Celebrity genealogy series. Controversial artist Tracey Emin sets out to learn about her East End roots, and is shocked and delighted to discover an unusual heritage.
Browse content similar to Tracey Emin. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Tracey Emin is one of Britain's most famous artists.
For over 20 years, her work has shocked the world
as she explores her most private feelings of love, loss
and sexual adventure.
Because I work within my art,
because I work constantly going back to my own past,
I thought it might be quite interesting to see
where the past actually came from.
But now I'm really nervous about it and I'm not sure
if I'm doing the right thing.
The fact that I'm never going to have any children
means that I'm the end of my line.
After me, I stop. I'm the last of my kind. There is no more.
If when I find out that I come from the most loving, simple,
ordinary, lovely suburban family
that anyone could ever want to come from,
I think I'll go and slit my wrist!
-I think it will just drive me insane. I'd think how the
Oh, sorry. How the hell did that happen?
Tracey's art takes many different forms.
Over the years, she's become as much a part of the spectacle as her work,
making her the "bad girl" of British art.
Now at 48, Tracey's first major retrospective
has just opened in London.
I'm at a really good point at the moment
and I have a massive museum show on at the Hayward Gallery.
There's about 1,000 visitors a day going which is fantastic.
For the first time in my life, I've had overall, really good reviews
and a lot of positive response about the work.
Tracey lives and works in Spitalfields in East London.
She knows that her mother's roots are in the East End.
But her father, Enver, who passed away last year,
came from further afield.
My dad's Turkish-Cypriot.
His grandfather was from Africa, from the Sudan,
he was a slave in the Ottoman Empire.
He was given his freedom in Cyprus.
That's as far as I can go back on my dad's side.
But, on the other hand, my mum's family, I don't know anything
about them apart from the fact they come from the east end of London,
and no-one volunteered information while growing up.
You'd think a lot of people would say "Oh, your great-grandfather" or this or that,
but there was never any information.
My mum is so excited.
She's beside herself because she doesn't know anything either.
-Quick, it's windy.
-It's really windy out there. How are you?
-Good, thanks, yeah.
Tracey's mother, Pam, now lives in Kent.
She's visiting Tracey to help her begin her search.
-Do you want a cup of tea?
I've brought photographs along.
That's a picture of Nanny May. I thought you'd like to see that one.
That was Nanny when she was young.
That's a brilliant photo.
And Mum. Fantastic, she was.
That must have been around in the '30s, I think, cos of what everybody's wearing.
It's very beautifully dressed.
-Nanny had impeccable manners.
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
-Mm. So does her daughter.
-But not her granddaughter!
I don't know about her daughter's daughter!
-that was you and Nanny.
-Yeah, that's me, Nanny and a kitten.
You two would spend hours together, wouldn't you?
You'd both lay in bed, she'd tell you little stories.
You were very, very close. Very close to her.
-But since I was a little girl I was very close.
I think you'll like this. This is your nan's dad.
My grandad. Harry Hodgkins.
He was lovely.
That's in the summerhouse at the bottom of their garden.
-It's a sweet little house.
-I'd like to know what was inside that summerhouse.
-There was all sorts of things.
He had a little bit of a workshop one end,
and Nanny had little chairs and...
where they used to have their cups of tea.
-But where was it?
-In East Ham still.
Which is only about a mile and a half from here.
-So I haven't gone very far, have I?
It took you how many years? 48 years?
48 years to come back to where I came from! Brilliant(!)
And this one, this is Grandad, Harry Hodgkins, and one of his sons.
-That's when he was much younger.
-Oh, gosh, yeah.
Wow! He looks handsome there.
-He was lovely, wasn't he?
-Very dapper looking.
Mm. This is Grandad Harry Hodgkins' birth certificate.
If you read it, they've named him "Henry".
So he was born on the 10th May, 1877
at 100, Parnell Road, Bow.
And his dad was Joseph Henry Hodgkins
and the mother was Susan Hodgkins, formerly Price.
But I'd like to know what they did for an occupation
and how they spent their time and how creative they were.
The only thing I know about Grandad Harry Hodgkins,
that he worked at Beckton Gasworks. That's all I know about him.
-Right. Mysterious man.
My mum might know more than she lets on.
But I don't think that she does.
My fear is that I'm opening up a can of worms
that I shouldn't have touched.
I might be delving into something which doesn't need to be delved into.
Tracey has traced her East End ancestry
back to her great-grandfather, Henry,
and his parents, Joseph and Susan.
We're in the East End now and I haven't gone very far from home.
I've just gone up the road! So it's not much of a journey really.
Great-grandfather was born here, a mile away from where I live.
I'm expecting East End, hard, gritty, 19th century poverty...
you know, ten people living in one room somewhere,
just round the corner from where I live.
Tracey's first stop is the local history library
in Tower Hamlets, East London.
To find out more about Henry,
she's meeting archivist Malcolm Barr-Hamilton.
I've got my great-grandfather's birth certificate with me.
