I would like to thank the following for giving me interviews or writing their own stories:
Mrs F Banks, Mr F J Banks, Mrs LA Broyden, Mr A Bull, Miss F R Clewer, Mrs M M Cowan, Mrs M Gray, Mr F Harritt, Mr and Mrs L Higgs, Miss A Knowles,
Mr S Levy, Miss J Lightwood, Mr F Livings, Miss A Phillips, Mr I Stock, Miss C Pollard, Mr S Reed, Mrs J Wright,
Miss N Warwick.
The following are some of the stories that have been pieced together from interviews with some of the older residents of the village who were either born here or came to live in Birchanger when they were very young. Most of them are in their 70's, 80's and even 90 and had remarkably clear memories of life in Birchanger from the turn of the century. These are not going to be the last interviews as Essex County Council want the Local History Recorder scheme to be an ongoing scheme so that future generations will know how their own ancestors lived out their lives in this village and soon it will be the turn of the 30, 40 and 50 years olds to tell their story and after that the younger ones making a complete picture to pass on to future Village Recorders. If any of you have photographs of a special event or village landmark which you would lend us to have copied we would be very grateful and also for any corrections or additional stories.
The Parish Registers from the St Mary's Church in Birchanger are now stored at the County Records Office in Chelmsford. There are several pieces of information you can gain from just reading the entries which start in Birchanger's case from 1688. Some of these first recorded surnames still live in the village today. They are: Hagger (without the wood), Eldred, Bull and Judd. Later in the 1747 to 1812 registers are:- Wright, Player, Banks, Nokes, Chapman, Mumford, Sandford, Reed, Warwick, Patmore, Phillips, Pigram and Gilbey. From here also you can learn under the Baptisms and Marriages, the occupations of the fathers, so that in the first entries the fathers are mainly described as "labourer", when you come onto the 1850's you find a father described as a "railway labourer" after the main railway line to Liverpool Street Station had been laid.
In 1831 the total population of Birchanger was 360 persons - 167 males, 193 females. There were 69 families and 65 inhabited houses. 4 Persons employing labourers, 61 employed in agriculture. 5 in retail trade or handicrafts, 3 professional men, 4 labourers not in agriculture and 6 elderly persons. This latter figure sounds rather ominous and one must presume many had died before reaching any retirement age. Old-Age pensions did not start until 1908, 5I-(25 p.) a week.
The Minutes of the first Birchanger Parish Council Meetings starting from 1894 arc kept at Chelmsford Record Office. Some of them make interesting reading, not least because many of the same problems occur today. For example, entry for 3rd January 1905 .... "After some considerable discussion it was resolved that no adequate reason has been shown for the proposed transfer of Birchanger into the County of Hertfordshire". 3 voted for the proposition, 1 against and 1 remained neutral. From our 1988 Parish Newsletter we see Hertfordshire still casting their acquisitive eyes on our parish the other side of the Link Road roundabout - how will it end? From an entry under 14th March 1910 "the Council unanimously resolved "no demand for cottages in Birchanger". Many of the early problems of the Parish council had to do with water, drainage and sewage disposal. A bill for the repair of the Parish Pump on 27 March 1906 was £23.17.6d (£23.85p) which was resolved would be paid by Mr Harry Chester's gift of £50 to the parish. This money, from the Minutes of 17th October 1904, was not just a philanthropic gift to the parish on his part, but "in consideration of the council consenting to this application to close the footpath by Poplar Hall, Mr Chester offered £50 to the Council". Mr Church (of The Mount) proposed and Mr Harrison (of Birchanger Place) seconded that "this Council consents to the closing of the said footpath on the terms offered by Mr Chester" (the monetary agreement later being crossed out by the Clerk - though still legible - as sounding too like a bribe!)
Later in June 1906, Mr Gripper of Brooklands wanted "to jump on the bandwagon" and offered to pay a proportion towards Stoney Common Road if the Council would support him in closing the footpath leading from the Common to Pesterford Bridge. The Parish Council though, regretted that "objections to closing this bridleway were insuperable". The road has never been properly repaired. Today many of the same footpaths and bridlepaths still exist and the problem now is more of keeping them from being ploughed up. On 18th September 1895 a request was sent to the Chief Constable at Chelmsford with a request for a policeman to be stationed here. Two years later in 1897 a petition was sent requesting a policeman. Then on 21st March 1904 it was noted that a Policeman had moved from the village to Stoneyfield Common and by so doing had nullified his usefulness in Birchanger. Clerk instructed to request his return. He did return and we know that a policeman lived in Birchanger for many years in a house in the Long Yard complete with blue light over his door. Nowadays with reorganisation we are attached to Stansted police who patrol the village in Cars.
