Willingale Genealogy

The Willingale Family Society

The WFS Committee wish all members a Merry Christmas and a healthy, Happy New Year. We hope you will continue to support the Society in 2013.

We are expecting delivery of our special 10th Anniversary Journal back from the printers shortly. This contains some of our best research work over the past 10 years.

The articles include:

  • Willingale History
  • Where Did We Originate?
  • Willingale DNA Surname Project
  • Willingale Honours/Commendations
  • Able Seaman William Willingale
  • Sylvia Willingale
  • A BAFTA Tribute to Betty Willingale
  • Origins of Willingale Family Society
  • Unveiling of Thomas Willingale Blue Plaque
  • Willingales imprisoned in the Tower of London Part 1
  • Willingales imprisoned in the Tower of London Part  2
  • Emily Goddard La Hogue Willingale
  • Thomas Samuel Willingale (1800—1869)
  • Photo Mysteries
  • The Mysterious “Royal Windsor”
  • Willingale’s Restaurant
  • Thomas Willingale Junior’s Prized Volume
  • Hannah Passelar & St Mary’s Church, Maldon
  • The Steam Ship Willingale

Unfortunately the news from the Corporation of London is not encouraging. It seems that records kept over the past 100 years by the Essex Field Club and the Corporation are not able to prove 100% that the Axe on display at The View is the Willingale Billhook.

I’m hopeful that over time some more records will be found that enable us to prove that this is the Willingale Axe. For example in 1978 there was an exhibition in Loughton Library, called ‘A Keeper’s Tale’. I have a couple of photos of this exhibition, and can just make out a Billhook on display in one of the cabinets titled ‘The Willingale Collection’. If anyone has a better photo of this display we may be able to confirm if it’s the same billhook as now displayed at The View. Hopefully there are other photos, descriptions or drawing of these Axes in existence, which we are currently unaware of, that will allow us to positively confirm the Billhook as the one formerly owned by Thomas Willingale.

A full write up on the Axe will appear in next year’s summer Journal. This year’s winter journal is almost complete and is a celebration of our first ten years. It contains some of our best research since the society started, along with an update on the DNA project, which attempts to explain the issues with the Charles branch, plus a transcript of Thomas Willingale (the Lopper’s) letter to the Woodford, Buckhurst-Hill & Loughton Advertiser in December 1866, plus the letter which prompted his correspondence.

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.

It’s been a while since we last blogged so we have a few updates this time:

  • All the July Journals have now been dispatched to members. Those of you who did not take up last year’s multi-year membership offer will need to renew your membership – renewal forms were enclosed with the Journal where applicable. Our membership year runs from 1st August to 31st July.
  • Research into the family tree is ongoing and the family tree in the members area has been updated on a more or less daily basis since the beginning of the year.
  • The Willingale archive now numbers an impressive 1,500 items. We hope to start a new project looking at historic press articles shortly, now that the National Newspaper Library is available online.
  • Finally we have been considering how to recognise the tenth anniversary of our formation. Some of you will have responded to a questionnaire seeking your views, in particular whether we should organise a get-together.  Holding meetings is seen as an objective of the society but it would seem that we need rather more members to make it viable, so whilst there was some support for the idea it was not enough to justify the costs and effort involved as we have more pressing uses for our limited funds.  What we did decide to do was to publish an anniversary edition of the journal, which will contain some of the best articles from our first 10 years.  The aim is to produce this in time for it to be used as presents next Christmas.

We now have Steve’s DNA test back from the lab. His results are a close match to those already received from the Thomas, John, William and Samuel branches of the family. The latest comparison grid can be found here while members can find a full analysis here.

We are interested in testing further male Willingale’s, especially those from the problematic Charles branch.

This coming year sees the 10th anniversary of the Willingale Family Society.

I’ve had a basic Willingale family tree on my personal site since at least 1998, but it was a post in my website guestbook by Keith Willingale on 16 December 2001 and a further post by Graham Richards on 12th January 2002 which formed the catalyst for the creation of the WFS.

The current committee met for the first time, with a few other interested Willingale descendants, in Lopping Hall on 2nd July 2002 and agreed to form the society, and we went on to hold our inaugural AGM at Willingale Village Hall on 7th December 2002.

