IT could not have been a more fitting send off for the woman at the heart of Hampshire’s gypsy community.

Totton town centre ground to a halt as a large funeral cortege marked the passing of 87-year-old Louisa Wells, known as Louie, who was the head of five generations of one gypsy family.

And for a woman who loved nothing more than a trip to the bookies, even in her eighties, her daughter Sheila had to stop at Coral bookmakers to place the very last bet on her behalf.

The mother of five, grandmother of 14 and great grandmother of 38, who died of natural causes, was buried with the betting slip along with other favourite items, including a posy, dozens of photographs of her family – and a cigarette in her right hand.

Her hearse was followed by cars filled with family members while half a dozen flatbed trucks covered in bright flowers brought up the rear.

The elaborate wreaths were in the shape of hearts and the gates to heaven while the more unusual arrangements included a handbag, a bed, a card table scene and a cigarette with a cup of coffee.

Members of the public watched as the impressive cortege passed through Totton and the New Forest to Minstead church.

Hundreds of mourners – including members of the traveller community who made their way from across the UK – turned out to pay their respects to the family woman, who was one of the last gypsies to leave the Shave Green compound in the New Forest in the 1960s.

Despite moving into homes in Totton, Mrs Wells, who enjoyed bingo, horse racing, dog racing and playing cards, carried on the gypsy lifestyle.

Her daughter Sheila Wells said: “She will be so dearly missed. She was a traditional English gypsy through and through and very well respected.

“She was a strong lady who worked very hard but was at the heart of our family.”