OK, let's take a look.
Henry Hodgkins, born 1877 in 100, Parnell Road in Bow.
-Shall we try... Have a look at the 1881 Census, see what we can find?
And we'll search a year or so either side.
Ah, um, well...
There's no matches.
It says there's no matches. The person's probably there somewhere
but for some reason, it's been mis-indexed
or the numerator's written the name down wrong.
-We can go for a wild card search.
Well, we can type in "Henry",
and we'll keep the "kins" but we'll put an asterisk first.
-But you'll get thousands.
-Ah, let's see.
So we'll keep "1877" and "Bow", and let's see what we get.
We've got a Henry Hotchkins, spelled, H-O-T-C-H-K-I-N-S,
born about 1877, Bow, Middlesex.
-That looks like our man.
-Yeah, that's him, yeah, must be.
Right, let's view the image.
Here we've got him. Henry Hotchkins, age four.
He's there with various brothers and sisters
but they're described as "visitors".
They're living with Henry Price, Elizabeth Price.
-That's their grandparents.
-Is that... Let's have a look.
Well, it must be because, um, er, Susan Hodgkins...
-was formerly Price.
-Yes, that's them.
-So I wonder why they didn't live together.
-I wonder why?
Shall we try having a look for the 1891 Census,
see if we can pick him up on there?
It's surprising how many "Henry Hodgkins" there are.
This one's about the right date, 1878...
..and it's some sort of institution.
It says "Kerrison Reformatory School"
and here we have "Inmate of Reformatory."
Sounds like borstal.
Does sound a bit like that, doesn't it?
Sounds like something happened by which they're trying to change his character.
How old is he here about?
"Age last birthday, 13."
It's difficult to see cos it's been crossed through.
I feel really sorry for him now.
It's in Thorndon in Suffolk.
Sounds to me that this is a charity of some sort,
-perhaps run by somebody called "Kerrison".
Yeah. Up in Suffolk.
So it might not be as negative as it looks at first.
It could actually be a good thing.
It's the word "inmate" which is a bit scary.
Yeah, that is a bit... Negative connotations, doesn't it?
-But maybe that was just the language of the time.
I hope it isn't borstal, I really do.
Are you going to take yourself off to Suffolk?
Yeah, to reformatory school!
I feel very protective over Henry,
especially when I realised he was 13 in this reform school.
So I'm hoping, fingers crossed, that it was actually sort of like an education establishment,
maybe some... this is in my wildest dreams,
some rich patron plucked boys out of these desperate areas
that were intelligent and tried to give them an education, that's what I'm hoping.
The photographs of my great-grandfather, Henry -
he looks incredibly smart and incredibly distinguished.
So it seems like he did OK.
He doesn't look like he come from like an East End slum.
Tracey has travelled 70 miles to Ipswich.
She's meeting archivist Louise Clarke at the Suffolk Records Office.
I'm hoping you can help me find out about my great-grandfather, Henry.
Well, perhaps if we just go back a little bit
and see why Henry ended up in a reformatory.
We've got here a copy of a newspaper.
It's from the Stratford Express, March 28th, 1891.
There's details here about Henry.
"Henry Hodgkins, 13, of 12, Napper Road, East Ham,
"and Arthur Hodgkins, 11 of 13, Napper Road, brother", as well.
-"..were charged with..."
-Er, that's "stealing".
The copy goes very bad but we do have a transcript here.
Unfortunately, the brothers were accused of stealing.
Um, so we're down to there.
"Were charged with stealing
"since the 27th incident of an occupied house at number one,
"Chamnon Terrace, Bonny Downs, two brass taps,
"the property of Thomas Young..."
Oh, it gets worse.
"Prisoners were apprehended by Patrick Kelly..."
Good old Patrick.
"..Prisoners' father, having given the lads a very bad character."
It sounds like the father didn't defend them or anything.
I think that's probably right.
"Mr Burton told him he seemed very anxious to get rid of the lads,
"but he would have to pay for their support
"if they were sent to reformatory.
"Henry Hodgkins was sentenced to ten days imprisonment,
"and afterwards to be sent to a reformatory until the age of 16.
"As the younger prisoner, Arthur seemed to have had acted
"under the influence of his older brother, he would be discharged."
So Henry actually went to prison for ten days.
-He did. And that's quite common.
-Would that have been an adult..?
Yeah, of course. It would be in an adult prison.
So you can imagine a lad of 13, and actually you find lads
of only nine and ten being sent to the adult prison.
Juvenile crime was considered an endemic problem
in mid-19th century Britain.
And large pockets of what is now East London
were notorious for child crime.
Until the late 1840s, no distinction was made between children and adults
by the criminal justice system.
But as the number of child prisoners continued to increase,
reaching over one third of the entire prison population,
there was growing concern that mixing children with hardened criminals
would only lead to more criminality.
In 1854, the Youthful Offenders Act stipulated that under 16-year-olds
convicted of a repeat offence could be sent to a reformatory school
after a short stint of up to 14 days in an adult prison.
