Farnborough is known even today for its association with Gypsy or Traveller families.  The churchyard at St. Giles has many graves marking the burials of members of Gypsy families, in particular the Boswells and Patemans. Even today when further burials take place a large number of family members travel from far and wide to attend the funeral.

But in the past the open land of Tugmutton or 'Leg Of Mutton' Common, a short distance from Farnborough at Locksbottom,  was also where the Gypsies lived. Below are some short extracts from the forward of Tugmutton Common - the life and times of William Pateman, written by John Pateman a member of one of these families, and reproduced here with the permission of the author.

The book contains the biographies of no less the 26 members of the Pateman family, all living in Locksbottom and Farnborough Village.

Why Farnborough?

There are three main reasons why Gypsies settled in Farnborough: it was well known for its Horse Fairs, it was noted for its osier beds. and It was a good location for a winter base. Osier is a small Eurasian willow which grows mostly in wet habitats. It is usually coppiced, being a major source of the long flexible shoots (withies) used in basketwork.
Gypsies from all over Kent would bring their horses to buy and sell. They would run their horses up and down the High Street so that would-be buyers could see their performance. Apparently this was a very popular spectacle for the villagers to watch. 

Farnborough was one of many Gypsy communities which established themselves on the fringes of Kent at the end of the nineteenth century.  Locations such as Farmborough provided a good base from which they could travel down into Kent to work on the land picking fruit, vegetables and hops. They would then return to Farnborough to winter over on the fringes of London where there were more opportunities to sell their goods such as pegs, skewers and baskets.

Tugmutton Common

For many years they lived at Tugmutton, or Leg of Mutton Common, a large field on the edge of Farnborough shaped like a leg of lamb. During the summer they travelled around Kent picking hops, fruit and vegetables, and in the winter they would return to their cottages at Tugmutton and earn their living as pedlars and hawkers.

We do not know when Gypsies first started living on the Farnborough Common, including Tugmutton, but it could have been one of the traditional stopping places Travellers have been using for centuries,  What we do know is the enclosure movement in the nineteenth century made it more difficult for the Gypsies to live on the common.

Locksbottom today, Tugmutton Common is the triangular green space in the centre

Once the Metropolitan Commons Act  was passed in 1866 it was only a matter of time before most of the common land within the Metropolitan area - which included London and its environs such as Farnborough - were subject to enclosure. This made it easier to move non-parishioners and itinerants such as Gypsies off the Common.

Farnborough Commons Protection Committee

This was formed on 17th June 1887, six years after James and William Pateman arrived in Farnborough. The Committee contained local business men and farmers such as J.F. and W. Fox, members of the Fox family which owned a brewery business in Green Street Green, and J.W. Stow, fruit grower. Interestingly, one of the committee members, H.N Penfold, beer retailer, had a Gypsy surname.

It is clear from the minutes of their very first meeting that the Committee's main target was the Gypsies, 'and the debris left by a succession of Gypsy encampments'. The Committee was concerned about  'the indecency occuring in the Gypsy camp'. Mr Penfold 'spoke in favour of forming a ditch and bank around the frontage of the common with gates etc. so that no vans could be drawn upon it'.

Notices were put up on the Common saying that 'if any persons were found camping on the same after 12 noon on the following Monday they would be forcibly removed by the overseers and the police.' Letters were written to the Chief Commissioners of Police and to a solicitor - Mr. Birkett - seeking advice on 'the shortest and best mode of procedure to eject these trespassers'.

Mr Birkett was engaged by the Committee to prepare a 'memorial' (a statement of facts, especially as the basis of a petition) which was signed by Farnborough gentry and businessmen in favour of enclosing the commons. The memorial was sent to the Land Commissioners with the appropriate fee and, in return, a draft scheme of enclosure was produced for advertisement in the local area. Some objections were received but the scheme was introduced into the Commons via a Bill on 26th March 1888 and by 12th June the Bill had passed through all stages and was ready for Royal Assent.  The first meeting of the Farnborough Commons Committee was held at the Board School on 9th June 1888. At their meeting on 9th April 1889 the Clerk reported that he had 'banked up the commons at the place where vans were drawn on and had also begun to take off the flints and make the Commons tidy.'

The Committee continued to meet until 1904.  During the sixteen years of its existence it exercised its full and petty powers over the Commons which they were entrusted with by Act of Parliament. These self selected guardians of the Commons made life difficult not only for the Gypsies, but also anyone else who had previously made use of the Commons. The placing or storage of hop poles, flints and manure on the Common was prohibited, and gravel could not be extracted without the Board's permission. A Ranger was appointed and given a note book to record infringements of the bye laws and any actions he had taken.  Everything was reported to regular meetings of the Conservators - they met 30 times between 1889 and 1904. Notices were put up on the Commons telling people what they could (or mostly could not) do and legal action was threatened (and taken) against offenders. The planting and pruning of trees was regulated, and people were not able to ride carts or vehicles of any kind across the Commons.

The Impact of Enclosure

So how did the Enclosure of the Commons affect the Pateman family and other Gypsies of Tugmutton Common? We know that James Pateman was living on 'Bastard Green' in 1881, but by 1891 he had moved to one of the cottages on Willow Walk. This move from living on Tugmutton Common to living in a cottage on the edge of the common may well have been prompted  by the enclosure of the Farnborough Commons. Many Gypsies would have resented this forced move but what were their rights with regard to the stopping on the Common land?

It is a misconception to believe that the Commons were available for the use of all. Unless otherwise specified in some sort of charter, which is rare, commons were only available for the use of the commoners of the Manorial Landowner, and then quite often constrained by open/closed periods that reflected their particular use. Commons could only be closed by Act of Parliament, such as the Metropolitan Commons Act referred to above.


Seven Steps to Glory:
Walter Pateman

This article about Walter Pateman was produced in 2007 by John Pateman.

Read it Here

Some Secrets of Gypsy Life

'It may not be generally known that at a certain time of year an important movement takes place amongst certain people dwelling in our midst. Numerically they are not great, but, as is well known, on account of their peculiar habits and customs, and their means of obtaining a livelihood, they exercise considerable influence on a large section of the community'

James Greenway, from 'Low Life Deeps', published in 1881

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