Gypsy History


There had been Gypsies on the common for generations. While numbers were limited, they lived in harmony with the woodland and with their village neighbours. But increased numbers led to pressure on the land and Reggie Bray allowed a maximum of 100 to stay in what became known as ‘the camp’. He issued a five shilling (25p) licence to each head of a family, allowing them to stay provided they behaved and disposed of their rubbish. 

Local Cranleigh people worked to help educate the gypsy children and in 1926 Surrey County Council founded the first gypsy school in England near Wickets Well, due north of Jelley’s Hollow, in what is now part of Winterfold Forest. It had around 70 children.

Hurtwood cottagers from the early 20th century recall the gypsies of Peaslake and Holmbury as friendly folk. These were the settled gypsies, but the sheer number of travellers moving into The Hurtwood after the war created real problems, causing the landowners led by Reggie Bray, to form a committee - the HurtwoodControl - to organise a patrol of the common. A retired policeman was the first Hurtwood Ranger employed to keep things under control. The Hurtwood Control was enthusiastically supported and helped maintain conditions in the Hurtwood. However an article in Cranleigh Afternoon Women’s Institute’s scrapbook in 1949 begins:

A line of larches defines the boundary between the Manors of Shere and Albury. The Ranger of the Shere Manor would chase travellers off the common and they would go through the larches and be safe on the Albury side. The Albury ranger would chase them away and they would mover their camp back through the larches to the Shere side and so it went on.