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History

The term “Gypsies and Travellers” includes different groups, some of whom have been in Wiltshire for centuries. Gypsies are Romany ethnic groups whose ancestors originally migrated from the Indian sub-continent from the tenth century onwards and then mixed with European and other groups.
Irish Travellers are a nomadic group with a distinctive way of life who have been part of Irish society for centuries.

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Is used to describe European Romany speaking groups who have come to England from Eastern and Central Europe.

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Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are legally protected from discrimination as minority ethnic groups.

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It is important that individual Gypsy and Traveller families are able to decide themselves whether they self-define as “Gypsy”, “Traveller” or some other definition.

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Gypsies and Travellers contribute to society through involvement in many spheres of activity, and live by the same rules as everyone else. They have their own strong traditions and customs but these can sometimes be widely misunderstood. Although the groups have different histories and traditions, there are some common customs and all can face discrimination and/or prejudice.

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They have their own languages, traditions and customs that guide their way of life. These are passed down through the generations and adapted to new conditions. Cultural values are very strong, though like other groups each family or individual may have their own special ways of putting them into practice.

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The family is extremely important and children are central to the lives of all Gypsy and Traveller families. The tradition of nomadism or travelling is significant, and allows them to travel to take up work opportunities, and to meet with family on special occasions such as christenings, weddings, illness and funerals. 

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Between 1970 and 1994 under the Caravan Sites Act 1968 local councils had a duty to provide sites for people “of nomadic habit of life, regardless of their race or origin”. In 1994 the Government repealed this duty. With fewer sites Gypsies and Travellers were forced onto increasingly problematic stopping places, private site provision or into conventional housing. Gypsies and Travellers who have moved into housing do not lose their culture or their ethnic status and for many the tradition of nomadism remains important to their cultural identity.

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Last updated: 21 September 2017 | Last reviewed: 21 September 2017