A people apart

t Gypsies used to be thought of as originating in Egypt, hence the name; but they are now believed to be of North-Indian origin, arriving in England at about the turn of the 16th century.

t A law was passed expelling gypsies from England in 1531, and Scotland in 1541. Henry VIII further decreed that anyone meeting a gypsy could behead them with a clear conscience. His daughter Elizabeth later passed a law saying they could legally be sold and traded as slaves.

t Supposed fear of spying led to a law 1939 which made it illegal for any gypsy caravan to be sited within 10 miles of coastline.

t Around half a million European gypsies were killed by the Nazis before and during the Second World War.

t The number of gypsies (defined by the National Gypsy Council as `persons of nomadic tradition') in the UK today is estimated as 50,000; the number of gypsy caravans is thought to be around 14,000.

Ben Summers