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Gypsies say farewell to Granny Pearls'

PUBLISHED: 16:53 20 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:43 25 August 2010

RESPECT: A horse-drawn hearst led the cortege for Rayney Lee.

RESPECT: A horse-drawn hearst led the cortege for Rayney Lee.

HUNDREDS of family members and friends paid their respects at an elaborate funeral for a descendant of the 'Queen of the Gypsies' Rayney Lee.

HUNDREDS of family members and friends paid their respects at an elaborate funeral for a descendant of the 'Queen of the Gypsies' Rayney Lee.

A horse-drawn hearse, carrying floral tributes, including a caravan made of flowers, led a procession through Belvedere to All Saints Church for a funeral service last Wednesday.

Mrs Lee, 89, was the great, great granddaughter of 'Queen of the Gypsies' Rosie Lee, who was famed for reading the fortune of King George V.

She regularly told fortunes herself with a crystal ball and lived in a traditional wagon on the Belvedere Marshes until the floods in 1953 when she settled in Eardley Road, Belvedere.

Her granddaughter, Rose Redworth, told the Times: "It was a hard, exciting life she led, and she was very respected and well known by us all.

"She always wore two diamond clutches at the side of her head, with her hair in ringlets - a very smart lady. We called her 'Granny Pearls'."

Mourners left colourful floral tributes including a caravan, a rainbow, a horse shoe, and a book with words spelt out in heather and the black limousines flew the national gypsy flag.

Mrs Lee had spent many of her years travelling the roads of Kent picking hops and fruit, through which she met her husband, Belcher, who passed away 30 years ago.

A wake was held at the Masonic Halls in Dartford after she was buried alongside her husband in Brook Street Cemetery, Erith.

Mrs Lee had 10 children, six of whom survived, who she brought up on the Belvedere Marshes.

She met and curtsied for the Queen who visited the devastated site shortly after the disaster.

From that point the family settled into a house and developed a business selling carpets and rugs.

Mrs Redworth, 41, of Picardy Road, Belvedere, said her grandmother had been a "true Romany Gypsy", having spent her life telling fortunes and selling heather and lucky charms.

However at the age of 85, Mrs Lee fell and broke her hip leading to a decline in health.

Mrs Redworth added: "It's been a great honour to help my mother Rose Mitchell to arrange this elaborate funeral.

"Nana Rayney loved a wedding but she also loved a funeral. Today was a reflection of her family, her friends, rainbows, glitter, diamonds and pearls."

She leaves behind four surviving children Levi, Charlie, Rose and Wally.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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