History of Saffron Walden

open street area
Postcard of Market Place, Saffron Walden.

History of Saffron Walden >> White's Directory 1848

White's Directory of Essex 1848

This description of Saffron Walden covers two pages. Part 1 >>

Of Saffron Walden Castle, only a part of a keep, now used as a barn and stable, and some of the foundation walls are now standing. That is was a place of strength is evident, and that its extent was considerable may be inferred from the remains of old walls found by the workmen when digging the foundations of modern houses.

In the vicinity are the remains of an ancient oblong camp, called the Pell or Repel ditches. The south bank is about 700 feet long, 20 high, 50 broad at the base, and 6 or 8 broad at the top. Both banks and ditches are extremely bold, and in a field near them have been found great quantities of human bones.

Walden was made a corporate town by Edward VI. in 1549, at the intercession of John Smith, brother of the celebrated Sir Thomas Smith. Its government was then vested in twenty persons, out of whom a treasurer and two chamberlains were annually chosen.

The Corporation was re-modelled by a charter of William and Mary, and consisted of a mayor, recorder and twelve aldermen, with a town clerk and other officers; but under the Municipal Reform Act of 1835, it now consists of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, with a recorder, town clerk, coroner, and other officers, and a commissioner of the peace.

Its Quarter and Petty Sessions are held at the Town Hall, where the county magistrates hold petty sessions once a fortnight for Walden Police Division, and where the County Court is held monthly fro this town and many surrounding parishes. The town has many well-stocked shops and good inns, several breweries, and about 20 malt-kilns.

church - exterior
St Mary the Virgin's Church, Saffron Walden.
© Copyright N Chadwick contributor to the Geograph Project and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The church (St Mary,) stands on the crown of the hill, in the highest part of the town, and is a spacious and elegant fabric in the late perpendicular style, chiefly of the age of Henry VII. and VIII. In the reign of the latter, the east-end and part of the south aisle of the chancel were built by Lord Chancellor Audley, who is interred in the vault beneath, together with several of the Earls and Countesses of Suffolk.

Walpole calls it one of the lightest and most beautiful parish churches in England. It has a spacious nave, chancel and side aisles; and at the west end is a well-proportioned tower, upon which a new belfry and lofty crocketted spire were erected in 1831, at the costs of more than £3000.

The interior is very neat and well arranged. The windows are ornamented with mullions and tracery, and between several of them are niches, probably intended for statues of saints. The roofs are of timber, elegantly painted; and the spandrels between the arches, which support the centre, are well carved in stone.

Over the alter is a fine copy of Correggio's Holy Family, by Peters, said to be worth over £500 guineas. The whole fabric was thoroughly repaired and beautified at the cost of nearly £8000, in the years 1791, '2, and '3. A fine toned organ, and its handsome gallery were erected in 1824. The floor of the ancient church is said to have been almost covered with brasses, all of which are gone, except one, representing a priest.

In the south chancel is the tomb of the Lord Chancellor Audley; and in the north chancel is an altar tomb in memory of John Leche, who was vicar, and re-founded here the Guild of the Holy Trinity in the early part of the reign of Henry VIII. The entire length of the edifice, including the porch at the east end, is 200, and its breadth 82. The total height of the tower is 85 feet, and that of the spire 108, making a total of 193 feet. The tower has a fine peal of eight bells.

Lord Braybroke is impropriator of the great tithes, and also patron of the vicarage, valued in K.B. at £33.6s.8d., and in 1831 and £237, and now in the incumbency of the Rev. Ralph Clutton, B.D., who has a large and substantial residence, and 5A.16P. of glebe. The tithes were commuted in 1840, the vicarial for £300, and the rectorial for £61.10s.1d. per annum. The latter is charged on the land which does not belong to the impropriator.

A room was built at Sewer's End in 1847, as a chapel of ease for that eastern part of the parish.

Dissenters are numerous here, and have seven places of worship in the town, of which that belonging to the Society of Friends, is the oldest; its congregation having regular register of births from 1639, though the present Meeting House was not opened till 1676.

The Independant Chapel, in Abbey Lane, had its origin in 1665, when the Rev. Jonathan Paine, an ejected minister from Bishops Stortford, commenced preaching here to a congregation of nonconformists. Their first chapel was built in 1692, and the present chapel was erected on its site in 1811, at the cost of £3000. It has about 900 sittings, and is now under the ministry of the Rev. Frederick Pollard.

The General Baptists have had a congregation here since 1711, and their present chapel was built in 1789, and is now under the ministry of the Rev. John Marten. The Baptist Chapel at the entrance of the town was built in 1774, by a congregation which separated from the Independents. Here is also a Particular Baptist Chapel, built in 1822, and now under the pastoral care of Mr. J.D. Player, solicitor, son of the late minister.

Here are likewise two small chapels belonging to the Wesleyan and Primative Methodists, the former opened in 1824. Bible, Missionary, and other Societies, for the propagation of religious knowledge, are supported by the various demoninations, and here are also several Day and Sunday Schools, supported partly by subscription; an endowed Grammar School, a handsome range of Almshouses, and various charities for the poor.

This description of Saffron Walden covers two pages. Back to Part 1 >>

Back to History of Saffron Walden

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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
Postcard of Saffron Walden.

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