As parishes go in Essex, Eight Ash Green is a virtual newcomer, having been created as a new civil parish in the rural district of Lexden and Winstree in January 1947. Land was acquired from the neighbouring parishes of Aldham (four acres), Stanway (125 acres), Copford (641 acres) and Fordham (844 acres). Lying five miles to the west of Colchester, the parish straddles the main A1124 road to Cambridge.
In 1949 the total population was 660, most of whom were involved in agriculture or local trades. Today the population has grown enormously to over 2,000, reflecting the increasing popularity of this part of Essex as improved road and rail links attract both new industries and commuters, As a result, where 40 years ago there was prime agricultural land, there a now modern housing estates.
Because of the manner of its creation, Eight Ash Green, unlike most Essex villages, has no ancient centre. There are some scattered timber framed houses of considerable interest, dating mainly from the late 16th century, while Gatehouse Farm on Fordham Heath is actually mentioned in a document of 1291. Fordham Heath itself may well have been the site an early manufacturing industry; in 1968 a particularly fine example of Neolithic polished flint axe was found in a field behind the Cricketers, where there were many other flints of a similar honey colour.
The church of All Saints was built of locally made brick beside the main road in 1898 to serve this northern outpost of the parish of Copford, whilst the nearby Methodist chapel was opened in 1936 to replace a little one which stood in Huxtables Lane at the edge of the heath. Here, it is said, in fine weather services were often conducted from a farm wagon open to the winds blowing across a treeless heath where cattle grazed and birds sang.
In one respect Eight Ash Green is blessed above almost all other Essex villages. It is a village of greens. The original green which gave its name in 1777 to the little hamlet of cottages clustered at the end of Blind Lane, has been gradually eaten away until only a pathetic remnant remains, looking for all the world like a rather wide roadside verge. Even the old village pond has been filled in. But there are others.
Daisy Green and Seven Star Green, lying south of the main road, together account for almost nine acres of open land. Both had small clusters of cottages on their edges. Daisy Green has one 18th century farmhouse and a series of modernised cottages which were originally built in the mid 19th century to accommodate workers on the new rail line. The name given to one of them perpetuates the old country name for an animal no longer seen hereabouts - the sally is a hare, and a catcher once lived there.
Seven Star Green also has one 18th century house, the Maltings, whose name reflects one of the most important rural industries of an agricultural area. A few old cottages remain, but the inter-war years saw the beginning of development along the edges of the green as the need for grazing decreased. Today, these two small greens are being returned to their original state of ancient grazing common land. Both these greens were given to Eight Ash Green Parish Council in 1974, by deed of gift, by the lord of the manor of Copford, Mr Brian Harrison.
Fordham Heath is another matter entirely. An ancient heathland with rights of common grazing, and reputed to be the second largest village green (of some 36 acres) in Essex, it was granted by Act of Parliament to the parish of Eight Ash Green in 1965, the rights of common grazing being confirmed in 1980. Older villagers remember a very different heath from that which exists today. Apart from the military lands at Berechurch and Donyland, it is the last surviving remnant of the seven great heathlands which surrounded Colchester in the past, but which have succumbed to the sprawl of housing or to the extraction of the gravel which gave them their being.
Today the upper heath is a valuable recreational amenity for the village, and is the home of the cricket and football clubs originating in the immediate post-war period.
In addition to the greens and common land, the village is fortunate to possess a nature reserve owned by the Essex Wildlife Trust. The Iron Latch Reserve contains a wildflower-rich meadow and a coppiced woodland, both managed to enhance their wildlife potential.