Little Walden is a quiet little hamlet a few miles from Saffron Walden, on the way to Hadstock. Near the Hall Farm is said to be the line of a Roman road, and there is some evidence of transitory Roman settlement hereabouts – grave goods of the first and second century AD can be seen in Saffron Walden Museum. The present Hall Farm dates to about 1800, with three barns and a fine brick wall also nearly 200 years old. Newer cottages have been built on plots which originated as smallholdings in medieval times, but there is at least one old house, Thatched Cottage, built around 1700.
Almost opposite the farm is a little church, remnant of Victorian concern for the spiritual welfare of the very poor labourers who lived here then. While Methodists held outdoor services here, and Congregationalists opened a chapel in a house opposite the pub, the Anglican church was actually paid for by a Quaker! In 1842, a missionary employed by Saffron Walden churches to visit the poor, reported that ‘Little Walden is highly favoured, and the people of that place seem fully to appreciate their privileges’.
The 18th-century Crown Inn was formerly three cottages, and is very pleasant, with good food and hospitality. Nearby is the Petlands estate, built to meet the post-war housing shortage, and presumably named from the field on which it stands,Perritt Land, which may derive from a Saxon word pirige meaning pear trees. The little village green once lay beside an old road, Water Lane, now abandoned in favour of the present road, Petts Lane which follows what used to be just a field boundary.
The hamlet was founded at the head of the Madgate Slade. The land along Petts Lane was called North feilde in medieval times when it was a common field. There are also little crofts named after past farmers, lots of ponds, hedges and woods and, in the countryside around, some attractive, old timber-framed houses such as Burntwood End Farm, Ravenstock Green Farm, Cloptons, St Aylotts, Sadlers and Mitchells, whose 17th century owner, Charles Parris was one of those who suffered anti-Catholic persecution, accused of ‘popish recusancy’, and had his estates confiscated.
Nearby is the site of Little Walden Park, the hunting ground for the lords of the Walden Manor and one of 150 deer parks in medieval Essex. In 1578 the Saffron Walden Corporation spent two shillings ‘for mendynge the way at Little Walden Park’, the same year that Elizabeth I came to Audley End so quite possibly she came here to hunt. The park declined during the 16th century, and much of its history was erased when the nearby airfield was developed during the last war – among lost buildings is the 16th century Little Walden Park mansion. The USAAF airfield was operational from 1942-45, but has long since gone back to agriculture.
With grateful thanks to Jacqueline Cooper for image use and the Recording Uttlesford History website for the above text: http://www.recordinguttlesfordhistory.org.uk/
While visiting Little Walden, do make sure to book yourself onto one of the Saffron Grange Vineyard tours. Tours are by appointment only, operating from May to October, with an opportunity to sample and purchase the limited-edition sparkling wines on site and enjoy the beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding Essex countryside. More information on Saffron Grange can be seen by clicking here.
After the tour, why not stay at the wonderful Crown Public House? The Crown is a charming, beamed country pub situated in the middle of Little Walden. All rooms sleep 2 with full en suite facilities, TV as well as tea & coffee making facilities, with a choice of continental or full English breakfast. An extensive home cooked menu is available both lunchtimes and evenings. A lighter menu is also available at lunch times which includes sandwiches, baguettes and ploughman’s. Racked cask stillage is used for dispensing an excellent range of beers, with affordable house wines and hot drinks also available. More information on the Crown can be seen by clicking here.
For those that love to fish, there is Home Farm Fishery, located a brisk 10 minute walk away from The Crown Public House. The fishing can only be described as simply outstanding, with two picturesque lakes for the match and novice angler, all together on one complex. Camping/caravans are also welcome. More information on Home Farm Fishery can be seen by clicking here.
Looking for a nice Little Walden walk? Then please see the below for a suggestion from Great British Life:
Little Walden during World War Two
In 2015, the villagers of Little Walden decided to commemorate the passing of 70 years since the end of WWII with the erection of a memorial stone and the creation of a banner, hand sewn by villagers, to recognise the service and sacrifice of the US servicemen who were deployed at USAAF Station AAF 165, Little Walden Airfield (also known as Hadstock) during WWII.
From Christmas parties to plane crashes and exploding munitions dumps, this booklet remembers those times through the eyes of the children of Little Walden. These events happened many years ago, and their recounting is not intended as a factual recording of history. Rather, it gives a flavour of how it felt to be a village child when an American air base arrived on the edge or your quiet Essex hamlet.
The booklet, priced at £2.50 can be purchased from Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre or via our email by clicking here.