Search for Epping ancestors

Gypsy Smith memorial stone – Woodford Green

Patrick Wiley, an American Archaeologist, is researching the history of Romani and Traveller families who lived in Epping Forest from the 1760s onward.  As many as 300 Romanichals lived and worked in the forest until they were forcibly evicted in 1897. Despite these restrictions Romanies and Travellers were known to stop in Epping well into the 20th century and thousands of people of GRT backgrounds live in the Epping Forest District today. Patrick would like to get in touch with anyone of Gypsy Roma and Traveller heritages who lives in the area or has relatives who lived there.

The research will focus on three forest compartments, Walthamstow Forest, Wanstead Flats, and High Beech. Walthamstow Forest is the birthplace of famed Romanichal evangelist Rodney Smith. Wanstead Flats is mentioned in his autobiography and other sources mention it as common campground. High Beech was chosen because there are charcoal pits in the area possibly left by Romanichal charcoal burners.

For his PhD research at University College, London, Patrick plans a series of scientific tests to see if archaeological remains are present.  This information can help him, or other future archaeologists decide to excavate in the future. 

The stages in the fieldwork will include:

  • Walking the site looking for anything of interest on the surface like the charcoal pits. 
  • Magnetic susceptibility tests covering an entire forest compartment to look for changes in the soil caused by human habitation.
  • Magnetometry to finding the buried remains of campfires, forge fires, and iron artifacts
  • Ground penetrating radar to look for the hard-packed earthen floors of bender tents. 

Patrick hopes these tests will reveal campsites in detail and might even be able to determine if the camp was built in summer or winter based on the location of the campfire or hearth.

Romani Archaeology is largely unknown in the UK, but studies have been carried out in Sweden and the Czech Republic in collaboration with local Romani people. Patrick is seeking people of Gypsy Roma and Traveller heritages to work with him as partners and participants. Anyone interested can reach him at

Romani history is a severely neglected topic in the humanities and barely any Romani archaeology has ever been conducted. I believe that the marginalization of the Romani past is directly connected with the marginalization of the Romani people. I know that the study of the past has great potential to inspire, transform, and empower and I believe that a dedicated subfield of Romani and Traveller archaeology will have that same impact. 

Patrick Wiley

Minutes EC Meeting 15th April 2021

Margaret WoodPresent
Tyler HatwellPresent
Lisa SmithPresent
Sue MutterPresent
Brian FosterPresent
Chelsea McDonaghPresent
Thomas ActonPresent
Valdemar KalininPresent
Anne WalkerApologies
Hazel MarshApologies
Colin ClarkApologies
Siobhan SpencerApologies


Minutes of the last meeting Agreed.

Tyler has contacted Alex Pryce re the Cambridge Foundation Year. Applications due January. Tyler thinks it would be good for her to have a slot at the teacher’s network next Wednesday 21st April or 14th July (both at 2:30pm.)


  1. Didikai film – request for help from young Romany filmmaker, Jack Lilleywhite concerned about the new Police Bill. To share your experience, or if you have any other relevant stories, queries or want to get in touch for any other relevant reason – please contact us at: and use the subject “DIDIKAI FILM EXPERIENCES”. Thanks, Jack. Circulated to education network contacts and EC. Website, Brian. Hazel will speak with Jack. 
  2. British Embassy Sofia requesting material regarding the Jubilee events. Thomas replied. 
  3. Journalist for Russia Today news Chris Sweeney wanting help with an article. Circulated to EC and decided not to respond. 
  4. Surrey school seeking funding for year six pupil at risk of exclusion to attend an out of school setting once a week.  
  5. Harvey Day, BBC Three / BBC News 07881 373 402 wishing to speak with young community members about Kill the Bill.   
  6. Death of Ryalla Duffy. Siobhan to arrange flowers from ACERT. 
  7. Moving for Change funding application offer. Deadline May 17. Discuss
  8. Thomas circulated information from Dada Felja, at Law for Life requesting help for research into: Using the law to reduce the disadvantage in child protection for Roma
  9. Thomas circulated details of a Seminar: Minority Experiences and European Narratives 14-16.4.21 Abo Akademi/ Online
  1. Didikai films. Already posted on Facebook. Margaret will get back to Jack the film maker to request blog post with images to promote his idea.
  2. Done
  3. No action
  4. Circulated to EC. Margaret replied.
  5. Margaret circulated it to EC and Education Network members.
  6. Done
  7. Tyler (?) to follow up with Colin
  8. Noted
  9. Noted

Jubilee events

Many EC members contributed in various ways to what may be, we hope, a revitalising of the Roma movement. Lisa commended the work of RomaTrial. 3 short animations on the WRC, the anthem and the flag.

Gallery 198 will do a “Look back at the Jubilee exhibition” once they are allowed to admit visitors. We could mount a parallel 50 years of Traveller education exhibition, perhaps to coincide with our conference – see below.

A wide ranging discussion.

Brian will try and summarise any information which is shared.

Events are continuing. Thomas suggests Lisa should share details and EC members should select area to focus on.

Conference planning

Great to make it more interactive and performance based e.g., Duke’s theatre and the waggon project. The Covid rules for FMH, circulated by Anne are quite daunting. However, we should aim for an in-person event and then fall back to on-line if it isn’t possible.

Begin to develop a plan for the day based on the document circulated by Margaret.

Develop a concept for a panel discussion. Building resilience through education.

Ask Anne with Sue’s support to contact Friends Meeting House again. Confirm early Oct date for physical meeting.

Thomas and Margaret to review their photo collections to see if we can mount an online exhibition the history of Traveller education.

Next meeting

20th May 2021 4:30pm