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This Week's Footprint on the Ridge - Sarah Hall c1780-1825

01-02-02 Gypsys Hole from footpath (PW) cropped

Sarah Hall lived in a cave at Overton Scar near Malpas at the end of the eighteenth century.

The cave was known as the Gypsy's Hole and its inhabitants were not popular with the residents of Malpas.

In 1800 Sarah married an Irish tinker, Thomas Florence. He too was an occupant of the Overton caves. They were both illiterate and signed their names in the marriage register with crosses. It is not clear whether they left the caves immediately after their marriage or stayed in the vicinity for a while, but they may well have been forced to move for it was about this time that, after some particularly antisocial behaviour, all of the gypsies were evicted and the Overton cave was closed.

Sarah reappeared in the public record in 1807 in Witley, Surrey, where she was arrested and convicted at the Quarter Sessions of being 'a rogue and vagabond ... wandering abroad and lodging in the open air, with four children ... and not giving a good account of herself'.

Sarah was discharged though it is unclear exactly what happened to her or to her children, or whether Thomas remained with them.

Similarly, we do not know exactly when Sarah died but she may have had a further two or more children.

By 1839 Thomas, described as a widower and brazier, married another Sarah, Sarah Hudson, in Uttoxeter, Staffs, and they had two sons of 16 and 18 living with them.

The 'Florences' give us a tiny glimpse of the itinerant lives of some of the poorest in society. Generally invisible in our written history, it is good to put names to such people who actually lived in the caves that we have been studying and which are located here on the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge.

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Our thanks to Peter Winn, Trustee, for this Footprint on the Ridge
Our image shows the entrance to Gypsy's Hole, Overton Scar