I visited The View today, the new interpretation centre in Chingford, next to Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge which opened for the first time in July 2012. It contains a lot of information on the forest including its habitat and of course the events leading up to its saving in the late 1800s.

Mention is made of John Whitaker Maitland, Thomas Nelson, George Burney, Octavia Hill, the Commons Preservation Society along with Thomas & Samuel Willingale. One of the displays proposes the Cow as the saviour of Epping Forest (the legal action by the Corporation of London which finally brought the Forest Enclosures to an end, was based on the intercommoning rights of cattle…)

I’m pleased to say none of the ‘classic’ errors regarding Thomas’s involvement in the forest were repeated. The display regarding Thomas includes the Court judgement of 9th November 1866 evicting Thomas Willingale from property which he rented off Maitland in Baldwins Road, Loughton and ordering him to pay Maitland’s costs and ‘mesne profits’. [1] Mention is also made of the Kings Head, where Maitland allegedly locked the Loughton Loppers inside, in an attempt to deprive them of their Lopping Rights.

One thing did trouble me though. I believe the Corporation of London have two axes, or more correctly a Loppers axe and a Billhook, which used to belong to the Willingale family. I photographed the billhook some 10-12 years ago at the Hunting Lodge. The display in The View does include an axe & billhook but these are just referenced as example tools from the forest, and unfortunately from my photos I can’t confirm if the billhook is the same one I photographed. Surely if these are the Willingale axes, it would be appropriate to say so, if they are not I would have thought this would have been an ideal opportunity to have them on display. I have asked the staff at The View this question and hopefully I should have an answer back shortly.


[1] Mesne (pronounced “mean”) profits are sums of money paid for the occupation of land to a person with right of immediate occupation, where no permission has been given for that occupation. The concept is feudal in origin, and common in countries which rely on the English legal system. The word is derived from the root word demesne.