Billhook. Accession Register associated with Thomas Willingale.; LDQEH.2007.267

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The View (Epping Forest Collection)

Name/Title

Billhook.
Accession Register associated with Thomas Willingale.

Object number

LDQEH.2007.267

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Bob Burgess 25 Oct 2014 09:19 AM,UTC

Just revisited the site, so a few more comments: Ref my earlier remarks, this appears to be a very early tool - the position of the stamp, a single crown above the WS (later tools had two crowns, stamped either side of the WS, and is slightly more towards the centre to the blade). Also the blade is composite, a wrought iron body with a steel cutting edge forge-welded to it - the join can be seen in the close up image as the two metals, although of a similar colour, corrode (rust) in differet ways.

I doubt Thomas Willingale used a billhook to 'split tall hurdles' - but he would have used one to split the gads from which the hurdles were made. The billhook is often used in the coppice trades for cutting and cleaving hazel (also willow, chestnut and ash) for hurdle making and (primarily hazel) for thatching spars.

Bob Burgess 25 Oct 2014 09:19 AM,UTC

Just revisited the site, so a few more comments: Ref my earlier remarks, this appears to be a very early tool - the position of the stamp, a single crown above the WS (later tools had two crowns, stamped either side of the WS, and is slightly more towards the centre to the blade). Also the blade is composite, a wrought iron body with a steel cutting edge forge-welded to it - the join can be seen in the close up image as the two metals, although of a similar colour, corrode (rust) in differet ways.

I doubt Thomas Willingale used a billhook to 'split tall hurdles' - but he would have used one to split the gads from which the hurdles were made. The billhook is often used in the coppice trades for cutting and cleaving hazel (also willow, chestnut and ash) for hurdle making and (primarily hazel) for thatching spars.

Bob Burgess 25 Oct 2014 09:18 AM,UTC

Just revisited the site, so a few more comments: Ref my earlier remarks, this appears to be a very early tool - the position of the stamp, a single crown above the WS (later tools had two crowns, stamped either side of the WS, and is slightly more towards the centre to the blade). Also the blade is composite, a wrought iron body with a steel cutting edge forge-welded to it - the join can be seen in the close up image as the two metals, although of a similar colour, corrode (rust) in differet ways.

I doubt Thomas Willingale used a billhook to 'split tall hurdles' - but he would have used one to split the gads from which the hurdles were made. The billhook is often used in the coppice trades for cutting and cleaving hazel (also willow, chestnut and ash) for hurdle making and (primarily hazel) for thatching spars.

Bob Burgess 12 Jul 2013 09:19 AM,UTC

If this billhook was recorded by the Essex Field Club in 1911 as having been used for over 100 years, someone is in error - in 1911 Willima Swift was still working and making these billhooks. (see: http://www.willingale.org/wp/lopping/willingale-billhook/)

Bob Burgess 12 Jul 2013 09:05 AM,UTC

This type of socketted billhook is common on the east of England, This one was made by William Swift, of Seal in Kent. It is a hand held tool (the fitted handle is correct) and not mounted on a longer pole type handle. Information from my website - http://billhooks.co.uk/edge-tool-making-and-makers/british-edge-tool-makers/:

SWIFT - William Swift was established at Seal in Kent. He succeeded Richard Shoebridge (Piggots of 1840 lists two edge too makers in Seal, Shoebridge and a Robert Marchant). In 1858 there was a William Swift working as a blacksmith in Seal, possibly the father of the edge tool maker. It is not known if he worked for Shoebridge, or just bought the goodwill of his business. He was working from late 19th to early 20th century. later the business name was bought out, and manufacturing transferred to Staffordshire (probably to Cannock). Early tools have three deeply incised stamps: WS a crown WS - later billhooks have the word 'genuine' added - much later the stamp hardly bears any resemblance to the original

Steven Willingale 20 Oct 2012 16:32 PM,UTC

This looks very much like the Billhook I photographed at the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge in the Summer of 2002. This was kept at the Lodge, although not on display, with an Axe head.
My photo of the Axe has been displayed on www.willingale.org for a number of years, and Jeremy Wisenfeld, a former superintendant of the forest, referred to this as Thomas Willingales axe in his letter to the Epping Forest Guardian in July 2003.
These items were previously given to the Essex Field Club by the Willingale family, the EFC online archive gives a brief history of these items as follows:
'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.'
and
'Mr. Cole also exhibited a Bill-hook which had been used for at least 100 years as a tool in asserting the lopping rights on the Forest at Loughton on the 11th day of November in each year. The hook was formerly owned by Robert Higgins, of Baldwin's Hill, Loughton, uncle to Thomas Willingale ; later it came into the possession of Thomas Willingale, and from him descended to Samuel Willingale, who had now presented it to the Club.'
I believe this Axe was also displayed in the 'Willingale Collection' part of 'A Keeper's Tale' by Fred Speakman at Loughton Library 1978.

13 Jan 2012 15:02 PM,UTC

An `Essex Bill`- So-called if the dimensions of the Bill-hook blade was around 10" long with a 1" hook, 3" across and a 6" handle.

Peter R 05 Dec 2011 17:51 PM,UTC

These were derigueur for anyone living in or around the forest.
The blade end had a hook like a bird`s bill, which suited not only chopping small branches with the flat on a bench for kindling, but splitting small logs in two and picking one up with the hand,- and the other with the hook-point.
If Thomas Willingales,` he would have used the concave blade to swipe down at an angle splitting tall hurdles for (heaven-forbid) fencing-enclosures around his cottage.
Or as we prefer, - practising his right to lop bundles of faggots
from pollards at the prescribed hight of around seven feet.
If this is Willingales` fabled `Lopping tool` it should be mounted in pride of place,-(at regulation hight)

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