The Lock(e) Tribe
Francis Hindes Groome             UnKn
Esmeralda         F H Groome
Somerset Joe Locke                            J Goldring
Esmeralda waggon, Hartlebury        VS

Graves of Noah Lock & Henry Lee    GC/VS

Bowtops and grai                                                                                                    VS

The story goes that the Locks (Lockes) are a branch of the Boswell family and acquired their new name about 1800.  One suggestion is that they were kushti at picking farmers' padlocked gates at night so that they could graze their grai (horses).  By morning they had moved on, and the farmers never knew!  In turn, the Dixons are a branch of the Locks.

This myth is slightly upset by DNA research, which reckons Gypsy Locks were already in America by the 1670s.  For sure, Locks and Boswells do swop their names around, but it's said you can always tell a Lock because they're so long!

The earliest mentioned Lock Gypsy in the UK is Henry.  He and his family travelled between London, Devon and Gloucestershire in the 1800s.  His sons Lamrok and Roli emigrated to America; third son Mairik roamed Gloucestershire, where his descendants still live; fourth son Matthew married Memberensi Boswell.

Matthew and Memberensi travelled the borders from Gloucestershire to Shropshire and over to Wales.  They had at least 11 children, including Ezekiel who went to live in Ceredigion in mid Wales and Noah who married Delaia Jones.

Noah and Delaia had 14 children and travelled the borders, favouring Shropshire.  Their sons and daughters were more adventurous, some travelling to Norway, the east of England and throughout Wales.  To make money they played the violin, fished, made baskets, or traded at horse fairs.

The Spirit of Esmeralda.  Born in 1854, Esmeralda was Noah and Delaia's most vivacious and beautiful daughter.  In Shropshire the family regularly pitched their tents on the banks of the Severn at Bridgnorth on property owned by local solicitor Hubert Smith.  The Locks were remembered as being good musicians and playing violins whilst dressed in top hats.

At 16 years old Esmeralda and her brothers Noah and Zachariah were invited by Smith to spend the summers with him in Norway.  Subsequently, he published a book, Tent Life with English Gypsies in Norway, in which dark-eyed Esmeralda danced across the white page.

Smith was in his fifties at the time and became infatuated by Esmeralda.  She didn't feel the same, but gave in to pressure and married him in 1874.  Esmeralda didn't give up her footloose life easily.  She tried running away from her husband but was returned by her father; another time she made her escape by knocking Smith out with a silver candlestick.

Salvation arrived in a visit from Francis Hindes Groome, a young scholar interested in Gypsies with whom Esmeralda fell in love.  When Groome left, she told her husband that she was bewitched and must see a gozvalo gajo (wise man).  But the wise man was Groome, and the lovers were reunited in Bristol.  Eventually, they ran away to Germany, where Groome worked as a translator whilst Esmeralda sang and danced.  On returning to England, she found similar work in London theatres.  Then Groome moved up to work in Edinburgh, and Esmeralda went with him.

Hubert Smith filed for divorce but attempted one last reconciliation.  He met with his wife at an hotel in Scotland, and they spent the night together.  In the morning she declared a desperate dream foretelling her lover's suicide unless she said a final goodbye.  Smith agreed to her going to see Groome for two hours. Esmeralda went ... and never returned.

After a sensational divorce case, the lovers married and settled down.  Gradually, they made their way into literary and artistic circles, and pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti portrayed Esmeralda as one of his erotic idealised women.

Esmeralda often returned to travel with her parents, and her wayward spirit became too much for Groome.  The couple separated.  A few years before he died in 1902, Groome wrote to her: "We must never meet again on this side of the grave", and they never did.

After travelling around Cheshire and North Wales in a green and yellow caravan, Esmeralda finally drew up at Prestatyn during the First World War.  She remained there for the rest of her life, the centre of much attention, until she was felled by a bus in 1939 and duly buried in Rhyl.


All the same, Esmeralda's fiery spirit lives on in another bowtop vardo (Gypsy caravan) which was named after her.  It was bought for the Gypsy Lore Society in 1909 and used by its members during their travels around Wales.

Rolling days over, Esmeralda can be seen today in the company of other vardos in the County Museum at Hartlebury Castle, Worcester.


Herbert was one of Esmeralda's brothers and died of tuberculosis at the age of 21 "in a field".  His ornate grave at Llanfair-Waterdine has a English and Romani inscription plus flaming torches above a violin and bow.  The stone was paid for by Hubert Smith, Esmeralda's first husband.  However, Herbert's mother Delaia didn't approve of the inscription, and she smothered it in tar A local tradition developed amongst gaje (non-Gypsies) that the Romani verses were a curse, but this isn't true because the words are simply sorrowful.

Noah's sons Zachariah (aka Harry Boswell) and Somerset Joe favoured Wales, especially when Harry married Maria Wood of the Abram Wood tribe.

Near Machynlleth in Mid Wales the young couple and brother Joe bumped into Seth Lovell and Oliver Lee, who resented the newcomers invading their patch.  The Locks were challenged for the right to travel the area, and a fierce bare-knuckled fight ensued.

Eventually, Harry and Joe overpowered their opponents, so in accordance with Romany law Seth Lovell moved his family further south.

Joe returned to England, where he married Maria Jones and had at least eleven children.  When Joe died, one of his grandchildren remembers that at his funeral everyone took a momento and that in traditional Romany style the rest of his things were smashed in a pit.

Noah's eldest son was also named Noah
; he liked North Wales and settled on Anglesey.  Many of his brothers and sisters joined him, although they often travelled the roads in the summer.  Their parents, Noah and Delaia, joined them on the Island, and Noah is buried - under the name of Boswell - at Llanddaniel.

By the 1920s some Locks were living in tents on the flat sand of Tywyn Trewan, now partly buried beneath the runways of RAF Valley.

Well into the 1970s Angela Delaia Locke lived in a cottage at Holland Arms on Anglesey.  She was well known for dukkering (fortune-telling) and was visited by many young women.  Her descendants and relatives still live on Anglesey and around Bangor today.



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