The Act established Child Reform in Britain's justice system.
The thing that really upsets me here is about Henry's father.
-Er, where does it say, um...
"Prisoner's father, having given the lads a very bad character."
So he must have stood in court and said, "Away with them."
-It's quite a strange turn of phrase, isn't it?
You just wouldn't expect a parent to say that.
But there was a strange thing.
The children didn't live with their parents when they were small.
We read that on the earlier Census.
-So I feel quite... I mean, where was the mother, for example?
From this, we can't tell.
-Um, perhaps if we have a look a bit more about what happened
-to Henry in the reformatory.
We have quite a lot of records here relating to the reformatory.
So this is the Suffolk Reformatory admissions register,
and it is indexed so have a look and see if we can find Henry.
Now, where is he then? Yeah, he's here, right at the top.
If we go through and look for folio 43.
-And this is what his character is and previous convictions, as well.
-So we've got, um, "read and write imperfectly".
Whatever that means.
And, um, "one..." I can't read it...
"Once for stealing from a shop."
-It's "once he was birched".
So that's "once birched for stealing from a shop."
That means he was whipped.
So previously he had had a run-in with the law.
-And, yes, then we have his father.
"Wall End, East Ham.
"Four children. Dependant. Mother dead."
-The mother's dead at this point, yeah.
-So when did their mum die?
Well, we do have a copy of her death certificate.
From that, we should be able to understand what happened to the family.
I'm now hoping to God this is a natural death.
Let's see. "15th November, 1890".
-It was only a few months...
-Before he stole the taps.
"Wife of Joseph Henry."
And then we've got the cause of death.
She had a collapse, and that says "postpartum haemorrhage."
-So she was having another baby?
The other thing which I find really shocking is could you imagine
if now two little boys, 13 and 11,
did a crime like that after their mum had just died giving birth.
They'd never be sent away.
Life was obviously very hard at that point.
I feel really sorry for him though. Poor little thing.
I've learnt more bad news.
It's actually gone from bad to very, very bad.
My great-granddad, Henry, he was caught stealing two taps
with his brother, but this was only three months after...
three or four months after his mother had died in childbirth.
Um, their dad doesn't seem like a very nice character,
doesn't seem to be very caring, and it wouldn't surprise me at all
if the father hadn't put them up to it in the first place.
It all sounds a bit Fagin, a bit East End Fagin.
Tracey is on her way to the reformatory school
Henry was sent to in 1891 when he was 13 years old.
It's an hour's drive from Ipswich in the heart of the Suffolk countryside.
It occurred to me how amazing it must have been for him.
I know what the countryside is.
But he must have never have seen it before in his life
and it just must have been shocking for him
to see this vast amount of openness and sky and space and everything
compared to the density of like East End Victorian London.
Please God, let something positive happen today
cos it's been so sad so far. It's just got worse and worse and worse.
Hundreds of boys from all over the south east of England
were sent to Kerrison Reformatory.
Reformatories lasted until the 1920s
when they were turned into approved schools for young offenders.
Today, the original building still stands,
but is now a conference centre.
Tracey is meeting Doctor Lawrence Goldman,
who's been looking into Henry's case.
Well, Tracey, here we've got some documents
concerning the Kerrison Reformatory where your great-grandfather, Henry,
was based for three years,
between the ages of 13 and 16.
You can see here some photographs of the boys in Kerrison.
We're not quite sure of the date of this one...
and of the boys working in the fields.
It's fantastic, the difference between coming from the East End
and then coming here, just for me -
coming from the East End coming into the countryside.
He might not have been feeling fear. It might have been
more of a positive thing, that good things were going to happen.
I would hope so.
And that was the theory of it, that good things would happen.
That you'd take the children away from the vice of the city
and give them a chance in the fresh air.
Reformatories were originally established in France
and came to Britain in the 1840s.
Many were funded by local philanthropists
who paid for the building of around 65 reformatories across Britain.
Created as a radical alternative to prison for under 16-year-old
boys and girls, they were described as "moral hospitals"
and focused on teaching agricultural skills to wayward children
from inner city backgrounds.
The children were also given daily classes in reading,
writing and arithmetic.
There is a good document here, which is from a newspaper report of 1893,
which is actually whilst he's still here.
A little report on what it was like in the Kerrison Reformatory.
"There are 79 boys in this school today."
-So they're calling it a "school" which is nice.
Cos my fear before was that it was more like a borstal or like a punishment centre.
But now I understand, it totally is to...
someone says these boys aren't bad.
-Everything bad has happened to them but these boys have hope.
So it's good.
"All are in good health and look bright and thriving.
"The lads behaved extremely well.
"I'm glad to be able to report a steady progress.
"The handwriting is very good.
"Arithmetic is very well done.
"There was excellent order and a good tone generally among boys."
But he got, apparently, three hours of education a day.
Which is probably more than he would have had back home.
It's probably more than I had!
