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For bohemians everywhere

Gipsy teas and syllabub

[Part three of five  excerpts from a February 1966 Hastings Observer article entitled ‘Bohemia For Gipsy Teas And Syllabub’, which explores the possibilities of how Bohemia got its name. Hastings Museum curator, Mr J. Mainwaring Baines, quotes a reference to Bohemia in the first Hastings Guide, published by John Stell in 1794, which mentions a farmhouse  called Bohemia, ‘famous for plenty of fine cream; on which account it is much frequented in the summer by tea and syllabub parties.’  A map published in 1783 shows Bohemy Farm and a reference to Bohemia is found in 1804 when the occupier was Benjamin Foster. ]  
It looks very much as if the farmhouse got this name [‘Bohemia’] because of the parties held there in Bohemian or gipsy fashion, that is, in the open air. It was a comfortable distance from the Hastings of its day, which was the Old Town valley and George Street, and the 1794 guide shows that it had attained some degree of popularity. It is worth noting that both Bohemia Hill and Bohemia Hollow at Harting, derive their name from being traditionally recognised as assembly places for gipsies. There is no such tradition here, but one can see how Foster’s farm got a new name from the ‘gipsy parties’ of visitors.
  But while we are about it, we might have a shot at tracing its early history long before the Cramps and the Fosters. And here a valuable clue emerges in 1831. it would be dull reading to go into all the owners and occupiers in the meantime, but one of them might be mentioned.
   A brief report in the old Sussex Weekly Advertiser, for 1814, says of it, ‘A very neat and well-furnished farm house in the occupation of Mr Vincent, late of the Bell Inn, Bexhill, is a much frequented resort of fashion. It commands delightful views of the Castle and the Priory, Fairlight and a wide expanse of the English Channel.’ No mention of the cream and syllabubs, one notices, but no Englishman worthy of the name, walks far afield, without making a hearty tea at the end of it.
 [Continued next week:‘Royal visit’ ]

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