Thomas Willingale, Lopping Rights and the saving of Epping Forest

Thomas Willingale

In October 1866 Thomas Willingale filed a suit in Chancery against John Maitland, and others, in support of the lopping rights. Thomas was advised by the Commons Preservation Society and a fund of £1,000 was raised to support the case, with half coming from Sir T. Fowell Buxton. To raise funds, adverts were placed in certain journals, John Maynard being noted as one of the trustees in an advert in The Entomologist. No details were given of the amount raised, although one of the trustees states in a subsequent advert ‘[…]must express my disappointment at its smallness[…]’

17. The Willingale Axes

In conclusion, I would remind my hearers that our Club possesses two direct relics of the Willingale family in its Forest Museum, namely, a lopper’s axe, which was presented to that museum by John Willingale, and a billhook, formerly belonging to Samuel Willingale, both of which tools were employed in lopping trees on the Forest in the old days before the lopping rights were extinguished

The King's Head, Loughton

Another Willingale descendant, Walter Bullen, who this time actually is a direct descendant, being a great-grandson of Thomas Willingale, gives some more detail to the background to events. He states:

“On the 11th November 1859 an agent for the Lord of the Manor named Richardson (also called The Bulldog) ordered a dinner at the King’s Head, Loughton and invited all the loppers. The wine flowed freely and all got drunk, all except old Thomas Willingale who had been warned by a lawyer, Mr Buxton, not to touch any drink. Tom took his axe with him, went to Staples Road, lopped the bough and returned to the King’s Head on the stroke of midnight, thereby saving the lopping rights.” (19)