Gypsy Carnivals

From BaildonWiki

Baildon was an important location for the British Gypsy community. Many years ago an area of Jenny Lane, which is now Laburnham Drive, was used for the annual Gypsy Carnival in June. Certain Gypsy families would get together for weddings. A report of 1929 stated that annual "Gypsy Parties" had started two to three hundred years before - records of this gathering are said to go back to 1770, but even then it was talked of as an old event. In 1881, up to 5,000 people are said to have paid for admission. The gatherings faltered on several occasions and locals tried to revive them by inviting local gypsies and dressing themselves up as gypsies. (Alternative interpretation:- Gradually the event was taken over by local residents, who dressed up as Gypsies and formed 'tribes'.) Proceeds from the carnivals went to the local Horticultural Society.

During the year 1928 it was agreed by local people that the Gypsy Carnival so popular in the 1800s should be revived to raise funds for Baildon Hospital and Charities Week. A group of interested parties met in the Mechanics Institute and the arrangements for a 1929 Carnival were put in hand. A local resident, Mr John Kerr travelled to Lancashire and interviewed a man who had assumed the name Xavier Petulengro (and later claimed to be the King of the Gypsies) and his wife “Lauiana” (Mary). Petulengro came to Baildon and large Gypsy gatherings were re-established. The 1929 Carnival was said to be a huge success. It was stated that on the Carnival Day at six in the evening the was “nothing left to eat in Baildon.”[1]

Some of these carnivals were recorded on Pathe News films and shown nationally in cinemas.[2][3][4] One event recorded on film was the wedding of Leon Petulengro (son of Xavier) to Illeana Smith in 1937. Part of the ceremony took place in St James' Church and Derek Fitt, who was one of the youngest church organists at 14 when he started, played the organ for them. At that time he was 18. Petulengro gave him a silver brooch for playing.[5] The gatherings stopped at the start of the Second World War and were never revived[2] although Gypsies still occasionally camp near Baildon Moor.

Marriage Certificate. 29 Aug 1937
Petulengro Wedding invite to Doreen Bell[6]

References to Petulengro often say "Self Styled King of the Gypsies". There have been suggestions that Petulengro was neither Gypsy nor Romany but was marketed as such for the Baildon Hospital and Charities Week to help with raising the profile and hence funds.

Several of the original references are no longer available however there is a Petulengro website here that has a page containing the wedding video. The video can also be found on YouTube [here]

Steve Haithwaite has provided 2 photos from the carnival of 1938(?). That year his father, Geoff Haithwaite was the Gypsy Prince and Davida Scholes was the Gypsy Princess. One of the photos shows them in a group with what looks like local and Gypsy dignitaries.


  1. Blue folder notes by A Edwick. Scanned & transcribed 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Freda Matthews, Gypsies in Leeds and Yorkshire
  3. Pathe News: A Romany Wedding on Yorkshire Moors
  4. Pathe News: Double Gypsy Wedding at Baildon
  5. Simon Fitt via Facebook
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 Courtesy Arthur Edwick
  7. Courtesy Paul Marfell
  8. 8.0 8.1 Courtesy Steve Haithwaite