, Amos Pike christened, close to Brimpton, in Inkpen, Berks in 1799 son of William and Susanna, who seems to have had no children. I’m intrigued though by the Rosanna Pike who married George Ayres (christened in Tadley, Hants in 1800 son of James and Barbara) in Eversley, Hants in 1853, and who died in the Basingstoke RD in 1885 aged 91. At her wedding Rosanna was recorded as the daughter of John Pike, a seemingly gorjer gatekeeper, which suggests that at the very least she was William and Susanna’s niece, but quite possibly their daughter, John being her step-father and either no more a Pike than he was her father, or the deceased William’s brother.

I say this not because of any real evidence of kinship between her children and Sylvanus’. She and George Ayres had ten children christened in Hampshire 1821-44 (the second, Oliver, christened as a Pike), but though Rosanna’s patch was very close to Sylvanus’, only one of her children (Louisa) shared a forename with one of his, and only one of her children (Ann) shared a baptismal venue with one of his (Hurstbourne Tarrant in 1830 four and a half years before Rebecca was christened there).

I say Rosanna was William and Susanna Pike’s niece, and quite possibly their daughter, for two reasons. One concerns where in the census she claimed to have been born. She claimed to have been born in Gt Bedwyn, Wilts, just as William had claimed to be of Gt Bedwyn when christening Amos in nearby Inkpen, and Sylvanus had been recorded as “a traveller of Gt Biddings in Wiltshire” when marrying Ann Doe, and as a tinman of Gt Bedwyn when christening Noah. The other reason concerns the fact, brought to my attention by my wife, that Rosanna Pike’s husband, George Ayres, was closely related to William Pike’s wife, Susanna.

William Pike married Susan Ayres in 1791, the year before Sylvanus was christened, in Newtown, Hants (seemingly almost as much off-patch for his family as Louisa Pike’s baptism in Ringwood). William’s bride was surely the Susan, daughter of Reuben Ayres, christened in Owlesbury, Hants, not far from Newtown, in 1771, Reuben being the brother of Samuel Ayres (and his wife, Jane Stanley, the sister of Samuel’s wife, Mary), and Samuel being the father of the Barbara who by James Ayres had the George who married Rosanna Pike; it’s possible of course Reuben was father of the James Ayres in question, making the cousin marriages even more intricate.

Now, Gt Bedwyn was the home of a large number of gorjer Pikes in the eighteenth century, and it’s perfectly possible William grew up amongst them, joined the raggle-taggle gypsies, and enabled his niece, Rosanna (daughter of a non-travelling gatekeeper, John Pike) to marry George Ayres, the son of his wife’s cousin, Barbara, by perhaps his wife’s brother, James. And it’s perfectly possible William was Rosanna’s father (chronologically she fits in neatly between Sylvanus and Amos), and John her stepfather. No harm will come to us from either view, or others, provided we go on looking for data that will settle the question one way or the other.

If you want to know more about Sylvanus’ wife, Ann Doe, and her family, look out for Stephen Doe’s ground- breaking forthcoming article in Romany Routes. Ann claimed, at her wedding to Sylvanus in 1824, to be residing in Basingstoke, and Sylvanus in 1842, very close to Basingstoke, witnessed the wedding of Ann’s sister, Caroline.

Copyright © 2014 Eric Trudgill