Gypsies in Blackfen

James Turner, who lived in Sidcup (at Westburton, The Park – a rather large house near The Green) from 1909 to 1927, wrote an autobiography in which he describes the area around the time of the First World War. In contrast to Sidcup, “many gypsies lived in Blackfen. Their existence was recognised (when it could not be avoided) only in shocked whispers by the middle class who lived north of Sidcup High Street. It represented a threat to them. Gypsies did not conform to any known kind of society and certainly did not sit down to polite afternoon tea”.

Indeed, Blackfen had a reputation for gypsies; five families of gypsies were
listed on the 1881 census dwelling in Westwood Lane. Henry Lait, who lived in a cottage next to the old Woodman Inn, recalled “one part of the area was the home of vagabonds, tramps, beggars and thieves. Where houses now stand there was a gipsy encampment.”This refers to fields off Burnt Oak Lane.

During the 1930s, when rapid house-building brought lots of new home-owners to the area, gypsies from Foots Cray were regular traders, selling pegs and plants.