It’s been a while since we blogged anything, however that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy researching. The family tree on the website continues to grow thanks to the efforts of our three researchers, Graham, Kim and Linda.

In one of my regular sweeps of the net for new information I’ve come across a couple of items that warrant review.

Firstly, the photo we have of the Willingale Axe may not actually be the Willingale Axe! A Bob Burgess who runs the Billhooks website has noted that the axe I photographed was made by a William Swift of Kent. He was still producing billhooks in 1911, which sort of rules out that axe being over 100 years old as quoted in by the Essex Field Club. Was the Essex Field Club wrong, or have we photographed the wrong axe? Unfortunately, as mentioned previously, the records of the EFC & Corporation relating to the axe are not all they could be.

Secondly I came across another blog which mentioned Thomas Willingale, where again the classic mistake of Thomas being imprisoned is made and this time a photo captioned as Thomas Willingale is included in the blog. This photo is in fact Thomas Willingale Jnr (Thomas the Lopper’s son) whose only contribution to saving Epping Forest was to be fined for poaching. We know this is not Thomas the Lopper, because he died in 1870 when photography was still very cumbersome, especially for outdoor shots like the one shown. This photo is held in a collection at the Museum of English Rural Life, which also has shots of William Willingale, another of Thomas the Lopper’s sons, and Thomas Jnr in the same setting, and from their ages we can deduce they are most likely brothers rather than father & son. It’s interesting to note that these images are from a collection originally belonging to the Commons Preservation Society, now the Open Spaces Society. Yet the only photos they have are of Thomas & William, who were notorious for claiming involvement in the saving of the forest, but have no photos of Samuel Willingale, Alfred Willingale or William Higgins, who were actually imprisoned for exercising their right to lop.