We have already blogged about the Hills Amenity Society illustrating an article on Thomas Willingale the Lopper with a photo that has nothing to do with Thomas. Now it seems that Epping Forest District Council have made a similar mistake.

Which Thomas?

In their York Hill Conservation Area Character Appraisal and Management Plan they mention Thomas Willingale and his resistance to the forest enclosures in the 1860s. A photo of a man shouldering a large branch is used to illustrate this section of text with the caption Thomas Willingale aged 77.

Unfortunately the man in the photo is not Thomas the Lopper (1799-1870) but his son, also called Thomas (1843-1925). Thomas Jnr only gets a passing mention in the Lopping story. He was fined for poaching in 1867, just as fund raising was starting to help his fathers court case against the Rev. Maitland.

Thomas Jnr and his brother William did however play on their family connection and a number of people of the time believed they were intimately responsible for the saving of the Epping Forest.

Back to the photo, we have a number of good reasons why this photo is not Thomas the Lopper;

  • Thomas Snr did not live to be 77
  • A copy of the photo at the Essex Records Office (I/Pb 23/28) is somewhat ambiguous in that it’s captioned ‘Thomas Willingale the last of the Loppers’ yet someone has annotated this with the word ‘Jnr’.
  • The clincher that this is not Thomas the Lopper is the photo itself, the photo does not look like it was taken prior to 1870 (when Thomas the Lopper died) but seems much later in date, and in the full size picture, from which the snap is taken, Thomas can be seen standing next to a barbed wire fence. Barbed wire fences were invented in the USA around 1867, patents were made in 1874 & 1876 although it was some time after this that mass production took off.

We have photos of Alfred and Samuel Willingale along with William Higgins, who were imprisoned for 7 days for injuring forest trees in 1866, yet no known photo exists of the man most associated with the Lopping Rights fight.