Willingale Genealogy

The Willingale Family Society

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.

There is currently a project underway to restore the bells in St. Christopher’s Church in Willingale Village, which have not been rung since the end of World War 2.

You can keep up to date of their progress by looking at the website http://www.willingalebells.org/

Research Update

As we haven’t blogged for a while I thought I’d do a quick update on the latest research.

Our main work over the last few months has been to review the censuses and fill in those census details missing from the family tree. This has helped us add a few more locations and occupations into the family tree. We have now recorded over 3,500 distinct locations of which over 3,300 have been geo-coded in the website database, these geo-coded locations are the ones which appear in the maps when viewing a person’s history in the online family tree.

We have also just restarted adding documents and photos into the Willingale archive on the website. We still have over 300 items to sort through. A lot of the remaining items relate to people we can’t positively identify in the tree or are duplicates of existing items, meaning we are taking a bit longer to double check items before they get uploaded.

We have also had a major find of interesting items relating to Thomas Willingale, the Lopper, and these will be written up in the next few journals.

After a 4 month wait due to our DNA testing company ceasing trading, we now have Martin’s DNA results back.

Martin’s DNA matches the ‘Willingale’ DNA profile and provides confirmation that the ‘Thomas’ branch of the family is related to the ‘John’, ‘William’ and ‘Samuel’ branches.

The latest results can be seen here, WFS members can see the full analysis here.

The latest edition of the Lopping Times, the society’s twice yearly journal has now been sent out to all members.