Henry's reformatory was founded in 1856 by Sir Edward Kerrison,
a wealthy local estate owner and philanthropist who lived nearby.
Kerrison's provided pupils with a farm in the school's grounds
so that they could learn to look after animals.
Each of the boys also had their own garden plot to tend.
-It wasn't all good because we've also got the punishment report book...
..I'm afraid to say!
You can see here names, er, and the offence...
..and the punishment.
-It's eight cuts with the cane.
One lad I'm afraid, "pilfering other boys' pockets..."
-Got "48 hours in a cell."
-In a cell.
Wow! 48 hours in a cell. I wonder what the cell was like.
There were cells here. I don't think he was taken to prison. But it tells you...
-I'm glad to say that Henry doesn't appear...
-..for the three years he's here. As far as we can see, when he was here,
he was a good boy.
Are you interested now in thinking about what happens to them,
er, as they move on in life?
Actually, we've got some of these admissions and discharge records
of some youngsters who were here.
-But you haven't got...
-Oh, yes, we have.
-Have you? Oh, brilliant.
Oh, yes, we have actually. Oh, yes.
And you can see some interesting examples here.
Boys from reformatory, some would go into the services,
but many went into the navy, some into the army and so forth.
This is a boy called Albert Lewis.
"This lad stayed for some weeks after his term of detention."
He was being referred to emigrate to Canada...
But his father didn't want him to go. His dad wanted him to go back to Holloway.
But if we read on, for 1894,
something rather interesting has happened, about 18 months later.
"Report from the commissionaire of the police added in December, 1894"
that he actually... this guy, Albert,
actually didn't go back to Holloway, he actually went to Canada.
Yeah. So it looks like, some months later, he did make it to Canada,
even though he went back to London first. Nearly 10,000 children
who were in reformatories from the 1850s up to the First World War
were sent to Canada to go out and farm and work there.
So this was quite common.
In the late 19th century, Canada was a dominion of the British Empire.
The Government was desperate to attract immigrants who could turn
the vast empty prairies into farmland.
Henry, and the thousands of other boys and girls
who'd been educated at reformatory schools, were ideal candidates
because of their new-found skills in agriculture and working the land.
Canada offered the chance for many children from deprived backgrounds
to start a new life overseas.
Between 1870 and 1925, around 80,000 young people were shipped to Canada
to work as labourers or servants to wealthy families.
Many of them were under 14 years old.
Some as young as nine.
In some cases, children were sent by the Government to Canada
without their parents' consent.
And now we come to your great-grandfather.
-His page looks very little.
-Well, these are just copies, I'm afraid.
They're not the originals.
"And was sent home..."
"Was sent home to his father on 29th May."
"He had a wish to go to Canada but was..."
"..persuaded out of it by his friends."
That sounds like me!
I get persuaded by my friends all the time!
-But why was he persuaded?
-Well, wish we knew.
What friends? Who were these friends?
I suppose friends from back home. Friends from East Ham.
-No, it sounds like his horrible, horrible father.
Well, do you want to read on?
-OK. Cos now we go into 1894, a year later.
Yeah. "Report from the commissioner of police was," um...
Oh, no. Bloody hell. That's Henry, isn't it?
It is Henry.
"..was arrested for burglary on 7th September,
"sentenced to three months hard labour."
I can't read that.
"When arrested, he was..."
"..residing at number three..."
"Helman Road", East bloody Ham.
I'm upset about that. Gets worse.
-What do you think? Perhaps he should have gone to Canada?
-That's not good.
-Would have been a different story for everyone if he'd gone.
I wouldn't be sitting here, would I? But it's not good.
I want some good news. Everything gets worse and worse, doesn't it?
I always thought the kind of devious side of my family
was on my dad's side, you know.
But now it's looking like it's on my mother's side.
I don't...don't like it at all.
Well, yeah, maybe. I'm afraid to tell you
that three months hard labour meant going actually to an adult prison.
Cos this of course, was a boys' reformatory.
-And once you get to 16, it means adult prison.
-So which prison did he go to, do you know?
It's Chelmsford Prison. Not so far from here.
But that's where he did three months of hard labour.
Oh, good news is I know where I'm going next now. I'm going to Chelmsford Prison!
It's really bad.
I'm disappointed, really disappointed
in what I found out today, cos I was hoping there was going to be a bit of light here.
And the fact that someone's been given an opportunity for education, something fantastic
in the Victorian era, and to see that the other boys had done so well, gone to Canada,
done this, done that, and the disappointment in Henry
that I'm feeling at the moment is quite devastating.
But also his life, so sad.
I think he had the most incredibly bad, awful upbringing.
'I don't like Henry's father very much.
'Intuitively, I feel that.
'And I think Henry could have done so much better
'if he wasn't influenced by him.'
Today, Chelmsford is still a men's prison.
The building has barely changed since Henry was sent here in 1894.
Tracey is meeting Professor of Criminology, David Taylor,
to discover what life was like for Henry behind bars.
