Gypsies and Travellers: an introduction

There is a long tradition of Gypsies and Travellers across the UK. Latest estimates show that up to 300,000 traditional travellers live across the country.

The quality of health, life expectancy and levels of literacy are lower than for the general population.

The Gypsy and Traveller count is published twice each year. On 22 July 2021 there were 1,095 Gypsy and Traveller caravans and 143 sites reported in Wales.

In line with the Housing Act (Wales) 2014, all councils in Wales must assess the needs of Gypsies and Travellers and subsequently meet those needs.

Who are Gypsies, Roma and Travellers?

Who are Gypsies, Roma and Travellers?

Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are often referred to as "Roma" in Europe and in Britain this is shortened to "GRT".

Gypsies and Travellers are people who follow the ‘nomadic’ lifestyle, which involves regularly travelling to different places and not staying or living at a permanent location (which is likely to be the oldest form of human society).

We think of Roma as those who have migrated to the UK from Eastern and Central European countries from 1990 onwards.

The Office for National Statistics added an option to select Gypsy and Travellers as an ethnic group in the 2011 Census, and added Roma as an option to the 2021 census. Of those who completed the 2011 Census, over 58,000 (0.1% of the usual resident population of England and Wales) identified as Gypsy and Travellers. The 2021 census results are yet to be published.

Gypsies, Roma and (some) Travellers belong to a minority ethnic group, and are protected against discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 in England, Wales and Scotland, and under the Race Relations (NI) Order 1997 in Northern Ireland.

Why do Gypsies, Roma and Travellers stay in Denbighshire?

Why do Gypsies, Roma and Travellers stay in Denbighshire?

There are many reasons why these communities stay in Denbighshire, including:

  • a rest period from travelling
  • to access medical attention, especially in the instance of pregnancy or long term illness or disease
  • to visit friends or family in the area
  • attend a gathering, for example a wedding or a funeral
  • for work commitments
Are there places where the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community should set up camp?

Are there places where the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community should set up camp?

There are no authorised sites for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in Denbighshire at the moment. While the Council continues working to find suitable solutions, we acknowledge that temporary sites will be set up on different land within the county.

Why are portable toilets and rubbish bins supplied on site?

Why are portable toilets and rubbish bins supplied on site?

The Council follows public health guidelines and has to make sure that health standards are met while the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community are set up in their temporary site. The Council supplies the GRT community with access to facilities to help them keep the site clean and tidy.

I’m from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, who should I speak to in the Council?

I’m from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, who should I speak to in the Council?

Denbighshire County Councils has a GRT liaison officer, you can contact them through GRTliaisonofficer@denbighshire.gov.uk

Will Denbighshire County Council remove a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller site immediately?

Will Denbighshire County Council remove a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller site immediately?

No, the Council must follow set procedures (based on Welsh Government guidelines) before any action is taken. The Council will check what the community needs and complete a general health and welfare check, which includes any children’s educational needs.

After this assessment and only if an encampment is on Council land, the Council will follow advice from the Welsh Government in choosing one of three next steps:

  • we may offer an alternative site for the encampment
  • we may agree to allow the visit on the current site for a fixed period of time, so long as certain rules are followed
  • we may take legal action to take back possession of the site

The Police are always informed when a temporary site is set up, and will attend if criminal or anti-social behaviour is reported.

What if a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller site is on a pay and display car park?

What if a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller site is on a pay and display car park?

All vehicles on pay and display car parks have to display a valid parking ticket at all times.

Do Gypsies, Roma and Travellers pay taxes?

Do Gypsies, Roma and Travellers pay taxes?

Road tax is a legal requirement for most vehicles and VAT is charged on all goods and services. The Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community are not exempt from paying these. Likewise, some Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families have a permanent accommodation address and they will pay Council Tax on these premises.

What should I do if I notice a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller site in Denbighshire?

What should I do if I notice a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller site in Denbighshire?

During office hours (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm ): call Customer Services on 01824 706000.

Out of hours (Monday to Friday, 5pm to 8:30am, weekends and Bank Holidays): call 0300 123 30 68.

Further reading

Below are some book suggestions, available from Denbighshire libraries.

