ID PH01_SPR Article from Mersea Museum / Elaine Barker

TitleSpring Wyncoll

This research is a funny old business! You set off in one direction and before you know it you've gone down a totally different path!

This particular path involves my research into a man called Spring Wyncoll.

I set off on the research being inspired by a picture from 1888 of a Fingringhoe man, Spring Wyncoll. The picture, in the possession of Pat Wyncoll, shows him posing by a penny farthing looking like a showman in a dapper suit with gleaming shoes.

Spring Wyncoll - penny farthing

By the time of this picture the penny farthing (also called an 'ordinary' or a 'high-wheeler') was being superseded by the modern bicycle referred to as a 'safety bicycle'. The penny farthing's heyday was short-lived being popular in the 1870s and 80s and, as you will read, this particular example ended up being broken up for its parts.

Pat Wyncoll then pointed out a kerb grave on the eastern edge of Peldon churchyard in danger of being engulfed by bramble and hedging. Its inscription on the north side reads

'In loving memory of Spring Wyncoll'.

In the parish burials' register the Rector, Edgar G Bowring, adds in the margin

.. parish clerk, sexton and gardener at the rectory for thirty years.

Although he was born in the Abberton/ Langenhoe area and, once married, lived and worked mainly in Fingringhoe, Spring Wyncoll spent his later years in Peldon and appears in the 1911 census living at Goings Cottages, Peldon with his first wife Emily (born in Little Horkesley in around 1863); they don't appear to have children. He is described as a 'gardener (domestic)'.

Born in 1863, Spring worked throughout his life as a groom and a gardener. As with many agricultural workers he moved about for work living at different times on the Causeway at Langenhoe, Brick House in Fingringhoe, in Colchester and for thirty years in Peldon.

It is likely his first wife Emily died sometime after the census of 1911 and during that time he possibly married Frances A Bloyce (in 1916 Oct - Dec in Tendring).

Spring Wyncoll died 14.5.1930 aged 67 and is buried in Peldon Churchyard with second wife, Frances, who died aged 85 on 5.9.1934 (born approx.1849). Her name is commemorated on the other side of the kerb grave.

On Frances' death the following entry appears in the Essex County Standard

Mrs Frances Wyncoll passed away at the age of 85. With her husband, the late Spring Wyncoll who for many years was Parish Clerk, she took a great interest in church and parish affairs. Essex County Standard 14.9.1934

Some disquiet emerged during my research for there appeared to be two Fingringhoe Spring Wyncolls. There is a Spring Robert Wyncoll, approximately six years younger than our Peldon parish clerk, who was the son of a publican, Robert Wyncoll, living in The Whalebone in Fingringhoe. Was the showman posing by the penny farthing Peldon's or The Whalebone's Spring Wyncoll?

A chance meeting (at Great Wigborough church coffee morning) with Geoff Wyncoll (Pat's cousin) resulted in him sending me the following picture.

Spring Wyncoll pedalo

The drawing above appeared in Yachting Monthly and was used in a local paper. The article which accompanied it paints a hilarious picture of the launch!"

'Cycle Boat' on the Colne

A DRAWING made from an old photograph in the possession of Mrs Bassingham of Fingringhoe, of the 'cycle-boat' which the late Mr Spring Wyncoll, of Fingringhoe, built, and which his friend, Mr Crickmar, pedalled on the water from Fingringhoe to Colchester. The boat (which was more of a flat-bottom punt than the drawing suggests) was built in an upper room at the Whalebone Inn, and launched through the window. The 'engines' were the mechanism of the first bicycle introduced into Fingringhoe, a 'penny-farthing'.

Conclusive proof that it was indeed Spring Robert Wyncoll, the son of the Whalebone's landlord, who was the owner of the penny farthing.

Spring Robert Wyncoll was to assist his parents in the pub before becoming a boat builder along with two of his brothers. Following his father's death in 1919, his mother, Catherine took over the Whalebone. In the 1939 register Spring was living with his wife in Spring Villas, Fingringhoe.

On further investigation I discovered the story of the 'cycle boat' had been retold several times in different publications each giving a bit more information about Spring's life.

'A CYCLE BOAT' With the death of Mr Spring Wyncoll, at Fingringhoe, nr. Colchester, Essex, at the age of 73, the memory of his 'cycle boat' is revived. Mr Wyncoll having had a 'penny-farthing' built in Colchester (which was the first cycle to appear in Fingringhoe), built himself a boat in an upper room of the Whalebone Inn. He built in the cranks of the cycle with two paddles, and then proceeded to ride his 'cycle boat' on the Roman River and the Colne. A friend of his Arthur Crickmar, made the first expedition from Fingringhoe Mill to East Mills at Colchester on this peculiar craft. History does not relate what happened to it.

In his youth Mr Wyncoll was apprenticed to the Rowhedge Iron Works as a shipwright and boat builder, and later made one voyage as a ship's carpenter from London to Australia and back. Apparently, a sailor's life did not appeal to him, and again he took to boat building, this time at Husk's yard, Wivenhoe, and later at Cox and King's. He then set up on his own at Mersea, where he built and repaired small craft.

Eventually he retired to Fingringhoe, where he became a Parish Councillor, one of the five Charity Trustees, and a keen parish historian. His death was due to a road accident in which he was injured some months earlier, and from the effects of which he never fully recovered.

Spring's escapade didn't escape the attention of local author, Hervey Benham, for in his book The Last Stronghold of Sail he holds up the story as an illustration of the 'gaiety and zest of life in those days of hard toil and uncertain livelihood'

Peldon's Spring Wyncoll seems to have led a much more decorous life serving church and community!

Postscript And what of such an unusual first name?

Geoff Wyncoll writes

I believe the first time Spring was used as a forename was my 7th great grandfather, Thomas Spring Wyncoll 1663 to 1710. His parents were Thomas Wyncoll and Mary Spring. Young Thomas married Dorothy Umpreville who was the direct descendant of the kin of William the Conquerer who came to England in the 11th Century. Thomas and Dorothy named one of their sons Spring, born about 1689. Since then there appear to be a few boys named Spring.

Elaine Barker
Peldon History Project

Thanks to Pat and Geoff Wyncoll
The Hervey Benham Trust

AuthorElaine Barker
SourceMersea Museum