Travellers who streamed into a town in their thousands have defended themselves against a barrage of criticism.

At least 3,000 people from the travelling community have set up camp at Thame Show Ground, for an annual festival promoting the Christian faith.

Caravans moved into the field at the weekend and will stay until this Friday, for a convention organised by Light and Life Gypsy Church.

Their arrival prompted a social media storm, with criticism on Facebook and Twitter despite organisers having paid to hire the field.

Residents on the Spotted: Thame Facebook page accused travellers of inflicting 'chaos' and crime, including theft and abusive behaviour.

Other residents defended the group, with one commenting: "It's a disgrace how they been treated. Shame on you."

Thame and Oxfordshire County Agricultural Association, which hires out the show ground, suggested it had been misled during the booking.

A spokesperson said: "Six months ago we took a legitimate booking from the Darlington Christian Fellowship, a religious group that was having its annual get-together."

He said he could not comment further because 'lawyers and police' are involved.

A pastor at the fellowship said it is based in the same town as the Light and Life church, in County Durham, but is not linked.

Jackie Boyd, an executive minister at the church, insisted everything had been booked 'above board'.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail yesterday, he stressed that any bad behaviour reported was not caused by race.

He said: "Whether we are gypsies or not, it doesn't matter: we are human beings. Everybody deserves a chance.

"People are saying we have overrun the town and it's despicable, but they have never even seen any of us.

"I'm 57-years-old and I've come to expect this. It doesn't hurt as much as it used to, I've just learnt to live with it."

The grandfather-of-six noted admitted that of 3,000 people, there will likely be 'bad eggs', but said that applies in other communities including in Thame itself.

Mr Boyd said the convention involved prayer, bible study and meetings, adding: "It's been absolutely brilliant, there is really good spirit."

He said residents are welcome to pop by to see for themselves, especially for a gospel meeting at 7pm on Thursday.