A Brief History of Birchanger

About 3500 years ago a hunter discharged an arrow in Birchanger Wood, which was recently found by a rambler with a keen eye. Other Bronze Age traces have been found at Blacklands when the A120 link road was built and Bronze Age settlements have been found recently on the car park excavations at Stansted airport.

Roman traces where also detected at Blacklands and also at the M11 interchange, which was part of the Roman Road known as Stane Street.

The Saxons first settled Birchanger in the 5th and 6th centuries when both the field patterns and the line of the lane were formed.

The name Birchanger derives from two words, the first meaning birch or beech tree and the second means place. In about 886 the village came under control of Guthrum the Dane as Essex and East Anglia became controlled by the Vikings under Dane geld.

By the start of the 11th century the Church was established on its present site together with a Lord of the Manor. Just before the Norman Conquest the Lord of the Manor was a man called Thorkell. This name indicates Viking ancestry. Thorkell also held Takeley and Widdington, but his name disappears after the conquest.

When William the Conqueror on his conquest of England had to seek shelter in St Valery before finally sailing across to Hastings. Therefore after the conquest, in thanks to the monks of St Valery, Birchanger became under control of this Abbey. A priory - an outpost of the abbey - was set up in Takeley at the site of Warish Hall. The tenant-in-chief was Geoffrey de Manderville.

Birchanger was recorded in the Domeday Book in 1089, and was recorded as having 25 to 30 men and woman, a church, a mill and a woodland capable of supporting 100 pigs.

Birchanger remained under the Abbey control until 1337 when Edward III declared war on France and confiscated the goods and estates of alien priories. Birchanger was then let out to various landowners until 1391 when Richard II gave it to William of Wykeham (said to be the richest man in England at that time).

Wykeham had founded New College in Oxford, and used the revenues from Birchanger to endow this college. To this day the College has rights to present candidates to the living of the rectory. The feudal endowments where eventually sold off in the 19th Century.

From the Tudor to the Georgian times, the layout of the roads, tracks and older properties where established, with wattle and daub, being replaced by stone brick and flint.

The economy of the village was based generally on farming, milling and blacksmithing. In later times there was a brick making business and in more recent times, the Rochford nurseries which, amongst other things supplied Grapes for the 1st Class passengers as they sailed across the Atlantic.

In recent years, with the development of transport, rail, road and air the population of Birchanger as changed drastically. Farming being mechanised means that few within the village actually work within its boundaries.

Although old place names and family names, such as Reed, Banks, Gilbey, Warick and Bass live on it is important that we continue to protect and record this village's heritage as what happens today is tomorrow's history.