Well, Tracey, I've managed to unearth some documents
which relate to your great-grandfather, Henry Hodgkins,
which I think you might find of some interest.
This is the offence that he's been charged with...
Burglary. He breaks in at night.
What did he take?
If you see here, he's got packets of cocoa, a violin and a bow,
two concertinas, but also a purse and £4 in money.
Well, the violin's pretty interesting.
It is. I'm not sure what market there was for second-hand violins
at the time, but it's a strange collection, isn't it?
But also, in my family, a lot of people play guitar.
-And have played musical instruments.
Maybe he actually wanted the violin to play.
-He might well have done, yeah.
-The £4 was quite a lot of money to steal.
That is a lot of money, when a pound a week
was reckoned to be a good sum of money to support a family.
And what would the hard labour have been, then?
Well, that's right. It can take various forms here.
It could be the treadwheel.
This looks like some barbaric torture.
Well, absolutely. If you think of the treadwheel
-as a giant hamster's wheel...
The wheel is set at a regular speed, it's going at 32 feet a minute
and the men are just walking on that, which they had to work on
for six hours a day.
There we are, there's a similar shot and it was estimated
that each step was the equivalent of a three foot rise, which is huge.
And they have to do 8,640 feet in a day.
They had two stints. Three hours in the morning.
At the end of that three hour stint, that's the equivalent
of climbing Ben Nevis, and you then had to do it again in the afternoon.
Look at this chap here. He's obviously struggling...
-Yeah, he's slipping.
-..to keep up.
That sounds just like some sort of medieval punishment.
It doesn't actually sound like productive work.
It sounds like the... You know, you're really unlucky if you got that one.
Late Victorians believed in prisons being punitive and deterrent.
It's supposed to put you off.
This is not an enjoyable experience.
So hard labour, in one form or another,
was meant to be precisely that.
Hard labour was an everyday part of prison life in the 1890s.
And the majority of male prisoners would have endured it.
It took various forms depending on which prison you were sent to.
Inmates could be forced to smash rocks with a sledgehammer
for hours on end.
Or turn a back-breaking crank machine thousands of times.
The treadwheel, which Henry experienced at Chelmsford Prison,
was designed in 1818 by William Cubitt,
specifically as a form of punishment for prison inmates.
As well as hard labour, Henry, along with his fellow inmates,
were subject to what was known as "the separate system".
Prisoners were completely isolated from one another,
to stop them forming any bonds.
Even during the prison's church services,
they were not allowed to make eye contact with one another.
These practices are known to have driven some inmates insane.
What upset me was the fact that he ended up in prison
when so many other boys at the reform school
went and did really good things.
And I was hoping that he would go off and do something good.
It takes him a little longer to do it.
If we look through Henry's career,
as far as we know, he never offends again.
His experience in prison is not going to be a happy one.
That hard labour I've just described is tough.
But he didn't commit suicide, he didn't go mad.
People went insane in prison.
He came out, he didn't offend again.
In fact, he settles down, doesn't he?
-My mum told me that he was such a lovely, kind man.
But I don't think my mum ever knew that he was in prison
-or any of his past, you know.
He must have kept that all to himself.
Henry's three months in Chelmsford Prison
were the last he ever spent in jail.
After prison, he returned to East Ham once more.
Six years later, he married Sarah Davis
and worked for decades at the local gasworks.
He stayed in the East End for the rest of his life
and died there at the age of 85.
Before Tracey leaves, David has some more information relating to
another member of Tracey's family.
We've talked a lot about Henry, but did you realise Henry
wasn't the only one of your forebears who was in prison, sadly?
-But it might explain...
It might actually explain some of what we have been talking about.
Well, I didn't trust Joseph in the slightest.
Well, isn't that interesting, cos you knew nothing about this.
Well, here he is, if I can find him,
here is another calendar of prisoners.
And here's Joseph Hodgkins, a labourer,
who has stolen 8cwt of fertiliser, sulphate of ammonia.
He sold it to a farmer and for that, he gets 12 months hard labour.
But this is 1881?
-But that's when that Census first came.
That's when the second Census was there
-and that's when the children lived with the grandparents.
So we've got an explanation, haven't we?
-Yeah. The dad wasn't there.
-So Joseph is not there...
Well, in fact, we have the Census returns which show...
quite difficult to read... but Susan is down here.
She has gone to live with her brother.
So what's happened is the main breadwinner is in prison,
no welfare state, so the burden of supporting the family
has been shared out.
-So his wife takes the youngest son, Arthur...
-..lives with her brother.
-I knew there was something odd, but I couldn't understand
why Henry was living with his grandparents. Didn't make any sense at all.
Joseph has obviously made quite a success of his life
cos he's a foreman at this factory.
So he's obviously a position of some responsibility.
But for whatever reason, he and a friend decide
to steal this fertiliser, and we're talking large quantities.
I mean 8cwt, half a ton.
As we saw in the calendar, he gets 12 months.
-I mean, that's quite a heavy sentence.
