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24 September 2014

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A Romany museum in Marden
The workshop. Last year the Brazil family in Marden opened a Romany Museum.
Frank and Garry Brazil in their workshop
Museum sign.

For many years they have been building and restoring horse drawn vehicles at their premises on the outskirts of the village and earned themselves a considerable reputation for their craftsmanship.

Over the years they have also undertaken lengthy research into their own family history and have amassed a substantial collection of personal historic photographs and other ephemera.

It was these personal interests together with a growing demand from schools and others for more information relating in Romany history and culture in the area that led to the decision to create a proper museum.

Garry Brazil.
Garry Brazil with a restored London Trolley

They already have an extensive collection of horse drawn caravans, including some very interesting early examples as well as other carts, traps and wagons that were traditionally used by Travellers.

They are also keen to ensure that their collection reflects more recent times and are in the process of acquiring motor drawn trailers built by companies like Vickers who specialised in the Gypsy market.

This is important because Romany culture requires living accommodation to be organised in a specific way to comply with traditions relating to hygiene, cleanliness and food preparation. As well as the layout, traditional styles of decoration have also been carried through from the old vardos to the modern Gypsy trailers.

They hope to continue to expand the museum and to develop the facilities to show how life on the road was lived by setting up camps as they would have been in horse drawn days. As well as the outdoor exhibits they also plan to add a study room in which talks, slide shows and films can be shown.

Although the project is still in its infancy they have already attracted visitors from around the world. This is in part due to the uniqueness of the enterprise which is one of only two such museums in the country.

In the yard.
At the museum in Marden

There are several places which hold collections of Gypsy wagons but the Marden Museum aims to become a comprehensive centre dealing with all aspects of Romany history and culture.

Now that life on the road is but a distant memory for the majority of Gypsy families it is ever more important to sustain the culture in its new sedentary form.

Museums such as this will play an important part in reinforcing this process.

The museum is still being developed and is very much a working environment, if you want to ensure that there will be someone there to receive you, it's best to phone first.

Howland Road, Marden Kent TN12 9DH 01622 831681

For those further north Gordon Boswell's museum is well worth a visit.

Clay Lake, Spalding, Lincolnshire, PE12 6BL

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