1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Saffron Walden

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SAFFRON WALDEN, a market-town and municipal borough in the Saffron Walden parliamentary division of Essex, England, beautifully situated near the Cam in a valley surrounded by hills, on a branch of the Great Eastern railway, 43½ m. N.N.E. from London. Pop. (1901) 5896. It has a somewhat ancient appearance and possesses a spacious market-place. Of the old castle, dating probably from the 12th century, but in part protected by much earlier earthworks, the keep and a few other portions still remain. Near it are a series of curious circular excavations in the chalk, called the Maze, of unknown date or purpose. The earthworks west and south of the town are of great extent; there was a large Saxon burial-ground here. The church of St Mary the Virgin, a beautiful specimen of the Perpendicular style, dating from the reign of Henry VII., but frequently repaired and restored, contains the tomb of Lord Audley, chancellor to Henry VIII. There is an Edward VI. grammar school, occupying modern buildings. The town possesses a museum with good archaeological and natural history collections, a literary institute and a horticultural society. The benevolent institutions include the hospital and the Edward VI. almshouses. There is a British and Foreign School Society's training college for mistresses. In the neighbourhood is the fine mansion of Audley End, built by Thomas, 1st earl of Suffolk, in 1603 on the ruins of the abbey, converted in 1190 from a Benedictine priory founded by Geoffrey de Mandeville in 1136. Brewing, malting and iron-founding are carried on. The borough is under a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 7502 acres.

Saffron Walden (Waledana) was almost certainly fortified by the Britons, and probably by some earlier race. The town corporation grew out of the Gild of the Holy Trinity, which was incorporated under Henry VIII., the lord of the town, in 1514. It was dissolved under Edward VI., and a charter was obtained for Walden, appointing a treasurer and chamberlain and twenty four assistants, all elective, who, with the commonalty, formed the corporation. In 1694 William and Mary made Walden a free borough, with a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 town councillors. The corporation became a local board of health under the act of 1858, and a municipal borough in 1875. The culture of saffron was the most characteristic industry at Walden from the reign of Edward III. until its gradual extinction about 1768.