-At hard labour?
At hard labour.
But I think that reflects the fact that he is a foreman.
Here is a man who had a position of trust. He's breached that trust.
I had a little bit of hope a little while ago,
and now it turns out that it's not just my great-grandfather,
it's also my great, great grandfather. Long line of petty...
Actually, this isn't petty theft. This is...
-It's a bit more substantial...
But, yet again, as far as we know, he never offended again.
Here we have a copy of the relevant page
from the Census for 1881 which shows Joseph Hodgkins
to be a prisoner.
"Joseph Hodgkins, prisoner, married, 32."
He's 32 years old and he's in Illshaw, Warwickshire.
So where did you tell me your ancestors came from?
I don't... My ancestors come from the East End of London.
Well, apparently Joseph gives as his place of birth...
-As Illshaw, Warwickshire.
-..Illshaw Heath in Warwickshire.
I don't really understand it. It doesn't make sense at all.
I'm from the East End and it's where I feel really at home.
So I never would have imagined the middle of England
in all of my life, and if I end up in suburbia, I will go crazy.
I just think if I found myself in a cul-de-sac,
a really nice, middle class area of Warwickshire,
I'd just be going, "What's happening,
"I don't understand, I don't understand!"
Tracey is travelling to the birthplace
of her great, great-grandfather, Joseph Hodgkins.
Illshaw Heath is a small village,
20 miles from Warwick.
Tracey is meeting Paul Knight, a warden at St Patrick's Church
in the parish where Joseph was born.
-Hello, Tracey, welcome to St Patrick's.
-Do come in, we have something to show you.
-I've brought the 1881 Census.
-You've got the 1881 Census.
-So my great-grandfather,
is here - Joseph Hodgkins.
And it's said that he was born within this parish.
-I wondered if you had any documentation on that.
At Illshaw Heath, yes. Shows his age as 32,
which puts his birth round about 1849.
Censuses are quite notorious for not having ages quite right.
So if we look a bit before then and try and find his baptism
in about 1848,
that should show us his baptism here.
Here's Hodgkins, there.
Oh, there it is, yes.
-Joseph, son of Joseph and Anne Hodgkins of Illshaw Heath.
And that Joseph was your great, great-grandfather.
In this column is always the occupation of the father.
-The only thing I can liken it to is a witch's broomstick.
It was a bundle of twigs,
tied round a stale.
-So he made witches' broomsticks!
-Runs in the family!
-So perhaps they made these besoms
and travelled about selling them around the countryside.
-Rather like travelling salesmen.
Look, but there's another besom-maker here, too.
Yes. That's another part of the family - could have been cousins.
That's Leticia, daughter of Charles and Harriet.
Charles was also a besom-maker.
-Maybe the whole family were besom-makers.
-They could have been making them for the whole area, I suppose.
I wouldn't imagine you would have two lots of people doing this.
And being in Illshaw Heath, they were probably neighbours.
-I've never heard the word besom. It's a good word, isn't it?
My family were besom-makers!
I'm absolutely thrilled and delighted
to know that my ancestors actually made something,
which means they had their own craft, their own skill, cottage industry,
they didn't work for someone else, they worked for themselves.
And I kind of like that, because I work for myself.
Tracey has traced her family back one more generation
to another Joseph Hodgkins,
her great, great, great-grandfather.
Tracey wants to know more about the life of the Hodgkins family
when they lived in Warwickshire.
She's meeting social historian Simon Evans
in the nearby village of Tamworth.
I've just come from Illshaw Heath and found out that, erm,
my great, great, great-grandfather Joseph
and his parents were besom-makers.
-Which is like broomsticks.
-That's all I found out, really.
And that they came from around here. So if you had more information...
I guess your Joseph is this one here, in the 1851 Census.
This is an extract from the Census. That's him, there, besom-maker.
And these are all his children beneath it.
Yes, so there's Joseph,
Ann, Thomas, Riley, and is that Charles?
I think it is, yes. And then over the pages,
-there's one more, Joseph.
-Your great, great-grandfather.
-My great-grandfather's, Henry's, father...
What struck me about this was that each of the children was born
in a different place.
This looks like Worcester.
-Somewhere different, beginning with M.
-Tamworth, that's a T.
-But maybe he was travelling with the besoms.
I've got some documents here - this is from the baptism register
for the same family,
for the same period, and there's one of these entries for each child.
-What about this one, then? Thomas, son of Joseph and Ann...
-What does this say?
-That says tramper.
-What's a tramper?
Someone who tramps with their wares, moves around with their wares.
A lot of people...a lot of small household goods were made
by families who then moved around selling them.
-That's what Gypsies do, it's called knocking.
You knock and you say, chamois leathers, dishcloths, or whatever.
You know, you sell housewares.
Now, he makes brooms, which is pretty houseware type of stuff.
I think you're quite right.
What we've probably got is a family of Gypsies.
In this area, there was a very high Gypsy population.
-Yep. I've got some photographs here.
