Blackmore Area Local History

Willingale Doe & Willingale Spain
"From Saxon words, denoting goodness of wool. Doe and Spain, from ancient owners"

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Willingale in 1861
Willingale in 1887
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Willingale in 1887

The following is taken from ‘Durrant’s Handbook For Essex’ written by Miller Christy (Durrant & Co., Chelmsford, 1887).   

The two twin parishes known as “the Willingales” derive their distinctive names from their owners soon after the Conquest, William d’Ou and Hervey de Spain respectively.  Their churches stand in the same churchyard, not 50 yards from one another – a thing unparalleled in
Essex, but not unknown in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.  The tale is told of their having been founded by two sisters out of rivalry can hardly be true, as they are of widely different ages. 

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Will’ingale Doe. A. 1739; p. 423; Rectory, value (with Shellow Bowells) 450; 5m. N.E. from Ongar.  

Willingale Doe Church (St. Christopher), probably built about the 14th cent., is the largest and finest of the two.  It consists of nave, with N. aisle added in 1853, chancel, and embattled square tower, rebuilt in 1853 in the Perp. style and containing 4 bells, dated respectively 1610-32-34 and 1797.  The chancel arch is a well-proportioned pointed one.  Near it is a small and very curious square piscine.  The S. windows of the nave are square-headed Perp. ones.  There are brasses to one of the Torrells (inscription lost) in armour (about 1400), Ann Sackfild, nee Torrell (1582), in rich costume, and Dorothie Brewster, nee Jocelyne (1613), with very quaint inscription.  On the S. side of the chancel is a huge monument of white marble to Sir Robert Wiseman, Esq. (1641), of Torrell’s Hall.  The full-sized recumbent effigy of the knight is in armour.  There is a long and absurdly fulsome Latin inscription.  On the tomb is still an ancient helmet, with the knight’s crest surmounting it.  The Register dates from 1570.  Torrell’s Hall, 1m. N., now a farmhouse, with fine avenue of elms, was a residence of some importance, formerly occupied by the Torrell or Tyrell, Wiseman, and other families.
Will’ingale Spain.  A. 1200; P. 207; Rectory, value 360; 5m. N.E. from Ongar.   

The Church (St Andrew and All Saints) is a small Norman or
E. Eng. structure, consisting simply of nave and chancel, with a small spire and 2 bells, one of which has a 15th cent. inscription.  The corners are almost entirely built of Roman tile, as also are the sides and arch of the perfectly plain round-headed Norman N. door.  The door itself has much ancient ornamental iron-work.  The S. door and the W. window are also round-headed.  On the N. side of the nave are two tiny narrow splayed windows, of Norman or E. Eng. work, one pointed, the other, round-headed.  On the S. side is an elegant lancet window, 6ft. high by 11 inches wide, also an inserted window in the Decor. style.  The chancel has 5 windows; the E. one is new, and in Perp. style; the others, 2 on each side, are all similar, being low-arched Perp. ones of the time of Henry VI.  The font is octagonal.  There are no brasses and few inscriptions.  The Register dates from 1576.  Spains Hall, m. S.,  is an ancient manor-house.  

Photographs: (Top) Two churches one churchyard (Middle) Torrells. Potataoes at Spains Hall (Above) Interior. St Andrew's Church Willingale Spain.  (Left and Right) North door, St Andrew's, Willingale

Willingale in 1861

The following is taken from ‘The People’s History of Essex’ written by D. W. Coller (Meggy & Chalk, Chelmsford, 1861)   