It is difficult to imagine today what it was like not to have water coming out of a tap in one's kitchen or bathroom and not to be able to flush water down the lavatory. All the people I spoke to remember these times and much gossip was exchanged while one was waiting to fill one's receptacles with water at the village pumps. Some people carried 2 metal buckets balanced by a wooden yoke over the shoulders and others had jugs. As far as I can find out, the pumps were situated by the corner at Duck End as well as at the farm and then another at Lavender Cottage opposite Churton, by the old Parish Room (now a bungalow) on the village green, by Ivy Cottage, the first corner on the left in Bradley Common and at the big farms, Duck End, Birchanger Place, Birchanger Hall and Sion House. When Birchanger Place was pulled down in the 1950's it still only had a pump in the downstairs scullery to bring water into the house. From Miss Ruth Clewer's exercise book dated 16th July 1936 at Birchanger School, she writes "at present we get our water from pumps which are worked by hand but in 12 months time we shall have water taps In our houses. This water is coming from Henharn which is considered the highest point round here". The main sewer to Birchanger was constructed just after 1939-45 war, it was laid by the Americans who made the longest runway in the country at Stansted Airport. There were many ponds and springs which have since been filled in. There was "Chisels Pond" in the centre of the village on the corner facing The Working Men's Club and where Digby View houses are now. In winter this used to freeze over and a lot of fun was had sliding on it. There was also said to be a special big frog who lived in it which was of a rare breed and an official naturalist came to see it but unfortunately I learnt no more about this phenomenon. The panic "Chisels" is said to be a corruption of Choice Wells and it was certainly deep in parts. Another well-known place was "Spots Water" near where the Ambulance Station is now. This was really a ford and was quite a large stretch of water. There was a footbridge along the hedge for pedestrians. Miss Pollard tells the story of how her brother was driving the trap for Birchanger postmistresses, Miss Plester and Miss Grunter Smith and the water came over the top of the wheel. Miss Knowles remembers the delicious watercress that used to grow in the stream. It used to be the mill stream for Birchanger Mill which stood to the north of Duck End Farm and never ran dry. She remembers as a child, her father talking to an old man called"Dilly" who remembered the mill when it was still standing.
Gas was brought into the village sometime in the I930's. Front Miss Clewer's school exercise book she describes the opening of the new Church Hall "it had a gas heater and a gas cooker and it also had electric light". It was put up by private subscription and opened in 1935. The first council houses were built in 1927 called Forebury Way. These are the ones on the corner past The Three Willows opposite Churton. The rent was 7/6d. (37 ½p) a week. There was no mains water but the pump at Churton was nearby. This was later changed to a tap but it used to get frozen in winter, so maybe it was not such a good modern improvement. Lighting in these houses was by Aladdin Oil lamps and cooking was on a big black 'Kitchener stove which used solid fuel. Most of the inhabitants of Birchanger cooked on these stoves and probably bathed in front of them on Saturday nights "clean for Sunday in oval zinc baths or hip baths. All had a "copper" in the back kitchen for washing clothes. The next council houses to be built were those at Digby View in 1933 which was when Chisels Pond was drained. Birchwood was built after the war in 1954 over some of the village allotments and for the first time including old people's bungalows and proper bathrooms. From Miss Clewer's school exercise book again, we learn of the first refuse collection in Birchanger in July1936, the second Monday in every month. "Householders are to place their refuse in receptacles at the entrance to their premises. They are requested to rinse out their tins and bottles as that which is left clinging to the sides attracts rats, mice, flies and other vermin. The existirtg dumps will be discontinued.
One of the dumps used to be by the brickfield (where Highview is now) and was very unsightly. Lime from the chalkpits at the side of the drive at The Mount was used to make the bricks in the brick-kiln at Birchanger for the construction of Brooklands for Mr Charles Spencer in the 1870's. This was the first house in Stansted and Birchanger to have an inside lavatory and it is still there now, a large wooden seat over an attractive willow-patterned bowl.
Electricity was also brought to the village in the 1930's though not all houses had it and Mr Lucky's house in Bradley Common was still lit by gaslight until he died in the 1970's. Sion House did not have electricity in 1935 when Mrs Mabel Cray worked there as a kitchen maid. Gas lighting was laid on the main floors but her bedroom was up at the top of the house and she had to use a candle.
