Hannah Lakey (1815-1903) "Queen of the New Forest Gypsies"
Hannah Lakey (died on 25th October 1903) is buried in an unmarked grave in East Boldre "An old gypsy woman styled, Queen of the Gypsies, Hannah Lakey of Furzey Lodge, East Boldre, Age 84 yrs".

Read online Romany Life by Frank Cuttriss (Published 1915)

Another source of information is:
Gypsies, the Secret People by Godfrey Edward Charles Webb (1914 - 2003). Webb's family moved from London to Hampshire when he was young, and in his twenties he settled in Southampton, where a talent for drawing led to a job as a cartographer for the Ordnance Survey. As a boy he had become intrigued by travellers in tents and caravans who would appear on the heath near his home, seemingly from nowhere, stay for a while and then vanish. He read as much as he could about Gypsies and befriended the small community of Romanies in the New Forest. In 1960 he published, "Gypsies, The Secret People".
Hannah Lakey, New Forest Gypsy Queen
Above: Photographer: John Short, c1900
Thanks to John Russell for passing on some of the information on this page (John has a facebook community page called Romany Heritage)

Also thanks to Tracy (Romani name; Ocean) - Hannah was her Great Grand Aunt. Tracy mentioned that "She was a truly wonderful Romani lady and the New forest was her home. The source of her life noted in the newspaper report [below], authors and photographers ect, were Frank Cuttriss, Edward Charles Webb and Robert Dawson..."
Hannah Lakey spent most of her life living in a bender, a traditional Gypsy tent made from hazel branches pushed into the ground and covered over with tarpaulin or sailcloth.

In the last 5 years of her life a local charity persuaded her to move into a small cottage near Beaulieu and supported her by paying her rent and buying her groceries and tobacco. Hannah was thought to be the last person capable of speaking the Romani language.
Gypsies around a camp fire
Photograph: Frank Cuttriss
The Evening News - Saturday 14 November 1903
Hannah Lakey, New Forest Gypsy Queen
Photographer: John Short, c1900
Gypsy items
Illustration: Frank Cuttriss
Mrs. Lakey, who was known in the New Forest as “Queen of the Gipsies,” died a few days ago.  She was a native of Andover, her maiden name being Benson*, and she married over 60 years ago.  For a number of years she and her husband, G. Lakey, lived in the Forest, camping in various parts, but for the past few years the deceased has occupied a small cottage near Beaulieu, where she breathed her last at the ripe age of eighty-eight years.  The funeral took place at East Boldre Churchyard. The remains were conveyed in a hearse from Lymington, and the “Queen” was followed to her grave by forty-five of her subjects and a few ladies who had taken an interest in her in her latter days.
This is a Newspaper error her marriage certificate has her name as Mason
New Forest Gypsies
The History of Gypsies in the New Forest Below is an extract from the excellent website on the gypsies of the New Forest: Remembering our Family. It includes many pictures of gypsy life.
From the start of the nineteenth century Gypsy Travellers travelled on foot or in light carts sleeping in a Bender, which was a tent made of hazel branches and covered with tarpaulin. Because of their nomadic existence the children did not usually attend school but were taught important living skills and crafts by their elders. Gypsies had great pride, high morals and respected their elders.

During the middle of the 19th century Gypsy Travellers started to use horse drawn wagons with fitted interiors and with the coming of the motor vehicle in the twentieth century a number of Gypsy Travellers started to use trailers and caravans instead of horse drawn vehicles.

  At the start of the twentieth century the Law stated that Gypsy Travellers were not allowed in remain on the same land for longer than two days.

In 1926 the Compound system was started which meant that seven areas were set aside in the forest for the Gypsies to camp without interference but they were no longer to be allowed to roam the open forest and camp where they chose. These sites were at Thorney Hill, Broomhill, Shave Wood, Blackhamsley, Hardley, Latchmoor and Longdown.

Movements between these compounds were not restricted but they were forbidden to camp outside of these compounds.


  The compounds had either an insufficient or nonexistent water supply for the inhabitants and no toilet arrangements. Living in the compounds interfered with the Gypsy way of life because they had preferred to live in small family units rather than a community; this quickly led to trouble and arguments between families.

The compound system also restricted the Gypsy Travellers earning potential because they were no longer able to travel earning an honest living along the way.

At the beginning of the Second World War the seven compounds were reduced down to five and then in 1948 the local Councils started a policy of resettlement, moving the families into this settled housing.