Our initial printed family tree at the time of the 1st AGM contained just 539 people, although due to the logistics of printing the tree in time for the meeting we actually had just over 1,000 names in the database on the date of the meeting.

Since then we have been continually researching the history of the Willingale family and as I write this we have over 8565 names in the family tree, of which 1271 have the surname Willingale.

Our DNA project has proved that 4 of the 5 main branches of the Willingale family are related, however, our conventional genealogical research seems to show that ALL Willingales are in fact related. To unravel what’s happening in the Charles branch we really need to DNA test 2 or three more Willingale males.

Over the last 10 years we have collected a large archive of Willingale documents, photos and press cuttings, now totalling over 1,400 items, all of which are displayed in the members area of this website. We have also found a lot of other interesting facts such as :

  • That a Willingale served in HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar
  • Obtained an interesting insight into life at the start of the 1900 century through the finding of a large number of postcards & photographs from Thomas Samuel Willingale and his family.
  • Discovered details of the Willingale imprisoned in the Tower of London
  • The history of the Willingales in Maldon – where the majority of our family seem to have originated
  • Information on the Steam Ship Willingale, which was wrecked with the loss of a large number of the crew.
  • Discovered that two people with Willingale as their middle name (but are Willingale descendants) have been honoured by the Queen.
  • The earliest Willingale we have details of is John Wyllyngale, who was a Fellow of Winchester College in 1432
  • And discovered a huge amount about perhaps the most famous Willingale, Thomas, who was instrumental in the saving of Epping Forest.

To celebrate our anniversary we hope to hold another Willingale get together later in the year, if you have any thoughts on this or would like to attend please get in touch with the Committee – we will be holding a committee meeting to discuss an anniversary meeting amongst other things in February.

I was interested to see another article on Thomas Willingale which appeared in a number of East London newspapers recently. (see here, here and here). I think this may have been written in an attempt to raise publicity for Lopping Hall, which is currently being renovated and was in the running for funding from the CommunityForce initiative which I’ve blogged about recently.

Unfortunately these articles have a couple of significant inaccuracies.

Thomas Willingale wasn’t responsible for founding the Commons Preservation Society (which still exists today as the Open Spaces Society). The CPS was founded by John Stuart Mill, Lord Eversley, Sir Robert Hunter and Octavia Hill. The latter two went on the found the National Trust.

Lord Eversley (who was then George Lefevre, a Liberal MP) along with Thomas Hughes, M.P (the lawyer and author best known for Tom Brown’s Schooldays) did however set up a fund for Thomas and acted as trustees, as the ongoing legal case needed funding and Thomas found it difficult to obtain work.

The other error is that it was Thomas’s son Samuel, along with Samuels cousins Alfred Willingale and William Higgins who were sent to jail, for 7 days, for injuring forest trees.

The article does however mention another incident relevant to the lopping saga that gets little mention elsewhere. In 1878, George Burney brought a large number of workmen into the forest to remove Maitland’s fences. Some sources indicate it was William Willingale (another of Thomas’s sons) who pointed out the errant fences to Burney’s men, indeed, so as not to implicate himself, William did not speak but merely pointed to the fences that needed removing!

Lopping Hall

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CommunityForce is a new initiative from Nat West that works with local communities to support people, projects and charities.

One of the projects which could benefit from this scheme is Lopping Hall in Loughton. Lopping Hall was opened in 1884 to a design by local architect Edmond Egan, and is one of the most important public buildings in Loughton. It was paid for by the Corporation of London to compensate Loughton villagers for the loss of traditional rights to lop wood in Epping Forest, rights which were bought out when the management of the forest was taken over by the Corporation in 1878. The Willingale connection with this important building is Thomas Willingale, who was one of the most ardent supporters of Lopping. One of the rooms in the hall is called the Willingale Room and the hall contains a carved plaque in memory of Thomas.

Lopping Hall is now somewhat run down and in need of renovation. If successful in obtaining a CommunityForce award, funds would be used to renovate the front entrance of the building.

You can vote for Lopping Hall (or more correctly The Lopping Endowment, the charity which was set up in 1881 for the purpose of maintaining the hall) by following this link to the The Lopping Endowment page on the CommunityForce website.

We are pleased to announce we have our 9th member of the Willingale DNA Project.

Steve Willingale from Australia is our latest tester and we hope to have his DNA results back early in the New Year.