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Earning a Living


No matter what the weather or time of year the Romanies, Gypsies and Travellers of the New Forest kept themselves very busy earning a living in whatever way they could in order to provide for their families. They were not afraid of hard work and given the chance would work for many hours making the most of their numerous talents.

Agricultural work was the main employment for the families and they offered their services to the farms near to wherever they were camping doing whatever was needed for that season such as strawberry and potato picking and helping with the hay. Sometimes the families would travel out of the forest to pick hops in Kent or fruit in the Midlands. This was a time when families would meet up with their friends from around the country on an annual basis.

Horse dealing and dog breeding were once very popular ways of earning a living before so many families were put into compounds where they were no longer able to keep horses. The autumn pony sales within the New Forest were well attended, the one at Beaulieu Road Auction, being the best known or breeders would travel to the horse fairs around the country.  The dogs that were bred were usually lurchers and they would be used for hunting, because of their speed they were particularly useful for hare-coursing.

When the families were home they continued working making items such as bee skeps and baskets made from rushes and reeds, pegs made from willow, wreaths made from holly and artificial flowers made out of crepe paper or wood shavings left over from the pegs. Most the materials for these crafts were natural materials that they collected themselves from the forest.


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