A short history
Saffron Walden is a picturesque, medieval town, in north west Essex. It has a rich heritage of old buildings reflecting its wealth as a rural market town. A market has been held here since 1141, and market days are now Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Shoppers enjoy browsing & buying goods from a number of different market stalls, which vary from week to week and can include:
Fresh fruit & vegetables, plants & flowers, groceries, clothes, stationery, fresh fish, health foods, kitchenwares, tools, olives & other Mediterranean foods, jewellery, silver and vintage/retro, cheeses, picture framing service, fabric, household items (both practical & decorative), fashions, hats and footwear.
Saffron Walden is proud to have been recently featured in 'The Market Times' where Saffron Walden was described as a popular and sought after town to live where the market gives it its character and identity. The Tuesday market is traditional for locals and Saturday is the busy cosmopolitan market day. The food on offer is the market's greatest strength which includes stalls selling cheese, fruit and vegetables, olives, breads, eggs, whole foods, fish and a Spanish food stall. Flowers and country collectibles also feature.
Jamie Oliver, who is a big supporter of local markets and market shopping, lives locally and patronises a number of the food stalls on this outstanding market.
Beyond the Market Place in Saffron Walden, there are many independent shops and eating places to choose from. Many small business premises are located in the Rows, which were the town’s shopping centre from Medieval times onwards. These are detailed in the Saffron Directory, copies of which are available free of charge from Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre. The Saffron Directory is also available online, please click here
There are many interesting historic buildings in the town. At the heart lies St Mary’s Church, the largest parish church in Essex. Fine examples of elaborate moulded plasterwork (pargetting), can be seen on the Old Sun Inn and the houses in Castle Street & Bridge Street. Also of note are the Eight Bells, the timber-framed Cross Keys, and the medieval building that is One, Myddylton Place.
Nearby, Saffron Walden Museum is of particular interest. The collections are housed in one of the oldest purpose built museum buildings in the country, completed in 1835. It has everything from mammoth tusks to mummies, from an early Tudor bed to a natural history museum gallery. In the grounds of the museum are the ruins of the Castle keep which dates back to the 1130s or 40s.
Bridge End Garden is a real jewel and an environment of great charm on the north side of Saffron Walden. Careful restoration has replicated gardening techniques and designs typical of the Victorian era and brought the garden back to its full splendour. The hedge maze is of particular appeal to children. The path into the garden passes the Fry Art Gallery which houses a collection of works by a Great Bardfield group of artists who settled in the Essex countryside in the 1930s.
The attractive Common is the oldest of Saffron Walden’s open spaces and on its eastern side is the largest turf labyrinth still surviving in Europe. Children of all ages enjoy following the ‘path’ through the turf, which winds for about one mile within a circle 100 feet (30.5 meters) in diameter.
The Saffron Walden Town Trail
For more information, or for a free copy of the Saffron Walden Town Trail, please contact the Tourist Information Centre at 1 Market Place, tel: 01799 524002 or click here.
Nihonde wa: Saffron Walden Town Trail in Japanese
For a copy of the Saffron Walden Mini Guide click here.
To view the Saffron Walden Official Guide, which includes a map of the whole town at the back, including residential areas, click here.
A free Blue Plaques in Saffron Walden leaflet offering an alternative route through residential areas of note is also available from the Tourist Information Centre.
For a longer walk taking in parkland and countryside surrounding the town, the Saffron Walden World War II Trail may be of interest. Please ask for this free leaflet at the Tourist Information Centre.
Guided tours of Saffron Walden and area
Saffron Walden Blue Badge Guides specialise in pre-booked group walking tours of Saffron Walden, Thaxted, Great Dunmow and Stansted Mountfitchet, showing the interesting sites of these towns, their churches and timber framed buildings.
Tours can be arranged to suit your particular group's interests. For further information on the wide range of tours on offer please contact the Tours Organiser on 01799 526109.