Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, , at sacred-texts.com
The earliest certain mention of their presence in England is this chance allusion in A Dyalog of Syr Thomas More, knyght (1529), bk. iii. ch. xv. In 1514 the king sent the lords to inquire into the death of Richard Hunne in the Lollards' Tower, and a witness appeared who owned to having said 'that he knew one who could tell who killed Hunne. "Well," quoth the Lords, "at the last, yet with much work, we come to somewhat. But whereby think you that he can tell?" "Nay, forsooth, my Lord," quoth he, "it is a woman. I would she were here with your Lordships now." "Well," quoth my Lord, "woman
or man is all one. She shall be had wheresoever she be." "By my faith, my Lord," quoth he, "an’ she were with you, she could tell you wonders, by God. I have wist her tell many marvellous things ere now." "Why," quoth the Lords, "what have ye heard her tell?" "Forsooth, my Lords," quoth he, " if a thing had been stolen, she would have told who had it. And therefore I think she could as well tell who killed Hunne as who stole a horse." "Surely," said the Lords, "so think we all, I trow. But how could she tell it--by the Devil?" "Nay, by my troth, I trow," quoth he, "for I could never see her use any worse way than looking into one's hand." Therewith the Lords laughed, and asked, "What is she?" "Forsooth, my Lords," quoth he, "an Egypcyan, and she was lodged here at Lambeth, but she is gone over sea now. Howbeit, I trow she be not in her own country yet, for they say it is a great way hence, and she went over little more than a month ago."'
It is quite Shakespearian, this scrap of dialogue; well, that is our earliest evidence for the presence of Gypsies in England. Eight years later, in 1522, the churchwardens of Stratton in Cornwall received twenty pence from the 'Egypcions' for the use of the church house; and some time between 1513 and 1524 Thomas, Earl of Surrey, entertained 'Gypsions' at his Suffolk seat, Tendring Hall. For all which, and eighty more similar notes of much interest, see Mr. H. T. Crofton's 'Early Annals of the Gypsies in England' (Gypsy Lore Journal, i. 5-24).