The invention of the bicycle was a wonderful help to the people living in Birchanger. Previously horse-drawn carts, carriages or traps were the only alternative to walking, though the Great Eastern Railway stopped at Stansted and then at Bishop's Stortford and was laid down in the 1850's. Miss Pollard tells of how they walked to Bishop's Stortford to go shopping but always stopped on the way home for a penny (l/2p) sponge cake and some sweets from Miss Cundall's (where the vets' surgery is now) in Rye Street. Bicycles cost about £5 in about 1905 and the first man to have one at the Duck End end of the village was Alfred Gilbey who worked at Duck End Farm -it had solid tires, fixed wheels and a brake which went down onto the front txre and much skill was needed to ride it. Mr Stanley Reed who was born in 1893 worked for Pamplins who had ploughing and steam engines. When they were road making at Watford he would leave Birchanger on this bicycle at 3 a.m. arriving at Watford by 7 a.m. There he lived in a caravan during the week returning to Birchanger by bicycle on Saturday afternoons. The roads in Birchanger were not tarmacked as now and there would be thick mud on all the roads in winter and thick dust in summer and this dust would settle on the leaves in the hedges and they would look a dirty white. Regular bus services did not start until after the 2nd World War.
From Miss Clewer's school exercise book again, writing in 1936 "There is a great assortment of motor cars throughout this country ... and if 1 were buying a car I should go to the city of motor-cars, Coventry to the Rover works and choose one of their latest models coloured black and green - but I haven't got the money to pay for it yet and it would cost £415".
There were several shops in Birchanger at the beginning of this century and deliveries by bicycle from Mascalls in Stansted with meat and also from shops in Bishop's Stortford on 3-wheeled tricycles with big box-like containers round them and a lot could be delivered in this way. There was a man who sold fresh fish in the village from a pony and trap which he kept at the 'Three Willows' in a barn and small field there. He was Mr Black Eldred (Peggy) who had a wooden leg. He may have lived in one half of "Centuries". Miss Knowles remembers two men in the village with wooden legs; the other was 'Snowball' Sandford who was the village shoe repairer; one was kicked by a horse and had to have his leg amputated and the other was caught in a mantrap when out poaching - we do not know which was which. There was a blacksmith beside the 'Three Willows' who repaired cart wheels and shod the horses. At one end of 'Old Cottage' Miss Perry kept a sweet shop. A cottage shop at this end of the village had one of those lovely bells which tinkled as you opened the door. It was kept by Mr and Mrs Neal and a lot could be bought for the weekly penny. An elderly man lived near here called Joe Reed who used to sweep chimneys for 6d. (2 ½p). He had a little truck in which he carried his rods and brushes. At the other end of the village just up Bradley Common on the right, part of The Bower, No.70 Birchanger Lane was the old PostOffice, the shop on the other side was later kept by Mr and Mrs Osborne. The spinsters, Miss Smith and Miss Plester lived in a small cottage adjoining. Miss Smith was the Postmistress and she used to collect the letters from the letter boxes and another elderly lady, Miss Perry, used to deliver the letters on a tricycle. Miss Smith had a little pony and trap and she used to grunt all the time when she was driving so all the children (very rudely) called her "Miss Grunter Smith" though her name was Nat. She was called this to differentiate between another Miss Smith who lived at the end of Park View who earned her living by knitting for people on a knitting machine and so she was called "Miss Knitter Smith". Another colourful family was the Sandfords. Hoppv, Scotchy, Snowball and Lennie who lived with their sister Rush who kept house for then, and when this family died out they were very much missed in the village. Mr. 'Scotchy' Sandford would go to farms with his steam engine for threshing. Water was an essential agent for his steam engine and he came with long water hoses which had to be connected to the farm's water supply. This operation would be done very early in the morning with "much cussing" but always very efficiently. The bulk of the draining was done by Mr Lennie Sandford who did the drainage by hand-digging and placing of clay pipes in a deep trench and never forgot where his line of work was put. Mr 'Hoppy' Sandford bought areas of local woodland and sawed logs which he sold in the village. lie had a four-wheeled cart pulled by an old horse. He also sold watercress which he gathered locally and sold for 2d. (lp) a bunch. One time he sadly lost his old horse which died and he had to replace it of necessity so bought another off some gypsies. He kept this old horse in the playing field of the old school and to his surprise and delight he found one morning when he went to feed it that it had produced a skewbald foal. The gypsies pestered him to let them have them both back but wise old Hoppy was having none of it. He eventually sold the foal to someone who broke it in and used it for riding.