We think of Gypsies as living in old, horse-drawn, wooden wagons.
-But in fact they didn't come about until 1870-1880.
Before that, travelling people and Gypsies were...
-tent-dwellers, so the chances...
I knew you were going to say that!
-It's come back to haunt you, Tracey.
This is where it's come from!
-Erm... And these are the kind of tents they lived in.
Bit like a Native American tepee. It's got a fireplace and chimney.
That is so beautiful.
And you see they're living in woodland settings,
which provides the raw materials for things like besoms and small crafts.
That is amazing.
Here's another one of a woodland worker, besom-maker.
-That is a besom-maker, isn't it?
-Probably, this is the brush...
-Which is exactly what your great, great, great grandfather did.
The definition of the term Gypsy has always been contentious,
and remains disputed today.
In the late 19th century,
Gypsies were understood to be nomadic people,
travelling in close-knit family groups and making an independent living
through trades such as tin-cutting, knife-sharpening and besom-making.
These Gypsy families would travel a circuit of countryside,
pitching their tents in woodland clearings and washing in local rivers.
The best known of the travelling people are the Romany Gypsies.
They are believed to have migrated from India to Europe as early as the 11th century.
When they first came to Britain they were mistakenly believed to be Egyptians.
So this may have given rise to the term "Gypsy".
What you see in these old pictures that I like is that even though it's tent dwelling,
it's hard, it's a tough life for gypsies like Joseph,
-but nevertheless, there's always this kind of...
And everything looks so tidy and so together and so... It's brilliant.
I did say at the beginning of this,
I wanted it to make some sense for me and now things make more sense.
It's a brilliant feeling. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!
I'm so happy. I'm so happy about this information.
And that's the kind of romantic side of it, the freedom of the open road
and the wind on the heath and that sort of thing. But of course, life was tough and life was hard.
There were people living, particularly in the wintertime,
when there was not much work to be done, you're living in your tent in the snow on the commons.
Young Joseph, even at an early age,
probably as he was getting to puberty or just before,
nine, ten or 11, would be there working next to his father,
making brooms in the woods and doing all those sorts of things.
So yesterday I was really angry with Joseph and now I see how,
against adversity, they had to grow up and survive.
It's the curious thing, cos although these people were an intrinsic,
an important part of the agricultural economy,
-nevertheless, they were still seen...
-But they still are.
-Exactly. And viewed with great suspicion.
In 1817, for instance, the magistrate issued an order.
All Gypsies should be rounded up and whipped.
There was constant persecution by the authorities.
As industrialisation took hold of Britain,
it became increasingly difficult for young Joseph's family to continue their travelling lifestyle.
Machines had made many of their handicraft skills redundant,
while their itinerant traditions came to be regarded as antiquated
and unhygienic by the emerging middle class.
By the time Joseph reached adulthood, a series of laws had been enacted
that prohibited Gypsies from camping on commons and highways,
marking out anyone who did so as a rogue or vagabond.
So have you got anything else?
Well, there's this marriage certificate of Joseph's.
Right, Joseph Henry Hodgkins.
-This is my great-grandfather's father?
And he marries Susan Amelia Price.
And so this is Henry Hodgkins' parents
and they've got married in, in London.
Indeed. In the parish of Bethnal Green and he was living...
-And she was living at 10 Morpeth Street.
So he didn't marry a travelling person, then?
No. And neither is he still here.
Yeah, he's moved, he's gone to Bethnal Green.
So he was, in a sense, going into a completely alien world.
So that would be very, very difficult.
So why did he leave?
That's a question.
Who knows? Maybe he had to make a choice between one or the other.
Well, the irony is that I'm actually standing
in the middle of a field in the countryside, but it's good.
I'm a gypsy.
But proper, proper gypsy. Beautiful gypsies.
Tents, travelling, broom-making, creative people.
So, I'm delighted, I'm really, really pleased. Couldn't be better.
And it turns out that Joseph,
my great-great grandfather, came from this tight-knit travelling community,
this nomadic people who lived in tents, you know?
That's how he grew up, that was his background.
And to go from this to go to the squalor of the East End,
Victorian London, it must have been hell, absolute hell.
So, I need to know why they left it.
Their, you know, way of life.
Was he ostracised from his family or something,
from his gypsy family?
What was it that made him move?
Before Tracey leaves Warwickshire,
she's heading to Warwick Records Office
to meet gypsy expert Eric Trudgill.
For the past few years Eric has been researching
gypsy genealogy across the UK.
So, Eric, yesterday I was given this.
It's the marriage certificate of Joseph Henry Hodgkins
to Susan Amelia Price and the really interesting thing for me
is that he gets married in Bethnal Green. So for me,
I'm kind of very confused about the leap
from the besom-making gypsies and the travelling.
Why would he go to Bethnal Green? What would have sent him there?
He's come a long way from home, that in itself is very interesting.
He's put a big distance
between himself and his family, geographically.
He's lying about his profession -
he calls himself an engine driver -
but he also lies about his father.
