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Sophie Locke

Sophie Locke's story is extraordinary but not uncommon for the time. Sophie was a member of the Locke family of Romany Gypsies who returned to live in tents on Biddulph Moor every winter. She was a travelling tinker and would have travelled to do her work in all parts of the South West Peak Park area. She would turn up in a village and residents would bring her pots and pans to mend and knives to grind. There are accounts that place Sophie at Winster in Derbyshire and Bosley in Cheshire, as well as further afield in Lancashire.

What was unusual about Sophie was that she lived as a man. She had done so from an early age when she would accompany her brother to pubs where they would sing and play the violin. Sophie was known as John Smith and had been married several times. Her last wife had 11 children, fathered by her first husband but who Sophie raised as her own.

She died in about 1848 in Macclesfield Workhouse. Her wife implored the doctor that Sophie's body be wrapped immediately after her death. This did not happen and their secret was revealed.