THE REVEREND SAMUEL FOX M.A.
The Reverend Samuel Fox M.A. who was born on 11th February 1801 and died 7th September 1870 was the son of Edward Fox of Derby. He started his education at Derby School and his name and date of 1816 is one of hundreds to be found carved on the walls and panels of the old school building in St. Peter's Churchyard.
In October 1821 he proceeded to Pembroke College, Oxford, where apparently his career was not crowned with the kind of distinction that usually falls to the lot of studious and scho¬larly men - indeed there is no mention of him in any university class list. He left in 1825 and three years later became an M.A. having in the meantime prepared himself for ordination and probably taken Holy Orders. In 1829 he accepted the curacy at Morley and married in the 1830s, succeeding to the livings of Morley and Smalley in 1844.
He is described as one of the most learned Anglo-Saxon scholars of the day, and wrote many books on the subject, and his achievements led in due course to his election as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and secured for him the esteem and friendship of the pioneer of Anglo-Saxon study in England, Dr. J. Bosworth, (also a Derbyshire man) being born at Etwall and edu¬cated in the neighbouring village of Repton.
He had a lifelong interest in gypsies, al¬though his published works apparently contain no hint of this, but he did not seriously continue his gypsy studies after about 1840.
Several years after his death two notebooks were discovered among his literary remains, con¬taining Romani vocabularies set out side by side with Bryant's Glossary for 1785. These were pre¬served by his daughter Miss Anna Fox.
The earlier notebook is entitled "A vocabulary of the Zingara or Gypsey Language" - the second and lar¬ger one bears the same title but has several additions, including a preface and a shorter list of Romani equivalents taken from 'Viney' Boswell at Smalley. The preface with which the larger of the two notebooks begins reveals that the Smalley vocabulary 'was commenced in consequence of an encampment being made near the village of Smalley in the winter of 1832-3. The writer of these remarks we are told, frequently visited them (the gypsies) and sat with them round their Everlasting fire - they were remarkably well conducted and three or four females and as many men attended divine worship at Smalley Chapel'. The name of the tribe was Boswell and the head of it, one Lawrence was looked upon as King of the Gypsies but the family themselves laughed at the idea, and asserted that no gypsy tribe lay claim to the distinction of Royalty. However the Derby Mercury records Lawrence Boswell's death and 'as proof that he was of some consequence among the fraternity, many tribes of gypsies from distant quarters assembled to bid him a last farewell'. The words recorded from Vaini (Viney) Boswell by Samuel Fox were obtained af¬ter the preface to the second notebook had been written and it is thought that the most likely date is 1839 for on April 7th of that year Samuel Fox baptised at Smalley, Cornelius grand¬son of Vaini Boswell.
Miss Fox recalls that the Boswells used to camp in a lane near Morley in the late 1840s or early 1850s, and she was often taken by her father when a child to see them. There were two brothers, Moses and Aaron Boswell, but it was Moses and his family who came to Morley most frequently. As a parish priest Samuel Fox was conscien¬tious and thoroughly capable, whilst his kind¬ness, graciousness and sensibility, and his occasional'gleams of humour' must have made his tall, slightly stooping figure a welcome sight to most of his parishioners.
He rendered a lasting service to Morley by undertaking a much needed restoration of its an¬cient and interesting church, a work very near to his heart, for he was a close student of ec¬clesiastical architecture, though he never wrote on it save for his "History of Morley" which was published in 1872 two years after his death.
His obituary in the Derby Mercury states that 'his death was sudden, for he had previous¬ly been in full intellectual vigour. Only a few weeks earlier he had spent a short time at Oxford with his old friend, Professor Bosworth, examining the manuscript stores of the Bodleian Library for facts relating to the "History of Morley" which he had prepared for the press'.
He is buried at Morley and there is a bronze plaque to his memory in the church.
The above information has been gathered from various sources:-
The Derby School Register, The Derby Mercury and particularly "Samuel Fox and the Derbyshire Boswells" by T.W. Thompson, extracted from the Journals of the Gypsy Lore Society.