If you looked without knowing he was a gypsy, you wouldn't guess.
You'd assume he was non-gypsy, a gorger.
This is not gypsy-like behaviour. Family is so important to gypsies.
And loyalty as well.
Absolutely. It's families against the world.
It's almost the gypsy nation against the world
because they were victimised, likely to face hostility.
This guy is not just leaving his family by a big distance,
he's actually abandoning them. I bet he never went back.
And he's ashamed as well.
I think so.
He certainly, I would guess,
didn't tell his offspring that he was a gypsy.
No. I mean, nobody in my family knew.
So my grandmother didn't know, that's for sure.
He was obviously lying to everybody. Quite sad.
We could ask him. Do you want to have a look at him?
-You've got a photograph?
-Yeah. There he is.
How old would he have been there?
Well, he looks pretty ancient, doesn't he?
He lived to be 82.
-And who are these people, then?
-We don't know.
-These could actually be...
-Oh, they're family, I would think.
-Yeah, this could be my grandmother.
-Could be, yeah.
My nan had three sisters and there's four girls here.
So it is possible, isn't it?
Eric has one final document he wants to show Tracey.
So where you taking me to, Eric?
I'm going to show you something.
This. But you're going to have to help me.
You hold that and then walk backwards...
and look at your family tree.
Eric has traced Tracey's travelling ancestors back three generations,
from her great-great-grandfather Joseph.
Oh, my God! That's not short, is it?
I'm speechless, actually, that's what I am. For a change.
It's clear from the 1820s that your Hodgkins
are marrying into pretty elite Romany families.
So that down here, for example,
you've got Hesther marrying Thomas Boswell.
The Boswell clan were famous
and they commanded respect amongst other gypsies.
What would an elite gypsy family be? What would make them elite?
Language, that their Romany would be better than non-Romany gypsies,
who would only have a few words in most cases, probably.
Often wealth, often power.
Sometimes if you had a lot of sons then people didn't mess with you.
-You had respect.
But I think more important than almost anything was breeding.
If you were from an old family like the Boswells,
and certain branches of the Smiths, Bucklands and Lees.
And the Hodgkins as well?
The Hodgkins weren't really a very old family...
Then what made them able to marry well?
Were they all really sexy?
All really good looking, that's what it was!
-There must have been something.
-And had really good parties, yeah?
There must have been a reason that they got absorbed into major ones.
So this is the Joseph that comes to London
and had nothing to do with his gypsy heritage?
And marries Amelia Price?
But when you come from this long line of gypsies,
-and then you change your mind here...
You see, something really big must have gone on.
Joseph wasn't the only person to leave
the traditional gypsy stomping ground of the countryside.
Many travelling people were being drawn
to Britain's growing cities and their economic opportunities.
In 1880, there was believed to be 2,000 gypsies
camping in settlements across London, particularly in Notting Hill
in the west, Wandsworth in the south and Hackney in the east.
In some cases, whole families moved to the city,
but it appears that Joseph came alone.
Living mainly in tents and caravans, these migrants to the city
would survive by plying their original trades.
They would also supplement their incomes
by picking up casual work
on the emerging canal and railway building projects in the capital.
By the end of the 19th century, this kind of employment
would have absorbed many travelling people like Joseph all year round.
This is absolutely fascinating.
For me, it explains a lot of my ways or things,
intuitive things in me,
which I never understood before, or there wasn't an explanation.
I feel, looking at this, there is an explanation.
And the fact that I've come from this really amazing family,
makes me feel a much better person.
-You feel you've come home?
-Yeah, I feel good.
There is no indication that after Joseph left Warwickshire
he ever saw his gypsy family again.
Joseph died in London at the age of 82.
Before she leaves,
Tracey is going to visit a special spot that Eric has told her about.
Tinkers Lane is where Joseph lived with his siblings and parents
before putting his travelling life behind him for good.
Kind of place that I do actually find very beautiful
and very restful and very peaceful, and the idea of leaving here
and going to the East End right now, for me, is not even good,
let alone how Joseph must have felt when he ran away.
I mean, I suppose a lot of people go on this kind of journey hoping
that they're going to be related to King Arthur or something.
I'm really, really, really happy
to be related to that massive Hodgkins gypsy clan.
I wish we weren't leaving.
I wish we were staying.
It feels nice.
Yeah, finish there, otherwise I'll cry. I don't want to cry.
For over two decades, Tracey Emin's art has shocked the world. Her work explores love, loss and sexuality and draws deeply on her past. Tracey knows she will not have children of her own, so wants to look back and explore her lineage.
Tracey knows very little of her maternal line, and is keen to find out more about her East End roots. She discovers that her great-grandfather, Henry Hodgkins, had a tough, deprived upbringing which led him first to reform school and then to prison and the horrors of hard labour.
Delving back further, Tracey is shocked and delighted to discover an unconventional heritage which takes her away from the East End - one that she would never have imagined but which makes perfect sense.