History of Saffron Walden

Saffron Walden © Copyright The Francis Frith Collection 2005. http://www.frithphotos.com
High Street, Saffron Walden, 1907
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection.

History of Saffron Walden >> White's Directory 1848

White's Directory of Essex 1848

This description of Saffron Walden covers two pages. Part 2 >>

SAFFRON WALDEN is a municipal borough and handsome market town, delightfully situated in the heart of Uttlesford Hundred, on a bold eminence, rising form the Slade Brook, on the eastern side of Lord Braybroke's extensive and beautiful Park of Audley-End, about 2 miles east of Littlebury and Wenden Stations, on the Northh -Eastern Railway, 42 miles North by East of London, 12 miles North by East of Bishop Stortford, and 27 miles North North West of Chelmsford. It has separate quarter and petty sessions.

Its parish contains 7380 acres of land, and has only 3181 inhabitants in 1801, but in 1831 they had increased to 4762, and in 1841 to 5111, living in 1030 houses, beside which, there were 82 unoccupied and one building when the census was taken. Fifty-one labourers were then absent; and of the population returned, 98 were in the Union Workhouse , and 53 in Edward the 6th's Almshouses.

The parish includes the handsome seat and pleasant village of Audley End, one mile West; the hamlet of Sewer's End, 2 miles East; the hamlets of North End and Little Walden, from 1 to 3 miles North of the town. It comprises about 30 farms, some of which have large and pleasantly situated houses, bearing different names.

The town has one of the handsomest churches in the county, and has seven principal streets, one of which is the spacious market-place, where a large and elegant Public Building was erected by a company of shareholders in 1848, comprising a spacious Corn Exchange, and apartments for the Saving's Bank, Post Of ice, News Rooms, etc.

The increasing importance of the corn market had long required the accommodation of a Corn Exchange, before erection of this building , which stands upon nearly a quarter of an acre of land, previously covered with a range of unslightly old buildings.

A new Cattle Market, entered by a handsome archway, was provided in 1831, at the cost of about £1200, on the site of the old Eight Bells public-house. In the market pace is a commodious and handsome Town Hall, and the town is now well paved, and lit with gas.It has been much improved during the last thirty years, by the demolition of many of the ancient houses and other buildings, and the erection of new ones, and by the widening of some of the thoroughfares.

One of the first of these improvements was the removal of an old building, which extended 27 feet into the road, opposite the White Horse Inn, and contracted that entrance to the market place from 45 feet to 18 feet. In 1818 the old Market Cross was removed.

About twelve years ago, a bridge was built over the Slade Brook, and a good road made to it for carriage and foot passengers. Some years ago, a public well, bored to the depth of 1000 feet, was made by Jabez Gibson, Esq., a public-spirited member of the Society of Friends, and a great benefactor to the town.

The carriage roads and footpaths leading to the town have also been greatly improved, and the latter afford delightful promenades, especially towards Audley-End and Littlebury, where the scenery is richly diversified and well-wooded. The market, held every Saturday, is numerously well attended, and well supplied with corn, cattle and all kinds of provisions; and on Nov. 1st and 2nd, for cattle, horses, ect., and on the Monday after August 3rd, for lambs, etc.

Market Square, Saffron Walden © Copyright Footstepsphotos 2006. http://www.footstepsphotos.co.uk/index.html
Market Square, Saffron Walden
Low resolution copy courtesy of Footsteps' Shop on Ebay. Quality postcards of Essex.

The name Walden is from the Saxon words "weald" and "den," signifying woody hill, and the term Saffron is said to have been applied to the town from the great quantities of that plant formerly cultivated in its vicinity. Of the early history of Walden very little is known prior to the Norman Conquest, when it was one of the 118 lordships given to Geoffrey de Mandeville, or Magnaville, who fixed his residence here and built the castle, which became the head of the great barony and honor of Mandeville.

His grandson of the same name was created Earl of Essex, and built another castle at Pleshy. He also enlarges and strengthened Walden Castle. Humphrey de Bohun, the 12th Earl of Essex, had license in 1347, to embattle his manor house at Walden. On the partition of the barony in 1421, the manor of Walden, with its park fell to the share of the King.

In 1126, Geoffrey, the first Earl, founded a Priory, on the west side of the town, and in 1190, it was converted into an Abbey of the Benedictine order. This abbey was richly endowed with lands and churches, of which Walden was one; and it continued to flourish till the suppression in the reign of Henry VIII., when its revenues were valued at £406.15s.11d. per annum.

It was granted in 1538, to Sir Thomas Audley, who was then Lord Chancellor of England, and was created in the same year Baron Audley, of Walden; but on his death, without male issue, in 1544, the title became extinct. His daughter and sole heiress married Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk, who was beheaded in 1572, but his younger son, Thomas, was summoned to Parliament, in 1579, as Baron Howard de Walden; and was created Earl of Suffolk, in 1603.

He built, on the site of the Abbey, the extensive and magnificent mansion, which, in honour of his material grand-father, he called Audley End. He died in 1626, and was succeeded by his son, James. On the death of the letter, in 1706, the earldom passed to his brother, but the barony fell into abeyance between his two daughters; vix., Essex, wife of Edward Lord Griffin, and Elizabeth, wife of Sir Thomas Felton.

The abeyance was terminated i 1784, in favour of John Griffin Whitwell, sole heir of the second Baron Griffin, who was created Baron Braybroke, of Braybroke, in Northamptonshire, in 1788. He died without issue in 1799 when the title of Baron Howard de Walden passed to the fourth Earl of Bristol, and on his death, in 1803, to Charles Augustus Ellis, the present baron.

The title of Baron Braybroke passed to the nearest relative of the first baron, Richard Aldworth Neville, the late baron, who died in 1825, and was succeeded by the Rt. Hon. Richard Griffin, the present Lord Braybroke, who was born in 1783, and resides at Audley End. His eldest son, the Hon. Rochard Cornwallis Griffin, was born in 1820. His lordship is lord of the manors, called Walden and Brook Walden, and owner of a great part of the parish, and the rest belongs to various free and copyholders.

This description of Saffron Walden covers two pages. Continues Part 2 >>

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Saffron Walden - Cary's New and Correct English Atlas, 1798

Saffron Walden - First Series Ordnance Survey Map 1805

This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth. Licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence BY-SA-4.0

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High Street, Saffron Walden
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