Exeter & Plymouth Gazette

Capture of a Gang of Gipsies

Saturday, 28th June 1834

Great complaints have been recently made by farmers, of depredations committed upon their property, in the neighbourhood of this city, and in various parts of the county, where tribes of this wandering race have taken up their temporary abode, the Mayor and Magistrates of this city, in conjunction with the count Magistrates, resolved to take measures to rid the city and county of these itinerants, who prowl about, to the terror of farmers and others, upon whose property they levy contributions. Accordingly, information having been given that a gang of gipsies had encamped within the county of the city in the road, leading from Marypole Head to Cowley-bridge, the Mayor dispatched Taylor, one of the Serjeants-at-Mace, Gingham, and others of the police, as four o'clock yesterday morning, to the spot, where they found a strong party of gipsies encamped, consisting of men, women, and 8 or 10 children, with twenty horses. They were disturbed from their slumbers by the officers, and six men taken into custody. They gave their names as Richard Stanley (the father), Wm Stanley, Thos Stanley, John Stanley, Warnford Stanley, John Cooper. Eighteen of their horses were also impounded, whilst straying in the highways.

At nine o'clock they were brought before the Mayor and Mr. Alderman Sanders; when Taylor and Gingham having been examined, the gipsies were called upon for their defence, the charge against them being, under the 5th Geo. 4, e.83, s.4 - which enacts;

"that every person wandering about and lodging in any barn or outhouse, or in any deserted or unoccupied building, or in the open air, or under a tent, or in any cart, or wagon, not having a visible means of subsistence, and not giving a good account of himself or herself, &c., shall be deemed a rogue and vagabond, and liable to three months imprisonment and to be kept to hard labour."

Richard Stanley, the chief of the tribe, said he had been an old soldier, and came to this neighbourhood to see his wife's friends. He got his living by the trade of rat-catching, and in proof of his belonging to that profession, handed a bill to his worship,

"R. Stanley, Rat Catcher to his Majesty 16 years, is arrived here, and acquaints gentlemen, farmers, and others, that he has for sale, a famous composition for destroying rats and mice, which produces instant death to these pernicious vermin, but will not prove hurtful to either dog, cat, or poultry."
He assured the Bench that he would pay all expenses as to the impounding of the horses, and that the party should remove, if the Magistrates would forgive them this time, and let them depart from the neighbourhood. The other defendants also begged hard to be forgiven, and promised to leave the neighbourhood.

The law-officer of the Court stated that they had been taken into custody by order of the Magistrates of the city, but it was also in conjunction with the County Justices, the whole body of Magistracy being determined to put a stop to their career of vagrancy and pillage, without which it was impossible so many of them could obtain a livelihood. The Magistrates thought it right to put them in possession of this fact, that they may understand that if they had escaped punishment on this occasion, they would have been immediately taken into custody by the county police as soon as they got out of the jurisdiction of Exeter.

The Mayor, having consulted Mr. Alderman Sanders, said they were all clearly convicted as rogues and vagabonds, which rendered them amenable to three months imprisonment; but in the hope that they would leave this neighbourhood and the county, and take to some more honest and creditable course of life, the full punishment upon the present occasion would not be awarded them, but the sentence of the Court was, that they should be committed to the House of Correction for fourteen days, and kept to hard labour.

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Extracted From:
Exeter & Plymouth Gazette - Saturday, 28th June 1834
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  • John Stanley
  • John Cooper
  • Richard Stanley
  • Thomas Stanley
  • Warnford Stanley
  • William Stanley