Thomas Willingale

Last updated

Thomas Willingale (1799–1870), lived in the village of Loughton in Essex, United Kingdom. He was instrumental in the preservation of Epping Forest (which struggle was seminal in the national and indeed international conservation movement) and is still remembered for his actions. He is commemorated by an article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , on which this article is based. [1]

Loughton town in Essex, England

Loughton is a town and civil parish in the Epping Forest District of Essex and, for statistical purposes, part of the metropolitan area of London and the Greater London Urban Area. It is located between 11 and 13 miles (21 km) north east of Charing Cross in London, south of the M25 and west of the M11 motorway and has boundaries with Chingford, Waltham Abbey, Theydon Bois, Chigwell and Buckhurst Hill. Loughton includes three conservation areas and there are 56 listed buildings in the town, together with a further 50 that are locally listed.

Essex County of England

Essex is a county in the south-east of England, north-east of London. One of the home counties, it borders Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent across the estuary of the River Thames to the south, and London to the south-west. The county town is Chelmsford, the only city in the county. For government statistical purposes Essex is placed in the East of England region.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

"Lopping" was the ancient practice of cutting or lopping the boughs and branches of trees by commoners for use as fuel during winter. Thomas Willingale was a man who guarded this right, and every November 11 at midnight, he went into the forest as he believed that if no-one started lopping at the appointed hour, the rights would be lost forever. [1]

In 1860, the lords of the manor were encroaching on the forest to stop the commoners from practicing their lopping rights. There is a legend which cannot be proved or disproved, but is still commonly told in Loughton, that the major local landowner, William Whitaker Maitland, tried to end this custom by inviting all those with rights to lop to a supper at the King's Head pub (now a restaurant in the "Zizzi" chain), in Loughton High Road. He was hoping that by midnight, they would all be too drunk to go into the forest and exercise their rights. The legend says that Thomas Willingale realised treachery was afoot, and at midnight he lopped off a branch before triumphantly returning to the King's Head. [1]

William Whitaker Maitland (1794-1861) was a British landowner, and High Sheriff of Essex in 1836.

Four years later, the Revd John Whitaker Maitland enclosed 1,318 acres (5 km²) of forest land, with the intention of selling this on for building or horticulture. Thomas Willingale was incensed of this further erosion of commoner rights in the forest and decided to fight the enclosure. He continued to lop and was prosecuted at Waltham Abbey court; some members of his family, though not Thomas himself, were imprisoned as a result. [2] Luckily a number of well-to-do people came to Thomas's aid, promising support and more importantly financial help. These included Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton of Warlies, a prominent landowner, his brother Edward North Buxton of Knighton, a leading member of the Commons Preservation Society and John T. Bedford, a member of the City of London Corporation. [1]

John Whitaker Maitland (1831-1909) was the rector of Loughton, lord of the manor, and owner of Loughton Hall.

Enclosure was the legal process in England of consolidating (enclosing) small landholdings into larger farms since the 13th century. Once enclosed, use of the land became restricted to the owner, and it ceased to be common land for communal use. In England and Wales the term is also used for the process that ended the ancient system of arable farming in open fields. Under enclosure, such land is fenced (enclosed) and deeded or entitled to one or more owners. The process of enclosure began to be a widespread feature of the English agricultural landscape during the 16th century. By the 19th century, unenclosed commons had become largely restricted to rough pasture in mountainous areas and to relatively small parts of the lowlands.

Horticulture wurde definiert als der Anbau von Pflanzen, hauptsächlich für Lebensmittel, Materialien, Komfort und Schönheit

Horticulture has been defined as the culture of plants, mainly for food, materials, comfort and beauty. According to an American horticulture scholar, "Horticulture is the growing of flowers, fruits and vegetables, and of plants for ornament and fancy." A more precise definition can be given as "The cultivation, processing, and sale of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and ornamental plants as well as many additional services". It also includes plant conservation, landscape restoration, soil management, landscape and garden design, construction and maintenance, and arboriculture. In contrast to agriculture, horticulture does not include large-scale crop production or animal husbandry.

Eventually the City of London Corporation was persuaded to take on the landowners and “secure for the People, for the purposes of public health and recreation” the remainder of the forest of Epping. Legal proceedings by the Corporation, against the enclosures began August 1871 resulting, ultimately, in the Epping Forest Act 1878. [1]

During the middle of the nineteenth century, a number of initiatives were started to protect the rights of the public to use open spaces and for the areas to be conserved for their specific environmental features. Some notable people of the time devoted themselves to societies such as the Commons Preservation Society, now known as the Open Spaces Society, in order to gain protection for some clearly defined areas. One of these areas was Epping Forest on the outskirts of London. It was an area beginning to suffer encroachments of building development and enclosure. The local people were also, by tradition, taking a limited quantity of wood from the forest under what was termed their 'lopping rights'. The enclosure of the lands within the forest bounds was threatening the performance of the annual lopping tradition and thus, a dispute also arose over the removal by private individuals of forest considered to be in public ownership. Following the intervention of a number of bodies and interested parties, some Acts of Parliament were enacted gradually bringing about the desired protections. The Epping Forest Act 1878 brought together the diverse rules and prescribed how the Forest was to be protected. The Act formally records the Crown renouncing rights over the land and the Corporation of London, having bought acres of unenclosed Epping Forest land, named as the official conservators.

