Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Gipsy Queen of Norwood

Looking at the Derelict London site is a saddening experience, especially the pub section. During the writing of The Folklore of London I repeatedly found that pubs that I wanted to visit, to see what vestiges of their folk tales and legends survived, had been closed, turned into flats or torn down. This process continues remorselessly. I notice from the site that the Gipsy Queen pub in West Norwood has been converted into flats [the photo above is from Derelict London]. Below is the unedited text from the book on the reason for the pub's name, as another site related to local folklore vanishes:

Gipsy Hill was for many years a popular spot in Norwood for gipsies to set up camp. The “Queen of the Norwood Gipsies” Margaret Finch was a long-term resident who made her living by telling fortunes; when she died it was said that she was 109 years old. Owing to the fact that her body had become rigidly fixed into her habitual posture of sitting with her chin resting on her knees, Margaret Finch had to be buried in a square box on 24 October 1740 at Beckenham Parish Church. Even today there is a pub at 20 Norwood High Street, SE27 called the Gipsy Queen.

Margaret Finch was succeeded by her niece “Queen Bridget” who died in 1768 and is buried in the old graveyard of Dulwich. A pantomime entitled “The Norwood Gypsies” was performed at Covent Garden in 1777. Twenty years later, a police raid was carried out on the gipsy encampment, but the community was not finally dispersed until the passage of the Croydon and Lambeth Enclosure Acts at the beginning of the nineteenth century. There has, however, been a noticeable gipsy/traveller presence in South London up to the present day.

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