The bread for the village was baked in Takeley in a brick oven by Mr Fitzgerald known as 'Vin". According to Miss Knowles, the bread was "out of this world". It was brought round in a cart and it never failed to come. Men used to take what was called a "Baggin" which was half a loaf cut bit by bit with a man's pocket knife and the same with the cheese, if lucky enough to have any, otherwise just the onion. The bread was always a cottage loaf with the wood ash still on the bottom but in his cart he also sold "oblongs and triangles and huffers". The wood used for the ovens was mostly Hornbeam which gets very hot. The hornbeam was cut about every 8 years and tied into bundles of about 3 feet(m) known as faggots which was also often used as a windbreak. Vegetables were no problem as all cottages had well-stocked gardens. Mr Stock's smallholding had a lovely old orchard and was very busy at fruit picking time with many varieties of apples, plums, pears, greengages and cobb nuts which were sold locally to a shop in Hockerill. Milk was obtained from the farms and children would earn 2d.(lp) aweek for collecting the milk in 2-3 pint cans for other people. These cans were filled for Id. (l12p) a pint and according to where you lived in the village you went either to Birchanger Place, Sion House or Mr Jack Reed at Parsonage Farm, a smallholding practically next door to Duck End Farm and he delivered the milk by bicycle to the door daily in bottles. Sadly this all had to finish when the Tuberculin Tested Milk law came in and the milk and dairy cows had to conform to a very high standard.
There used to be another pub in the village called "The Three Horseshoes" which was just by the Parish Room and village green. It has been pulled down now and 5 houses were built in its place in the 1960's leaving just one pub in the village "The Three Willows".The Working Men's Club has been a strong centre of village life since the end of the last century. At one time it appeared more like a private house and customers got their drink through a cubby hole. Before the second world war there used to be five grass tennis courts at the Working Men's Club and Miss Pollard remembers it as a flourishing tennis club and she went all over the place playing matches. Now it is renowned for its bowling club and has grown much larger with many modern facilities and a large bar.
A central focus of village life was Birchanger Place lived in by Mr and Mrs Thomas Harrison. She was the daughter of Mr Nash of Sion House. They were very active in village affairs, especially the school. They also provided cough medicine (homemade) when the children had coughs. Mrs Harrison ran the girls' Sunday School and a Girls Friendly Society for girls aged 5- - 11 in the Blue Room at Birchanger Place. Friends of the Harrisons who were missionaries gave talks there and the girls learnt knitting and needlework there. Mr Harrison was a very keen photographer and took the photographs which Mr Sid Levey has given to the Saffron Walden Museum and of which we now have copies. They were all taken at about the turn of the century. He was also a keen organ player and had an organ in his house and also gave one to the church which was considered one of the best in the neighbourhood. Church and village fetes were held in the garden of Birchanger Place and there was a most magnificent cedar tree under which stalls could shelter and was a real feature in the village. It was cut down in the 1950's when the house was pulled down and levelled for building the estate which is now called Harrisons in memory of the family who did so much for the village.
