An account dated 1528 claimed that there were ten thousand Gypsies in the British Isles by that year. Two years later the first anti-Gypsy act was passed, which stated that "hensforth no such Psone be suffred to come within this the Kynge's Realme"; any Gypsy entering England had his property confiscated, and was ordered to leave within two weeks. Until that time, Gypsies in England, as elsewhere in Europe, had shown "counterfaicte passeports" signed by state or church dignitaries requesting that local officials allow them to pass unhindered (Acts, 1589:279)*. An earlier record of banishment from Scotland is found in Denmark, however, dated July, 1505, which stated that they had been transported thence by James IV. Walter Simson, whose book deals principally with the Scottish Romani population, writes of Gypsies in that country during this period who were put to death "... on the mere ground of being Egyptians ... The cruelty exercised upon them was quite in keeping with that of reducing to slavery the individuals" (1865:121-122). Quoting from Miller, 1775, he goes on to indicate that Gypsies employed as coal-bearers and salters in 18th century Scotland were "in a state of slavery or bondage ... for life, transferable with the collieries or salt works."
One reference by Gairdner (1898, vol. xv, p.325) documents shipment from the Lincolnshire coast to Norway in 1544; links between Gypsies in Britain and Scandinavia during the 16th century are dealt with in more detail by Bergman (1964:13ff.). In 1547, Edward VI instituted a law (I Edward VI, c.3) which required that
they be seized ... and branded with a V on their breast, and then enslaved for two years. Such slaves could be legally chained and given only the worst food; they could be driven to work by whips. If no master could be found, they were to be made slaves of the borough or hundred or employed in road work or other public service ... if the criminals ran away or were caught, they were to be branded with an S and made slaves for life (Kinney, 1973:45).
By Cromwell's time in the 1600s, it had become a hanging offense not only to be born a Gypsy, but for non-Gypsies to associate with Gypsies. Roberts referred to this in his 1836 treatise on the origins of the Gypsy people:
In the days of Judge Hale, thirteen of these unhappy beings were hanged at Bury St. Edmunds, for no other cause than that they were Gypsies; and at that time it was death without benefit of clergy for anyone to live among them for a month (1836:112) ... In England, many penal laws were enacted against them, and very great numbers were executed for no other crime but being Gypsies. At one Suffolk assize, no less than thirteen of these poor wretches were executed, legally convicted of being born of Gypsy parents (1836:171).
A law in the State of Maryland similarly penalizes non-Gypsies apprehended in the company of Gypsies: "all the property of members of any group with which [a Gypsy] may be traveling can be confiscated and sold to pay any fine a court may levy against the arrested Gypsy" (Logan, 1976). The same is true in Indiana, where "it shall be ... unlawful for any person or persons associating or consorting with any such wandering or nomadic band of Gypsies to subsist ... having no visible means of earning a fair, honest and reputable livelihood" (State of Indiana Statutory Regulations, Section 1; quoted in Marchbin, 1939:151-152).
*I am entirely indebted for this reference to my colleague David Smith, who takes full credit for discovering this important source. It has previously been believed that the British Isles were one of the few places in which Gypsies did not make use of such passes.