THE WILLINGALES – Yonder to the southward [of the Roding villages] is the little parish of Shellow Bowels, the property of T. W. Bramston, Esq., and at the extremity of the [Dunmow] Hundred towards Ongar, the Willingales crown the high ground which rises above the vale of the Roding, affording a fine prospect over the whole of the district.  Willingale Doe, the larger of the two, is chiefly vested in the Bramston family, Warder’s Hall, the principal manor, forming part of the estate of Skreens, and the Rev. J. Bramston is lord of Torrel’s Hall, which gave name to the little hamlet.  The chief manor in Willingale
Spain, with most of the soil in the parish, is the property of S. Brocket, Esq., a descendent of Sir John Brocket, of Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire; and he resides at Spains Hall, about a mile from the village, - one of the fine manor-houses of another age, upon which have been engrafted the taste and elegance of the present.  The peculiar feature of interest that will strike the visitor to these twin parishes is the circumstance of the both churches standing in the same yard, within a few rods of each other, so that the wanderer amongst the tombs in time of divine service may hear the voices of the two congregations of worshippers mingling with each other in holy rivalry.  It is a singular circumstance – the only instance of the kind in the county; but parallels to it are to be found in Cambridgeshire and in Norfolk.  Forty years ago [1821], as we stood leaning over the church-yard gate, speculating on the cause of this curious arrangement, we enquired of a grey-haired parishioner who was passing, what account village tradition gave of the matter, “Why you see,” said he, “that a long while ago there were two ladies, sisters, who owned most of the property hereabouts, and they quarrelled about which should have a particular seat in the best pew in the church.  The oldest would not give way, so the youngest built a church of her own, in which she could enjoy the seat of choice and dignity.”  Whether the foundations of the second sacred edifice was laid in this fit of pride and passion we do not pretend to decide; but an air of probability is given to legend that the fact that the two parishes formed only one at the time of the Conqueror.  The subject, however, has fairly baffled historians, who content themselves with simply telling us that the two churches stand in the same church-yard, “the reason of which nothing remaining shows.”  Willingale Spain is the smaller and evidently by far the older of the two.  The marks of its antiquity are to be found in its small round headed loop-holes, its lancet windows, and its Norman doorways, the doors themselves being covered with iron work in various devices, spreading over the entire surface.  The church belonged to the Priory of Blackmore, having been given to it by William de Hispania “for the health of the souls of his father and mother, himself and his wife.”  It has a very elegant modern altar-piece given by William Brocket, Esq., but he only noticeable monument to be found in the edifice is one of curious construction, about a foot in length, and eight or ten inches wide. It is made of wood in the shape of a book, one side being fastened to the south side of the church, and the other moving on metal hinges.  On the outside are the arms and quarterings of the Bewsies; and on opening it a sheet of parchments is seen emblazoned with shields affixed to the pillars of a Grecian arch, in the centre of which are the following lines – the eagles alluded to being part of the family arms –    

“Those eagles brought Bewsies’ antient bloode    
From France to Springfield and from thence to Spaine,  
Attend his offspringe here, whose hopeful budd     
Death’s frost has nipt, whom earthly fate have slaine,     
Six blossoms here lie shaken from the tree,    
Where eagles frequent are dead bodies bee.”     

A whimsical account of the coat of arms follows in wretched verse; and on escutcheons are inscribed records of different members of the family who are buried between 1626 and 1638.  Several brasses, which were of about the same period have been sacrilegiously torn from their stones and carried away.  The
church of Willingale Doe is a much larger and nobler structure, and a few years ago it was considerably enlarged and restored.  It contains many interesting memorials of the Torrells and the Wisemans, but all of them have suffered greatly from heedless usage and the hand of the pilferer.  On the floor of the nave is the figure of a warrior in a devotional attitude, clothed in armour, and the feet resting on a dog.  The inscription is gone, but the armorial ensigns near the head show that it represented one of the family of the Torrells, who are frequently found in the Domesday Book, and the costume of the figure is that of 1400.  A mutilated figure of the same family, in the rich dress of the age in which she lived, lies within the altar rails. On the south side if the chancel is a monument which has been described as huge and clumsy, stiff, and in execrable taste, raised to the memory of Sir Robert Wiseman, who died the 11th of May, 1641.  It consists of the recumbent figure of a knight in armour, with two ladies kneeling in recesses on the upper part of the tomb; behind is an inscription in Latin, loaded not with a description of public services, but of his private virtues, on which Suckling observes – “Could we believe Sir Robert Wiseman to have been possessed with all of the virtues and accomplishments therein ascribed to him, we might unfeignedly blush for our own degeneracy.” The offensive fulsomeness of the language justifies the sneer.  He is represented as “pious, sincere, just, peaceable, steady to himself and his friends, a lover of his brethren and of the muses, an excellent patron of learning and learned men, friendly, sociable, and hospitable to his neighbours, beneficient to the poor, just to all;” and the fact that being a tetchy old bachelor is conveyed in the delicate intimation that he showed his, “chasteness of body by a celibacy of 65 years.”  The church also contains monuments to Sir John Salter, knight, a lord mayor of London, and some members of the Jocelyn family.       

There is one acre of church land in Willingale Doe; and a yearly rent-charge of 4. out of Warden’s Hall, left by Robert Cole in 1732, is applied to the school, which is open to children from Willingale
Spain and Shellow Bowells.

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War Memorial
Inscription on the east face of the War Memorial

In everlasting
and grateful memory
of the men
from Willingale Doe
and Shellow
who gave their lives
for their country
in the Great War.
A.D. 1914 - 1918
S. E. face

Clement E Boosey

Ernest J Brewster

Francis P Cousins

Joseph Ellis

Wallace King

H Stephen Monk

Sidney J Oliver
N. E face

Charles Pullen

George H Perry

Harry F W Rainbird

Percy S Root

Arthur T Saulez

A Gordon Saulez

William Tween
North face

Second World War

Edward James Tyler

John Colvin
South face

Also men of
387 Bombard-
ment Group
stationed here
who gave their
lives in the
Second World

We will remember them.

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Last updated: 19 July 2011