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.
The town of Saffron Walden was first called ‘Walden’ and then ‘Chipping Walden’ until around 1500 when the saffron crocus was grown extensively in the area and the saffron trade was at its peak. The ‘Saffron Walden’ name was formalised by Henry VIII in a charter granted in 1514, which showed five saffron flowers in the margins. The story of Saffron Walden and the saffron crocus can be seen by clicking here.
Saffron Walden’s market has won the title of ‘Best Small Outdoor Market’ in the 2018 Great British Markets Awards. 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, clothes, fresh fish, health foods, olives & other Mediterranean foods, jewellery, silver and vintage/retro, 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.
To download our Market leaflet, which also has information on hiring the Town Hall and Bridge End Garden for weddings and conferences, please click here.
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.