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A Historical Survey of the Customs, Habits, & Pres

Fairlop oak having been nearly thrice as large


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In the autumn of 1815, the author made a journey to London, in order to obtain information respecting the Gypsies in its vicinity.

The first account he received of the education of any of them, was from Thomas Howard, proprietor of a glass and china shop, No. 50, Fetter-lane, Fleet-street. This person, who preached among the Calvinists, said, that in the winter of 1811, he had assisted in the establishment of a Sunday School in Windmill-street, Acre-lane, near Clapham. It was under the patronage of a single gentlewoman, of the name of Wilkinson, and principally intended for the neglected and forlorn children of brick-makers, and the most abject of the poor. It was begun on a small scale, but increased till the number of scholars amounted to forty.

During the winter, a family of Gypsies, of the name of Cooper, obtained lodgings at a house opposite the school. Trinity Cooper, a daughter of this Gypsey family, who was about thirteen years of age, applied to be instructed at the school; but, in consequence of the obloquy affixed to that description of persons, she was repeatedly refused. She nevertheless persevered in her importunity, till she obtained admission for herself, and two of her brothers.

Thomas Howard says, that, surrounded as he was by ragged children, without shoes and stockings, the

first lesson he taught them was silence and submission.--They acquired habits of subordination, became tractable and docile; and, of all his scholars, there were not any more attentive and affectionate than these; and when the Gypsies broke up house in the spring, to make their usual excursions, the children expressed much regret at leaving the school.

This account was confirmed by Thomas Jackson, of Brixton-row, minister of Stockwell Chapel, who said, since the above experiment, several Gypsies had been admitted to a sabbath school, under the direction of his congregation. At their introduction, he compared them to birds when first put into a cage, which flew against the sides of it, having no idea of restraint; but by a steady even care over them, and the influence of the example of other children, they soon became settled, and fell into their ranks.

With a view to reconnoitre an encampment of Gypsies, the author accepted a seat in the carriage of a friend, who drove him to Hainault forest. This, according to historians, was of vast extent in the times of the ancient Britons, reaching to the Thames; and so late as the reign of Henry the 2d, it covered the northern vicinity of the city.

On this forest, about two miles from the village of Chigwell, Essex, and ten from London, stands the far-famed oak, at which is held Fairlop Fair, that great annual resort of the Gypsies.

According to an account of it printed for Hogg, Paternoster-row, the trunk or main stem of this tree has been sixty-six feet, and some of the branches twelve feet, in circumference. The age of this prodigy of the forest cannot be ascertained with any degree of precision. The oak viewed by the present King, in Oxfordshire, and some years ago felled in the domains of one of the Colleges, though only twenty-five feet in girth, is said to have been six hundred years old. Fairlop oak having been nearly thrice as large, is supposed to be at least twice that age.


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