At the same time, though, we're proud of our culture and like to share it with anyone who's interested." That can be seen from the way in which Gordon shows off the gleaming 1970s trailer homes that once housed his family.All stainless steel on the outside, and etched glass and polished wood on the inside, these palatial residences mirror the layout of the old horsedrawn wagons — only with three times the space."This is the Westmorland Star, the Rolls-Royce of trailers," says Gordon, patting his star exhibit on its extravagantly finned flanks."It's 21 feet long and it cost £21,000 in 1970 — all these windows are cut-glass, each one would cost thousands to replace. They always tell us, "Ooh, we've always wanted to look inside one, but would never have dared in real life.'"The public's nervousness towards gipsies is something that works both ways for the Boswells.
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No one goes out blind any more, looking for an end-of-lane to tie up in. And instead of going to the sort of gipsy camps the councils provide, which are all walled in by huge banks of earth, we go to stay with a gipsy family that is fixed in one place, like us."That it wasn't always thus is demonstrated by the collection of intricately painted old horsedrawn caravans ("wagons" is the gipsy term, "vardos" the Romany word) that form the centrepiece of the museum.
A century ago, these were full of Boswells, plying their various trades round the hamlets of Britain: the women selling lace and clothes pegs door-to-door, the men grinding knives out on the village green or providing seasonal labour for the farmers come fruit-picking time.
With some pride, Gordon demonstrates how families would make the most of the scenic but cramped conditions inside these tiny homes-on-wheels: how couches would slide out Continued overleaf From previous page and become beds, how every spare inch of space was used for storage.
And though built-in wood-burning stoves provided warmth, all water had to be fetched by hand, in stainless-steel water churns inlaid with the owner's name."D and L Smith — that's my sister Louise and her husband Dino," says Gordon, pointing to the inscription on the side of a churn.
"That's the best thing about this museum — we know where everything comes from and who owned it before it came here."Nor are the Boswells pernickety about allowing others access to those things.
Children from local schools and youth groups roam freely over the exhibits ("The caravans are great, but the fortune-teller's tent is a bit spooky," says one member of the 1st South and Creake Guides).
"We even let them eat their packed lunches in the wagons," says Gordon.
"By nature, we gipsies prefer to keep a low profile; we've learnt to keep our heads down over the years — and that's a long time, seeing as the first record of Romanies in England dates from 1550.
"That's the wooden cart my dad made for me when I was about six or seven," says Gordon (the younger) Boswell, pointing to a miniature yellow handbarrow displayed among the leather horse harnesses.