Why the Moon Travels
Why the Moon Travels
Author Oein DeBhairduin, illustrated by Leanne McDonagh
ISBN 9781916493506
Year of publication 2020
Where is it available Ruthin library
Description These haunting tales are rooted in the oral tradition of the Irish traveller community. Brave vixens, prophetic owls and stalwart horses live alongside the human characters as guides, protectors, friends and foes while spirits, giants and fairies blur the lines between this world and the otherworld.
The stopping places: a journey through gypsy Britain
The stopping places: a journey through gypsy Britain
Author Damian La Bas
ISBN 9781784704131
Year of publication 2018
Where is it available Prestatyn library
Description Author Damian La Bas sets out on a journey to discover the old encampment sites known only to Travellers. From winter frost to summer dawns, he travels the country to visit horse fairs, urban lay-bys and hidden gypsy churches. 'The Stopping Places' shines a light on a group of people and a way of life that has been often hidden and much maligned.
Romaphobia: The Last Acceptable Form of Racism
Romaphobia: The Last Acceptable Form of Racism
Author Aidan McGarry
ISBN 9781783603992
Year of publication 2017
Where is it available Rhyl library
Description Based on real accounts of the struggles faced by Roma communities this well researched and informative book argues that little has been done to identify the root causes of anti-Roma discrimination.
I Met Lucky People: The Story of the Romani Gypsies
I Met Lucky People: The Story of the Romani Gypsies
Author Yaron Matras
ISBN 9780241954706
Year of publication 2014
Where is it available Rhyl library
Description Yaron Matras is one of the few academics to have spent years working closely with Romani people, having travelled widely in Central and Eastern Europe, and speaks Romani fluently. In this work he gives a new perspective on the Romani and their relations with other nations.
Gypsies of Britain
Gypsies of Britain
Author Janet Keet-Black
ISBN 9780747812364
Year of publication 2013
Where is it available Denbigh library
Description This title tells the story of the Romany Gypsies in Britain - where they came from, how they arrived, where they went afterwards and where they have been since then. It explores their traditional occupations, including harvesting, basket-making, dealing in horses, fortune telling and rat catching.
No place to call home: inside the real lives of gypsies and travellers
No place to call home: inside the real lives of gypsies and travellers
Author Katharine Quarmby
ISBN 9781851689491
Year of publication 2013
Where is it available Rhyl library
Description Katharine Quarmby follows the Sheridan, McCarthy, and Burton families before and after the evictionfrom Dale Farm, to Meriden and other 'outlaw' communities.
Gyspy Girl
Gyspy Girl
Author Rosie McKinley
ISBN 9781444708264
Year of publication 2011
Where is it available Denbigh library
Description Rosie is an Irish traveller, who grew up moving all over England and Ireland. She didn't find out her date of birth until she was 17 and didn't learn to read or write until she was well into her 30s. This is her story.
Gyspy Boy
Gyspy Boy
Author Mikey Walsh
ISBN 9781444707427
Year of publication 2010
Where is it available Prestatyn library, Rhyl library or Ruthin library
Description A classic tale of triumph over adversity, this is the story of one boy's struggle to escape from a secret world. Mikey was born into a Romany Gypsy family. Here he describes the vibrant and loyal culture he grew up in, and also the violence and grief which forced him to make the agonizing decision to leave.
The Girl in the Painted Caravan: Memories of a Romany Childhood
The Girl in the Painted Caravan: Memories of a Romany Childhood
Author Eva Petulengro
ISBN 9780330519991
Year of publication 2011
Where is it available Prestatyn library
Description 'The Girl in the Painted Caravan' vividly captures a way of life that has now, sadly, all but disappeared.
Rabbit Stew & a Penny or Two: A Gypsy Family's Hard Times and Happy Times on the Road in the 1950s
Rabbit Stew & a Penny or Two: A Gypsy Family's Hard Times and Happy Times on the Road in the 1950s
Author Maggie Smith-Bendell
ISBN 9780349123615
Year of publication 2010
Where is it available Rhyl library
Description Born on a Somerset pea-field in 1941, the second of eight children in a Romani family, Maggie Smith-Bendell has lived through the years of greatest change in the travelling community's long history. This book tells Maggie's story.
Parramisha
Parramisha
Author Frances Roberts-Reilly
ISBN 9781788649063
Year of publication 2020
Where is it available Rhyl library
Description A poetry collection exploring the world of the Romani.
The Welsh gypsies: children of Abram Wood
The Welsh gypsies: children of Abram Wood
Author Eldra Jarman
ISBN 9780708323984
Year of publication 1998
Where is it available Rhyl library
Description A historical and linguistic study of the most famous Welsh gypsy family, the family of Abram Wood, of which author Eldra Jarman is a descendant, describing the lives, habits and culture of this nomadic people before being gradually integrated by twentieth-century communities.
John Roberts, telynor Cymru
John Roberts, telynor Cymru
Author Ernest E Roberts
Year of publication 1978
Where is it available Ruthin library
Description A biography of the famous harpist of Wales (Welsh text).
The Last Stopping Place
The Last Stopping Place
Author Ray Wills
ISBN 9798760020529
Year of publication 2021
Where is it available Rhyl library
Description A splendid collection of enthralling tales built around the theme of Stopping places. A topic of much concern to the present Gypsy traveller community.
Gypsy Tales
Gypsy Tales
Author Ray Wills
ISBN 9798570498716
Year of publication 2020
Where is it available Rhyl library
Description An excellent resource on the social history of the Gypsy Roma travelling people’s ancestry.

Children's books

Lost Homework
Lost Homework
Author Richard O'Neill
ISBN 9781786283450
Year of publication 2019
Where is it available Denbigh library or Rhyl library
Description Sonny devotes his weekend to helping his neighbours and personal Travellers with a variety of tasks. He uses many skills, from calculating the amount of fuel needed for a journey to restoring a caravan. In fact, the only thing he doesn't do over the weekend is his homework - his workbook is missing! What will his teacher say?
Polonius the pit pony
Polonius the pit pony
Author Richard O'Neill
ISBN 9781786281852
Year of publication 2018
Where is it available Prestatyn library or St Asaph library
Description In this tale by Romani storyteller Richard O'Neill, a pit pony meets a group of horses who pull caravans for Travellers. Enchanted by their way of life, he escapes from the mine and joins them. Due to his small size, Polonius struggles to adjust to his new job. He is determined not to let down his new family. Can he find a use for the skills he learned from his past in the pits?