The house was at least 16th Century and maybe older and is mentioned in Kelly's directory as being noteworthy which makes it all the sadder that it was not saved and restored. Legend has it that there was a secret underground tunnel to the church from Birchanger Place though some others think it was from The Cottage to the Church but this would be a very long tunnel and under the road too. Birchanger flail farm and Sion House are two of the other old houses in the village and we will be trying to trace their histories. We know Mr Nash of Sion House planted the beautiful beech trees at Sion House which were cut down in the second world war and their park like appearance gave the name to Park Villas. We have a copy of the auction sale in 1854 of Sion House and Folly Farm or Stansted Mill Farm (now called The Mount) we have, the original of which is in Saffron Walden Museum. The Mount was originally the farm-house for Stansted Miii. Sion House in the 1920's was owned by Miss Fanny Poultney, a cousin of the Chesters at Broom End, Poplar flail and Fairfield, and Miss Pouitney's sister was one of the first lady doctors to be qualified in England. There were 4 maids at Sion House - a housekeeper, a pariourmaid, housemaid and kitchenmaid. Mrs Mabel Gray was a kitcheutnaid there starting at the age of 14 years. Her uniform was a navy blue frock and white apron, white cap, black shoes and stockings. These you had to buy yourself which she managed by joining the club of her aunt Mrs Bertv Len. Her wages were 7/6d. (38p) a week but paid monthly 30/-(£1.50p). Her day started at 6 a.m. when she got up to fill the boiler with coke in the sculley for hot water. Afterwards she went down to the cellar to skim the milk in big, round, shallow pans. The cowman, Mr Saggs made butter (there were 4 men who worked outside at Sion House). Then the Birchanger children came for their milk and at 8.30 a.m. the' had breakfast - Mondays bananas and cream and bread; Tuesdays, bacon and egg; Wednesday, shredded wheat and cream; Fridays, kippers or mackerel; Saturdays, porridge and cream; Sundays, boiled egg. After that was the washing-up and helping cook prepare lunch. She had to clean the scullery, dairy and kitchen and the flagstones were washed ~vice a week and the oilcloth in the middle of the floor had to be washed with separated milk, finally cleaning the windows and cupboards. Lunch was roast beef Sundays, cold Mondays, mince Tuesday, fish Fridays, the other days were open for other menus. Additional jobs of the kitchen maid were plucking chickens and guinea fowl and the worst job of all - gutting rabbits. After lunch she had to change into a clean dress and stay downstairs in the servants' hall. Tea was at 4.30 p.m. and sometimes people came for milk or cream (2/6d.(12.5p) for a 1 lb. jar). Bread and butter and jam and cake was served at tea then supper at 8 p.m. which was sometimes shepherd's or fish pie. Puddings were made from bottled fruits from the garden which they had picked and made into jam or bottled. It was generally reckoned that the staff ate far better than Miss Poulteney who was diabetic and could not eat a lot. The day finished at 8.45 p.m. but she was not allowed out and had to be in bed by 9.30 p.m. She had 2 hours off on Tuesday afternoons, 7 hours off on Thursday afternoons and a Sunday afternoon and evening once a fortnight. Staff all had to go to church on Sunday mornings which sometimes she skipped but was then interrogated by the housekeeper as to which hymns had been sung! She married Mr Thomas Gray who worked at Rochford's Nurseries - he was never allowed to meet her at Sion House but had to wait at the bottom of the drive. Later Sion House was owned by some people called Wilson for about 29 years and it was they who cut down the beech trees. After the war the Tonkins lived there with their five Sons for over 30 years. Mr Tonkin came from New Zealand and was a fighter pilot stationed nearby during the war and then married a local girl from Blythe House, Stansted.
Finally, welcome to the Church and the School. There have been 50 vicars at St Man's Church starting from 1349. For many years when New College, Oxford owned the Manor of Birchanger, the vicar was always a graduate of that college. The official description of St. Mary's Church has been written in a special leaflet by the present Rector's mother, Mrs Evans-Pughe. The Rector's children shown in Mr Harrison's photographs are the sons and daughters of the Rev. Cam who had nine children, six daughters and three sons. There was very little money and the girls were all educated at home by their mother and father. They must have made a good job of it as one, Helen, went to the U.S.A. and had a good job at Harvard as a Maths teacher. They were very poor and the youngest girl never had any new clothes they were all "hand-me-downs" from her sisters.
The very first mention of anything to do with a school in Birchanger was in the Parish Register under Baptisms and Marriages - 1826 Elizabeth Maryanne daughter of James Newman, Schoolmaster. Which school he taught at we do not know as certainly Birchanger Church School was not there then. It was not until 1839 that all parish priests had to fill in a questionnaire by law regarding the education provided in their parish - we have a copy of Birchanger's form and there is only a mention of a private school and we do not know where this was. We do not know the date the old village school was built but the first school log book we have runs from 1863 to 1898. During this time the size of the school varied from 26 to 88 pupils. Many pupils took time off in September and October for gleaning. The School year started in April in those days. Grants were given by the Government Inspector according to the number of pupils who passed exams. The second Log book is from 1899 - 1927 and these are now going to be kept safe in the Chelmsford Records Office but we have copies. By far the most significant fact not only for the school but for the whole of Birchanger village was the appointment of Mr H. F. Lightwood as Headmaster in 1908. When it was heard he was shortly to be married, instead of being obliged to climb a ladder and sleep in a loft above the school room, the authorities built him a house next door to the School. This is now called Rectory Cottage but has now been sold and no longer houses the school teachers. From everyone who knew him, either as a pupil or as a fellow villager, his name is revered by all and he, along with the Reverend Cam were one of the prime movers of Birchanger village life. Discipline in the village was maintained by Mr Lightwood and Mr Theobald the village policeman though corporal punishment was very seldom used. Mr Lightwood's reputation as a schoolmaster was widely known and the authorities were constantly asking him to move to larger schools such as Dagenham but he firmly rejected even offer. His heart was truly in the welfare of the children of Birchanger, now a village of about 800. He was known throughout as the "The Master" and Mrs Lightwood was called "Governess". Be represented Essex Teachers on the County Teacher Association and many other appointments. All testify that he entered into the life of the village, being a wonderful fund-raiser -the Church Ball, children's outings and sports such as cricket, football and bowls and many others. In 1913 Mr Lightwood won a competition in the Dailv Mirror which was for Father Christmas to land in a field in the village bringing Christmas presents for the children. There is a photograph of this event and Mr Stanley Reed's Aunt Nell is in the picture. The aeroplane landed in the field where the Digby View houses are now.
