Friday, 7 January 2011

Gypsies in The Forest of Dean

This lovely painting by Bernard Ninnes is for sale locally. .It's called ' The Severn near Lydney' and was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1936. It is oil on canvas measuring 30'' x 40''. Bernard Ninnes studied at The Slade before settling at St Ives. I've never been to St Ives but I'm hoping to have a trip this year down to see The Eden Project and St Ives so it will be great to see for myself why so many artists moved there. Lydney is on the main road between Gloucester and Chepstow alongside The Forest of Dean.

'The King of the Gypsies' Xavier Petulengro is buried at Viney Hill in The Forest of Dean. The church there has always been known as the Gypsies Church.He was a horse trader, violinist, writer, broadcaster and an astrologer. His paternal Grandfather was Jasper Petulengro, immortalised in George Borrows books 'Lavengro' and 'The Romany Rye'. I have to admit I have a few copies of these books but haven't managed to read them yet.The name Petulengro means Blacksmith. In 1935 he wrote a little book called 'The open road to health'. I have some copies of a reprinted version of 'The Road To Health', Reprinted by his son Paul Petulengro. They are £2.50 each . Have a look at them on my website shop page. Please call me on 07787904421 if you would like to buy one or if interested in price of the oil painting.. He died at Littlehampton in Sussex but wanted to be buried at Viney Hill. His best friend lived there and he had visited the area many times.

A lot of gypsies camped in the Forest especially over the winter. A favourite place was the woods behind Crump Meadow Colliery. My Dad remembers three families, the Tingles, Tippins and Tingles. He knows a good bit of Romany from playing with the children.

Another very interesting person who spent time with the travellers in the forest in the early 1930's was Juliette de Bairacli Levy. She was born into a rich Jewish family living in Manchester in 1912. She must have learnt a lot about herbal medicine from the travellers living there because after leaving the forest she set up a herbal distemper clinic in London. She was also known for curing foot and mouth and other animal ailments using herbal medicine. Juliette wrote many books and spent over 60 years travelling with gypsies in many countries..A website in memory of her is

On a Sad and awful note the government are in the process of trying to sell off a large proportion of our forests including The Forest of Dean !.The thought of private owners putting up fences and keep out notices is just horrible. If you would like to know more then please go to HOOF -Hands off our forest. and to sign the petition
I've opened a shop on Etsy selling postcards of my paintings of gypsy scenes.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really unsure if Viney Hill Church was commonly known as the church of the gypsies. Parkend Church; Holy Trinity, Drybrook, and Abenhall were the most commonly used in the area.



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