Unfortunately, Thomas Willingale died in 1870 and was unable to see the forest given the protection it deserved. The abolition of lopping was, however, part of this settlement. [1]

Today, Epping Forest is still enjoyed for recreation by thousands of people each year. The forest itself is protected from development of any kind, and as a result still stretches from the heart of East London out into the Essex countryside, a green lung for the area which has of course become much more built up since 1878. Thomas Willingale is commemorated in Loughton by the street name Willingale Road, the Thomas Willingale School, and formerly had a pub named after him in Chingford (renamed "The Station House" in 2006). The Lopping Hall in Loughton was paid for out of compensation money for extinguishment of the lopping rights. It contains a carved hornbeam memorial tablet to Willingale and its north entrance includes a terracotta pediment illustrating loppers at work in the forest. There is a blue plaque on the wall of St John's Churchyard, where Willingale is buried in an unmarked pauper's grave. There is no known likeness of Willingale. Those extant in the town are of his son, also Thomas. [1]

Related Research Articles

Leytonstone area of east London

Leytonstone is an area of East London, and part of the London Borough of Waltham Forest. It is a suburban area, located seven miles north-east of Charing Cross in Greater London. It borders Walthamstow to the north-west, Wanstead to the north, Stratford and Leyton to the south, and Forest Gate to the east. The area is served by Leytonstone tube station on the Central line & Leytonstone High Road on London Overground's Gospel Oak to Barking line. The northern end of Leytonstone High Road, beside Wanstead Flats, is known as Bushwood.

Chigwell town in Epping Forest, United Kindom

Chigwell is a town and civil parish in the Epping Forest district of Essex, England. Adjacent to the northern boundary of Greater London, it is part of the metropolitan area of London and the Greater London Built-up Area. It is on the Central line of the London Underground.

Epping Forest District Non-metropolitan district in England

Epping Forest is a local government district in Essex, England. It is named after, and contains a large part of, Epping Forest.

Common land land owned collectively

Common land is land owned collectively by a number of persons, or by one person, but over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect wood, or to cut turf for fuel.

Verderers are officials in Britain who deal with common land in certain former royal hunting areas which are the property of the Crown. The office was developed in the Middle Ages to administer forest law on behalf of the King. Verderers investigated and recorded minor offences such as the taking of venison and the illegal cutting of woodland, and dealt with the day-to-day forest administration. In the modern era, verderers are still to be found in the New Forest, the Forest of Dean, and Epping Forest, where they serve to protect commoning practices, and conserve the traditional landscape and wildlife.

Theydon Bois farm village in the United Kingdom

Theydon Bois is a large residential village and civil parish in the Epping Forest district of the county of Essex, England. It is located 1.4 miles (2.2 km) south of Epping, 0.85 miles (1.3 km) northeast of Loughton and 6 miles (9.6 km) south of Harlow. The population is 3,993, increasing to 4,062 at the 2011 Census.

Little Cornwall is the name given to part of Loughton, Essex, England. It is the hilly part of north-west Loughton closest to Epping Forest and characterised by steep hills, weatherboarded houses, narrow lanes and high holly hedges. There are many architecturally significant properties in this part of Loughton, including 18th-century and Arts & Crafts houses as well as Victorian homes ranging from small terraced cottages to large mansions. Little Cornwall is roughly defined by the three conservation areas which it encompasses; Staples Road, York Hill, and Baldwins Hill, as well as parts of nearby Epping Forest. Electorally, it is mostly part of Loughton St John’s ward, though the houses in the Staples Rd Conservation area fall into St Mary's Ward.

Edward North Buxton was a British conservationist and Liberal Party politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1885 to 1886. He was also an alpine climber, with significant first or second ascents in the 1860s, including the Aiguille de Bionnassay, Piz Palu and the first traverse of Lyskamm.

Woodford, London suburb of east London, England

Woodford is a town in North East London in the London Borough of Redbridge. It is divided into the neighbourhoods of Woodford Green, Woodford Bridge, Woodford Wells, South Woodford and Monkhams. The town is situated 9.5 miles (15.3 km) northeast of Charing Cross. It is part of the traditional county of Essex, but for administrative purposes has been part of Greater London since 1965, following the passing of the London Government Act 1963.

Loughton is a town in the county of Essex in England. The first settlement can be traced back to 2,500 years ago, but the earliest records of the modern-day site of Loughton are from the Anglo-Saxon era of English history, when it was known as Lukintone. After the Norman conquest it became part of the estate of Waltham Abbey and is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Lochintuna. It was during the 17th century, however, when Loughton began to grow significantly as a coaching stop on the newly created main route to Cambridge and East Anglia. With good transport links and proximity to both London and also Epping Forest and the countryside, it became a popular location for aristocratic and wealthy Londoners to have a home.

Andrew Johnston was a Liberal Party politician in England.

Turpins Cave

Turpin's Cave is an area of Epping Forest in Essex which has been attributed as a hiding place of the highwayman Dick Turpin.

High Beach village in Essex, England

High Beach is a village inside Epping Forest and is located approximately eleven miles north east of central London. It is the only settlement inside Epping Forest, and falls within the civil parish of Waltham Abbey and the ward of Waltham Abbey High Beach in the Epping Forest District of Essex, and for statistical purposes forms part of the London Metropolitan Area and Greater London Urban Area.

John Maitland, was an English politician. He served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Chippenham from 1806 to 1812 and 1817 to 1818.

Loughton Hall Loughton, Epping Forest, Essex, IG10

Loughton Hall is a large house in Rectory Lane, Loughton, Essex. The architect was William Eden Nesfield, and it is grade II listed with Historic England. It is now a 33-bedroom residential care home for elderly people.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Willingale, Thomas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38565.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. Winston G. Ramsey (1986). Epping Forest Then And Now. Battle of Britain International Ltd. p. 43. ISBN   0900913398.