The annual day trip to the seaside was organised by Mr Lightwood in about 7 charabancs, children and parents starting at 7 a.m. and getting home late in the evening. The only exception to this was in 1924 when the day was spent at Wemb!ey amidst the splendours of the Empire Exhibition.
The whole neighbourhood mourned when Mr Lightwood died in April 1941 at the age of 55. We have copies of the many tributes paid to him written in local papers at that time and an account of his funeral held at St Mary's Church, Birchanger. His wife took over the Headship from him for a time and afterwards lived with her daughter, Joan at Ware, returning to live at Birchanger until 1951. She died aged 92 in March 1975 and had a Memorial Service at St Mary's Church packed with all her past pupils. Since then the School has seen several headmasters or headmistresses come and go. The last headmistress at the Old School was Mrs Rose, who, when she left, had been at Birchanger for eighteen years. The new school was built at Birchwood and was opened in 1981 with Mr Sid Levey representing past pupils of Birchanger School. Now Mrs Robbins is the headmistress and there are 50 pupils in the school aged from 5 to 11 years. In Mr Lightwood's time, many pupils stayed until they were 14 years old and then left to go straight out to work. Nowadays it is just a primary school and all pupils have to move to another school at 11 years old and until they are 16 or 18 years old they have to travel out of the village to go to them. Miss Knowles recalling her childhood in Birchanger never remembers being bored although they had very few toys or games provided for them. Children used to fish in the streams and ponds for minnows with a bit of cotton and a small worn, - with a bit of practice you might be 70% successful. Hoops were popular to run along the road with, the girls having wood ones and the boys iron with an iron hook; spinning tops with whips to keep them going and some could spin them without a whip by just winding string around and throwing it. Almost every boy of any size had a catapult and many girls too - some were very skilled and many a rabbit was taken home for a pie. It was not always rabbit - at night the bigger boys would go "bat folding" mostly after sparrows. This was two poles with a length of netting or a very thin cloth between and this was held up to the hedge on one side and then other people hit the hedge sending out the birds into the trap - ivy on the walls of houses and outbuildings were very rewarding places. Sparrow stew or sparrow roast is quite good when young - "young" applies to the birds and humans. Other games were played with buttons, something like Tiddlywinks and the mothers were always on the rampage if their button box had been raided. Games like marbles and conkers were played though methods of hardening the conkers have changed - deep-freezes and microwave ovens have been tried these days though maybe to no greater effect.
Besides farm work in the 1920's, Rochford Nurseries in Forest Hall Road started in 1898 and were big employers and many people from Birchanger worked there and especially those from Stoneyfield Common. Mr. Cawkell was considered a modern, model employer with many leisure facilities for his workers. Other employers were those who had steam machines which went from farm to farm at harvest time. Then garages and engineering works started in Bishops Stortford. Now, since the war, new estates have been built and many people commute to London on the trains to work.
All I have spoken to have such happy memories of Birchanger and the fun they had in the old days although materially they were all very poor and led what we would call today "hard" lives. Today houses in Birchanger have central heating, bathrooms, washing machines, dishwashers, microwave ovens and split level stoves instead of the old "Kitchener" stove and we go to the supermarket and buy prepackaged foods - but does it taste as good? Television, home computers, tape-recorders, and small radios have taken the place of the old wireless and accumulators, which needed regularly changing - you could get them at The Step House.
There have been many more changes and everyone will be able to think of some and no doubt there will be many more as the next century progresses. We hope future Birchanger residents will record their lives too. So bringing the village to life for following generations.