Following on from my post about EFDC using the wrong photo in their conservation document, I’ve also noticed another error. Mention is made that Thomas Willingale was imprisoned for theft. This is incorrect, Thomas was brought before the magistrates in 1865 for injuring forest trees, but the case was dismissed. Thomas subsequently brought a suit against the lord of the manor, the Rev Maitland, over his enclosure of the forest, aided by the Commons Preservation Society. This case lapsed on Thomas’s death in 1870, before being brought to a final conclusion.

Samuel, one of Thomas’s sons, along with his nephews Alfred Willingale and William Higgins were tried on a similar charge in 1866 and were convicted. They refused to pay the fine (although they had funds available) and instead spent 7 days in Ilford Gaol.

There are quite a lot of different versions of these events in print, very few of which are factually correct. The most farcical version is a recent book Searching for Hornbeam By Chris Howkins and Nick Sampson, which states that a John Willingale, a local fuel merchant, and his two sons were prosecuted for trespass, convicted and served time in jail, during which one son died. Thomas was in fact an illiterate labourer or wood cutter, which is not quite the same as a local fuel merchant! (This book also gives yet another version of the ‘Kings Head’ story where the Rev Maitland attempts to deprive the Loughton Loppers of their Lopping Rights by getting them all drunk! but thats another story entirely.)

Luckily these council documents are drafts and I’ve pointed out the mistakes to the council so they should be corrected in due course.