Wombwell families in North West Essex
The geographical focus of my eighteenth and nineteenth century Wombwell family history must
concentrate around the North-West corner of the County of Essex. The majority of
my ancestors and their relatives came from the villages in this area.
The ancient town of Saffron Walden forms the main focal point in this predominantly
rural district. The remainder of the area is almost entirely agricultural, and has
been for many centuries.
In my search for my own ancestors I discovered that there were large
numbers of Wombwells around the small area I was concentrating on. There was, in
fact, substantial evidence that they had been there for some considerable time!
The search has been concentrated around the villages of Arkesden, Clavering and
Langley, particularly in the first seventy years of the nineteenth century and
Many years ago, while I was in my early teens, I borrowed a book from my local
library written by George Sanger - he of circus fame. I honestly can't remember
quite why I took it out but I was fascinated by the fact that there were close
links between Wombwell's Menagerie and the Sangers in the circus world. The thing
that struck me was that, in the much less exotic world of retail pharmacy, my father
(Owen Wombwell) bought goods from a company called Sangers who were, at the time, one
of the largest local chemists' wholesalers.
Were the wholesalers connected
with the circus? - I don't know and I have never attempted to follow that one up. Was
a pharmacist in East Ham connected with the menagerie world? - that I did want to
Somehow I never got round to it for many years. I had asked my
father who thought there was a connection but he was not sure. The matter seemed
destined to go no further.
About twenty five years later I was talking to a work colleague who told me
that his parents had just bought property in Tollesbury (Essex), and that they were
surprised to discover restrictive conditions about keeping animals! By then I knew
that the menagerie family had bought land in that locality in the 19th century to
house the animals when they weren't touring.
Again matters rested until about twelve years ago when we made a visit to
Tollesbury and read large numbers of names on gravestones and in the parish
magazine. I mentioned this to my father, who asked me why I was looking in
Tollesbury as his family came from Langley, in a totally different part of the
This time he was able to give me a few clues about some of his aunts and uncles,
but I wasn't able to follow much of this up until after he had died. With the focus
now on the North West corner of Essex I have found a large number of Wombwells and
close variants; most of these are linked to the other Essex Wombwells I had
collected in my earlier searches. They are all listed on the next page.
If you can provide me with further information, I will be pleased to hear from you. You can contact me on Email firstname.lastname@example.org
This page last updated on 24th October 2001
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