Esmeralda Lock (Locke) : The Dancing Gypsy Girl

Articles » Esmeralda Lock (Locke) : The Dancing Gypsy Girl

Esmeralda Lock (Locke) : The Dancing Gypsy Girl

Born in 1854, Esmeralda Lock was Noah and Delaia’s most vivacious and beautiful daughter. In Shropshire the family regularly pitched their tents on the banks of the Severn at Bridgnorth on property owned by local solicitor Hubert Smith, who was the Town Clerk of Bridgnorth between 1873 and 1887

The Locks were remembered as being good musicians and playing violins whilst dressed in top hats. At 16 years old Esmeralda and her brothers Noah and Zachariah were invited by Smith to spend the summers with him in Norway. Subsequently, he published a book, Tent Life with English Gypsies in Norway, in which dark-eyed Esmeralda danced across the white page.

Smith was in his fifties at the time and became infatuated by Esmeralda. She didn’t feel the same, but gave in to pressure and married him in 1874.

They lived in St Leonard Close, over looking the church, the house still exists today known as the Mundens.

Esmeralda didn’t give up her footloose life easily. She tried running away from her husband but was returned by her father; another time she made her escape by knocking Smith out with a silver candlestick.

Salvation arrived in a visit from Francis Hindes Groome, a young scholar interested in Gypsies with whom Esmeralda fell in love. When Groome left, she told her husband that she was bewitched and must see a gozvalo gajo (wise man). But the wise man was Groome, and the lovers were reunited in Bristol. Eventually, they ran away to Germany, where Groome worked as a translator whilst Esmeralda sang and danced. On returning to England, she found similar work in London theatres. Then Groome moved up to work in Edinburgh, and Esmeralda went with him.

Hubert Smith filed for divorce but attempted one last reconciliation. He met with his wife at an hotel in Scotland, and they spent the night together. In the morning she declared a desperate dream foretelling her lover’s suicide unless she said a final goodbye. Smith agreed to her going to see Groome for two hours. Esmeralda went … and never returned.

esmeralda After a sensational divorce case, the lovers married and settled down. Gradually, they made their way into literary and artistic circles, and pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti portrayed Esmeralda as one of his erotic idealised women, a dancing gypsy girl and most famously as Victor Hugos Esmeralda.

Esmeralda often returned to travel with her parents, and her wayward spirit became too much for Groome. The couple separated. A few years before he died in 1902, Groome wrote to her: “We must never meet again on this side of the grave”, and they never did.

After travelling around Cheshire and North Wales in a green and yellow caravan, Esmeralda finally drew up at Prestatyn during the First World War. She remained there for the rest of her life, the centre of much attention, until she was felled by a bus in 1939 and duly buried in Rhyl.

There are a number of books referring to Esmeralda including “The Scholar Gypsy” by Anthony Sampson, published by John Murray, and “Songs From The Roadside” by Jeremy Sandford, published by The Redlake Press.




  1. Pauline Lee August 6, 2013 at 10:51 pm - Reply

    Esmeralda Lock Boswell was my Grandmother,s sister. My Grandmother was Ada Lock Boswell.I have searched for over 2 years for a photograph of my Grandmother Ada, Would you have any lead to offer me Please. Yours truly.Pauline Lee.

    • Gaffa December 22, 2017 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      Hi Pauline,
      Have you traced your tree with the brothers I am interested in Charles and his family

  2. kala doyle August 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    esmeralda was my grandmothers ada s sister

    • marie weedall June 28, 2017 at 9:27 am - Reply

      Ada is on the family tree I have along with Noah , zebulon ,zacharia Somerset Ruth dorella johnny and a couple of others that are a bit unreadable marie x,

  3. Don Hazeldine October 8, 2014 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Esmeralda was my great grandfather Zebulin’s sister

    • Gaffa December 22, 2017 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      Hi Don, Can you give me your tree details. I am related to Charles the younger son

  4. marie weedall June 28, 2017 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Esmeralda Locke was if I’ve got it right my great great auntie x my great great gran dorellas sister I do have a family tree of sorts of which I resourced from liverpool university library if anyone would like a copy love marie xx

    • Gaffa December 22, 2017 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Hi marie, could you send me a copy please. Related to Charles their brother.

    • Gaffa December 22, 2017 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Related to Charles Lock brother to the above. Would like to have your tree information to get further back. I have pencilled in the family back to 1550

  5. Sophia August 28, 2017 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    She is my great great great aunt on my my maternal side! So fascinating to read all about her

  6. sara baylis September 6, 2017 at 11:29 am - Reply

    does anyone know which Rhyl churchyard she is buried in?

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