Granny Boswell: Cornwall’s Gypsy Queen

There are some women in history that I really wish I could meet and Granny Boswell, Gypsy Queen, would be one of them.

Tregerest Chapel, Sancreed


Granny Boswell was of course not always a granny, Ann Boswell was born in 1813. She and her husband, Ephraim, locally known as the King of the Gypsies, are said to have come from Tipperary, Ireland.  In 1861 however she gave birth to the first of her six children in a ten on Kirland Road, Bodmin.

ann boswell
Ann Boswell

I know this because Ann and Ephraim had their new daughter, Love Unity Boswell, baptised and the circumstances of the family were recorded in the register.  This is quite strange by the way, Ann appears to be in her later 40s when her children are born, not impossible but very unusual.


Ann and Ephraim were gypsies and made their living on the move, Ephraim was at times a labourer or a cane worker and at others a cabinet maker.  When family settled in Helston Ann soon became a bit of a celebrity.  She was considered the local Wise-Woman and people went to her for advice, curses and charms. (A curative bag of black spiders on your bedpost was just the thing apparently.)

Ann was a diminutive 5’1″ tall, had a wicked tongue and a taste for drink, a story confirmed by the Bodmin Prison Register which has Ann imprisoned on at least 3 occasions for being drunk.  (I might add that this took place while she was in her 80s/90s and just for 7 days at a time.)

But there is however one story about her which I just love.

In around 1906 Ann was leaving a pub in Helston one day when a motor-car, perhaps the first she had seen, was coming down the high-street.  Ann was fascinated and stepped out into its path to get a closer look.  The driver, agitated by the old woman blocking his route, rudely sounded his horn.  Ann was furious and brought forth a torrent of abuse, cursing the man and his vehicle, saying they would never make it out of Helston.  By all accounts the car only made it to the end of the road before breaking down, eventually it had to be towed away by horses.

For more wonderful Cornish characters try: Who was Pirate John ‘Eyebrows’ Thomas?  or Anthony Payne: A Real Cornish Giant


14 thoughts on “Granny Boswell: Cornwall’s Gypsy Queen

  1. Anne Guy May 9, 2016 / 7:31 am

    What A feisty and formidable old lady!


  2. John May 30, 2016 / 9:30 pm

    Was the women in Peaky Blinders of the same name based on her?

    Liked by 1 person

    • esdale77 May 30, 2016 / 10:59 pm

      Ooo how interesting!? I have no idea, I haven’t watched it myself, do they seem similar?


  3. CadyLuck Leedy October 21, 2016 / 5:01 pm

    I have some of those names in my family tree! Love, Unity and such…….. folks from Ireland, gotta love ’em!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sue April 22, 2017 / 12:19 pm


    Granny Boswell is my great granmother, I must of inherited her road rage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • esdale77 April 22, 2017 / 8:47 pm

      Haha! 🙂 lovely! Do you have any other stories about her? She sounds a wonderful woman!


  5. Sue April 23, 2017 / 3:07 pm

    Sorry she was my great great grandmother on my mother’s side, my nan Eliza Paul (when she was a young girl still living at home, who was one of many) used to be told to go to granny Boswells to give her a helping hand, I remember my nan telling me she never liked going as granny Boswell used to hit my nan around the legs with a stick, for no apparent reason. From what I have been told she certainly was a force to be reckoned with.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. carlymarie9412 March 12, 2018 / 5:04 pm

    I want to be this woman in every single way shape and form

    Liked by 1 person

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