Page 1 of 2

Gypsies, tramps and thieves

PostPosted: 11:30 pm
by Boreades
Staring at the old maps of my parish, found here, I have been struck by how much detail on the old maps doesn't even appear on the newer maps. Lovely little things, like the actual inscriptions on old milestones (which helps you trace old cross-country coaching routes) and the old names of old tracks and paths.

The boundary between the parishes of Ogbourne St.George and Chisledon is an ancient path called Gypsy Lane. That goes from Barbary Castle towards Aldbourne. Next door, in Aldbourne, the northern boundary is an ancient pathway south of the Ridgeway, known as Socera Weg, or Shuger Waie, or Sugar Way (depending on which map or website you look at), which Andrew Sewell says means "the 'secret way' used by thieves". That continues north east in the direction of Alfred's Castle, which is sadly neglected in our megalithic ramblings.

The two paths are joined by the "earthworks" that climb diagonally out of the Og valley onto the high ground, showing the paths worn down by people and animals tramping up and down the hillside.


Likewise the boundary between the parishes of Ashton Keynes and Somerford Keynes may date back at least 3,000 years to the late Bronze Age.

See ... tml#parish

In places the same tracks are called Herepath as well. Which are also found in Somerset.


So, from the isolated example, can ME folk explore any other examples, or project any general rules?
i.e. old parish boundaries are good indicators of old trade paths, especiallly if they mention gypsies and thieves?

Is Lord Sugar descended from a long line of gypsies? "Amstrad" might suggest so ;-)

I ought to mention Tinkers as well (travelling tin smiths). There, I've mentioned them.

Re: Gypsies, tramps and thieves

PostPosted: 11:08 am
by macausland
Would it be worthwhile adding field names in this research.

Farms used to and still probably do give specific names to the various fields on the land.

This may have happened post enclosures but it could perhaps have been a reflection of memories of area names before enclosure.

I seem to remember seeing old maps that give the names of individual fields.

Re: Gypsies, tramps and thieves

PostPosted: 12:24 pm
by hvered
Amstrad was a brilliant brand name, the A, M and S are Sugar's initials, trad is short for trade-mark. This kind of name branding is hardly new and presumably gives historians a right headache. Occasionally abbreviations in manuscripts are pointed out but not much is said about shorthand refs. In-house jokes surely don't only occur in A-S riddles, if Germanic humour can be hailed as as a laughing matter.

Shug sounds like a barn or shelter of some kind so perhaps socera denotes security, succour? Sugar is an Arabic word, azúcar in Spanish, sucre in French. Doesn't seem to have much to do with secrecy. If Hermes is the god of thieves as well as traders, there may not have been such a gulf between their professions, or perhaps ancient trackways were for all and sundry regardless.

Re: Gypsies, tramps and thieves

PostPosted: 10:09 am
by Ajai
hvered wrote: Sugar is an Arabic word, azúcar in Spanish, sucre in French. Doesn't seem to have much to do with secrecy. If Hermes is the god of thieves as well as traders, there may not have been such a gulf between their professions, or perhaps ancient trackways were for all and sundry regardless.

Presumably there's almost always an element of secrecy in trade?

It's not certain that sugar "is an Arabic word". Classical authors writing about Spain such as Pliny, Strabo, talk about the Sucro or Xucar River, now spelt Jucar. Sueca is on the left bank, overlooking the lagoon. The coastal salt marshes were largely drained and the region is very productive, being famous for oranges or naranja (Spanish, not Arabic!).

Re: Gypsies, tramps and thieves

PostPosted: 10:19 am
by Mick Harper
In Britain, about half our sugar comes from sugar-cane and the other half from sugar-beet. Apparently the costs are similar, though a bit of political meddling is required to come up with this half-and half situation.

I am prepared to accept that sugar-cane was a product of New World slave economies starting in the sixteenth century (and therefore that the 'Sugar Revolution' began then) but there's nothing mysterious or novel about sugar beet. Why weren't we growing sugar beet and 'enjoying' sugar from the Palaeolithic Era onwards?

Re: Gypsies, tramps and thieves

PostPosted: 10:35 am
by macausland
The British Sugar Corporation had a huge factory producing sugar from beet in Fife as I remember. I think this was closed down as part of our joining the 'Common Market'.

It was sold off a long time ago to private corporations. They even had their own railway system.

Sugar was also produced from barley and used as malt in the production of beer, ale and other tonics.

Napoleon promoted the production of sugar from beet during his wars.

Re: Gypsies, tramps and thieves

PostPosted: 10:50 pm
by Boreades
If you really want to talk about sugar beet, go elsewhere and check on EC subsidies for biofuel production using sugar beet. Anyway, that's got very little to do with the topic.

Sugar Way also heads towards Sugar Hill, in deepest North East Wiltshire. I'm still hoping for some insight. Maybe I'll have to go and find this Andrew Sewell from Aldbourne.

Re: Gypsies, tramps and thieves

PostPosted: 10:54 am
by Boreades
More fieldwork.

Socera Weg / Shuger Waie / Sugar Way continues along the Wiltshire/Oxfordshire border until it gets to a special geographic point. A tri-point, where the three county borders of Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire meet. Depending on which map you look at, this is in a circular wood called Botley Copse, just south of Alfred's Castle, between Idstone Down and Fogname Down.

Why are county borders where they are?

They form a kind of no-mans land. People using them as long-distance pathways were literally "on the edge", but figuratively they were on the edge of settled society as well.

Some tri-points do have special significance, as neutral territory or meeting places for neighbouring Celtic/Briton tribes.

Re: Gypsies, tramps and thieves

PostPosted: 10:57 pm
by Boreades
Coincidentally(?), Europe's main Free Trade agreement is the Schengen Agreement

It proposed the gradual abolition of border checks at the signatories' common borders.

Schengen itself is another tri-border, where the borders of Germany, France, and Luxembourg meet.,_Luxembourg

Were megalithic boundary paths the ancestor of the Schengen Agreement?

Was the Shuger Waie just one example of many?

Re: Gypsies, tramps and thieves

PostPosted: 1:08 pm
by Boreades
Despite the embarrassing episode when Wren Boys was confused with Rent Boys, I am still on good terms with the local vicar.

Indeed, it was thanks to him I learnt that in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, there was a passage that said "Cursed be he who moveth his neighbour’s landmark". Boundary stones were considered special.

On some of the older maps, parish boundary marker-stones appear with a name. Beating The Bounds is still carried out once a year, and reaffirms the parish boundaries.


Nowadays, we don't actually whip the children as well. At least, not in public. It's now more of a pleasant amble, with tea and biscuits afterwards.

In ancient Greece, Hermes is the Guardian of Boundaries, and "phallic stone Herms delineate the divisions of the land."